LOCAL enthusiasts get the chance to rub shoulders with the kings of the chess world as elite players descend on Bunratty nest month.
The Bunratty International Chess Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2013 and takes place from March 1 to 3 at the Bunratty Castle Hotel.
Grandmasters who have played at the tournament in the past include Nigel Short, the Briton who challenged Garry Kasparov for the world title in 1995; Russian champion Peter Svidler; American champion Joel Benjamin; British champion Michael Adams and Alex Baburin, Ireland’s only resident grandmaster.
Organisers Sarsfields and Limerick Chess Clubs have pulled off another coup this year in attracting Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov, a super grandmaster ranked in the world’s top 10, who will present prizes.
“When it started 20 years ago as a small weekend chess tournament with less than 60 players, nobody envisaged that it would grow to become the strongest weekend chess tournament in the world with current numbers regularly exceeding 300. The games of the top players are transmitted live on the internet and these games attracted hundreds of thousands of hits to the Bunratty Chess website last year,” said a spokesman.
“Over the years, the après match settings has allowed ordinary players to meet and often play their chess heroes in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. It’s rare in the chess world to see grandmasters playing grandmasters in blitz chess just for fun or, more rare still, playing one of us mere chess mortals. How often can an ordinary chess player get a chance to play against one of the top players in the world just for fun?
That is the uniqueness of Bunratty.
Younger players can see their heroes play and even get an autograph while the older ones can have a pint with them in the bar after battle has ended.”
Open to players of all strengths and ages, the tournament is divided into four sections of minor (beginners), major (intermediate), challengers (advanced) and masters (top national and international players). To celebrate the anniversary, an extra tournament - the Bunratty International Classic - has been arranged and will be rated by FIDE, the world chess federation. See www.bunrattychess.com for event details and entry forms.