It has been one of the pandemic’s runaway success stories, fueled by the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit and an explosion in online gambling. Plans have now been laid out to host Britain’s largest chess festival in Trafalgar Square, and organizers hope to show the inclusiveness of the game, attract converts from poorer parts of the UK and possibly discover a future champion.
Thousands of people are expected to show up ChessFest, a free event on July 18 where more than 50 chess coaches will provide free lessons to children and adults, with the best British Grandmasters facing off against all participants in rapid and blindfolded chess, and a variety of activities designed to show that chess is for everyone. .
The organizers, UK charity Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC), also plan to bring the game to communities it would not normally reach, with 300 children from 30 city center schools being brought to London to enjoy a variety of games related to chess. activities, such as playing games and trying on armor from the 15th and 16th centuries Wallace Collection.
CSC CEO Malcolm Pein said he wanted the festival to capitalize on the Queen’s Gambit effect and unleash a chess boom in Britain.
“I have been involved in promoting and playing chess for 30 years without getting very far,” he admitted. “And then one day, a television series comes out and transforms the landscape. It is absolutely amazing what happened.
“For too long, chess became inaccessible due to a collection of stereotypes: that it cannot be glamorous, that it cannot be for women, that it is too difficult. The Queen’s Gambit has broken down some of those barriers. I want ChessFest to finish off the rest. I hope it is the biggest chess event in the history of Britain. “
Visitors to Trafalgar Square will also be able to see a human chess game based on Alice Through the Looking Glass, played by professional actors, and enjoy an informal match at the hundreds of chess tables set up for children and chess fans to play among. Yes. .
“We will encourage complete strangers to meet each other in a game of chess, celebrating the game’s cultural connections and trying to emphasize to people that even if you don’t currently play chess, it is easy to learn.” Pein said.
“But most of all, we really want to inspire children from all sectors of society. As a charity, we try to focus our efforts on the areas of Great Britain that are in the lowest quartile of the multiple deprivation index. That has been the benchmark for us since it was created in 2009.
“And those who come will see fantastic role models like Shreyas Royal, a 12-year-old prodigy whose life was transformed by chess, giving simultaneous exhibitions.”
The spectacular growth of chess over the past 15 months has seen the world’s largest chess site, Chess.com, add about 1 million new members per month. Another popular site, Lichess, has seen the number of games played on its server skyrocket from 55 million in March 2020 to 101 million in May 2021. Meanwhile, streamers like the Botez sisters, Alexandra and Andrea, and Anna Rudolf They have also helped take the game to new audiences on Twitch and YouTube, leading to a growth in the number of women playing the game.
Pein said he hoped ChessFest, sponsored by XTC markets, would also leave a lasting legacy for London as CSC is working with city councils to install concrete chess tables in London parks to allow chess to be played throughout the year like in New York. and other cities.
Among the best players to participate will be the country’s No. 3 player, Gawain Jones, born in Keighley in Yorkshire, who said he hoped it would change people’s perceptions of the game.
“For a long time, chess had this elite image that many players liked to maintain,” he said. “They would like to feel satisfied that it is an intellectual game. But that attitude is changing. Absolutely anyone can learn to play, and at a very high level. Chess is really a game that crosses all borders. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism