It's likely every chess enthusiast has heard the stunning news of Abhimanyu Mishra earning his grandmaster title this month. He shattered the former youngest-ever grandmaster's record at 12 years, four months and 25 days old - his age on July 1st, the day he accomplished that amazing feat.
Russian chess grandmaster Sergey Karjakin, the former youngest-ever, earned his accolade when he was 12 years and seven months old.
Superlatives aside, earning the grandmaster title is a remarkable feat; one not easily accomplished. Chess players have to prove themselves over and over again, competing in tournaments all over the world and playing against the best of the best.
Indeed, those are two of the requirements to satisfy before being accorded the title of chess grandmaster.
That's good to know if you're goal is to join those prestigious ranks but what if you're a chess enthusiast with no grandmaster aspirations? Conversely, what if you do aim to become a chess grandmaster but need to boost your Elo score so you can enter international tournaments?
Superprof now lays out where, when and how chess tournaments in the UK will take place.
The English Chess Federation
As any devotee of chess could tell you, FIDE - the International Chess Federation is the only governing body that can bestow the title of grandmaster, international master and other FIDE-specific titles.
In case you're curious, those would be FIDE Master and Candidate Master, the latter signalling that the player so-titled is well on their way to becoming a chess grandmaster.
FIDE is not the only body to award chess players titles. As chess is played worldwide, virtually every country has a FIDE affiliation and cultivates National Chess Champions to represent their country in international FIDE tournaments.
The United Kingdom has no such representation.
Until 2006, UK chess champions competed internationally under the British Chess Federation banner but, as Scotland and Wales had long established their own chess federations, England agreed that they too would establish a banner for just their country. Thus, the BCF was... not quite disbanded but converted into a governing body that represented only England.
Northern Ireland chess leagues and tournaments are overseen by the Ulster Chess Union, which enjoys an affiliation with FIDE via the Irish Chess Union.
All of these chess unions regularly host tournaments; you just need to find out how you can participate in them...
Chess Tournaments in the COVID Era
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted practically every aspect of modern life, including how chess tournaments are conducted. It wasn't too long after life as we know it ground to a halt last year that FIDE and national chess federations figured out how to move their tournaments online.
This posed a bit of a problem because a part of every chess player's strategy involves sizing up their opponent, something best done when sitting directly across from them.
Just like seeing pictures or watching videos of tantalising meals won't satisfy hunger - indeed, it has quite the opposite effect, knowing only superficial facts about your chess opponent does not inspire confidence.
Let's say you're aiming to satisfy one of FIDE's norms on your way to becoming a chess grandmaster. As required, you're set to face off against a grandmaster from another country whose reputation is fearsome and chess feats, legendary. It's such a pity that you won't be directly across the chessboard from them, to gauge their state of mind and get an idea of how your playing strategy impacts them!
There's no telling how online chess tournaments have affected grandmasters and grandmaster-hopefuls alike but it's good that, rather than suspending tournaments altogether, the collective chess federations and FIDE itself opted to carry out their tournaments online.
Sidebar: our record-breaking youngest chess grandmaster held off of completing his last norm until it was safe to travel and play face-to-face again so nobody would fault you if you'd rather not face off virtually.
Now, on with the various chess tournaments around the UK.
The English Tournaments' Chess Calendar
Any chess player looking over the English Chess Federation calendar of planned tournaments is bound to dissolve into paroxysms of glee at the sheer volume of listed events.
Surrey, London, Warwickshire... online, in-person, Juniors-only. Some FIDE-rated while others are only ECF-rated, and are you a standard chess player or do you prefer rapid chess?
Whatever your preference, standing and calibre as a chess player, ECF has a tournament planned for you.
Scrolling through their list of planned events, the one that first caught our eye is their two-week Czech Open event, held in Pardubice, Czech Republic. This annual event started on July 15 this year, allowing entrants the chance to satisfy one of their grandmaster or international master norm requirements, among other activities.
This being the 32nd Czech Open chess event, the organisers have have plenty of time to build this event into far more than just a chess tournament. It's billed not just as a FIDE-rated event but as a chess and games festival. Clearly, far more goes on there than playing chess.
If you're not quite at that level yet - if you're still working on achieving the Elo rating needed for international tournament entry, you may boost your ratings in national tournaments such as:
- August 2: Coulsdon Chess CCF Cup, Coulsdon, Surrey
- August 7: Over The Board Returns, Cheney Lane, Oxford
- also on that day: Golder's Green Rapidplay, London
- August 9: Muswell Hill International, London
- August 14: Golder's Green Rapidplay, London
Sprinkled amongst these and other over-the-board events, the English Chess Federation lists plenty of online events, even for Junior players. And there are a few more international events, too. In fact, their calendar is jam-packed, with events scheduled into October!
Beyond these and other local tournaments, the English Chess Federation has over-the-board championship events planned:
- the Open Championship Final: 2 to 10 October
- Junior Finals: 2-3 October
- Senior Championships Final: 4-10 October
- Women's Championship Final: 11-17 October
Even if you're in another UK country, it would be well worth your while to see what the English Chess Federation has on offer. The question is, how much does it cost to enter these chess tournaments?
Chess Tournaments in Scotland
In contrast to the English Chess Federation, Chess Scotland is playing it safe by holding all of their tournaments online for the foreseeable future.
That doesn't mean there will be no excitement, though. For one, their international Junior event, the six-day Glorney Festival had already selected its participants long before the event's scheduled July 18 start date.
For those not in the know, the Glorney Gilbert International has taken place every year since 1949; it is one of Junior Chess' most prestigious events.
It comprises four competitions: Under 18s, Girls' Under 18s, Under 14s and Under 12s. Those events are known as the Glorney Cup, the Jessica Gilbert Cup - dedicated to the memory of British Woman FIDE Master Jessie Gilbert, the John Robinson Cup and the Bernadette Stokes Cup.
Another popular Junior's tournament is the Legends. This year, the one-day event took place on July 10, over the Lichess online chess platform.
Chess Scotland doesn't just organise Junior events, though, and their Adult players' calendar is loaded with exciting SCT Weekender events scheduled through December. Note that these, too, will take place online.
Finally, Chess Scotland hosts the Richardson and Spens Cup events, both of which take place in March.
Are you wondering where those two challenges fit in the list of major chess tournaments?
Chess Tournaments in Wales
Like their Scottish counterparts, the Welsh Chess Union is playing it safe. They have no in-person events scheduled for the foreseeable future, preferring instead to build an online chess league. Their most recent event took place on March 16 of this year.
It seems that, for many of these chess union members, interest in playing chess has waned. Who could blame them; didn't we mention, earlier in this article, that chess is a game best played in the company of your opponent? Luckily, the Welsh Chess Union anticipates returning to over-the-board chess soon.
In the meantime, they're doing everything they can to keep their members and players safe, including urging every chess club in Wales to appoint a COVID-19 officer. That designee will attend a best practices and awareness course put on by the Welsh Sports Association.
Clearly, chess players and the organisation governing chess play in Wales want to get back to business.
What we really like about the Welsh Chess Union is that they constantly solicit ideas and feedback from chess clubs around the country. This governing body has a relatively short history; only since breaking away from the British Chess Federation in 1970 have they been able to build their own governing body and become affiliated with FIDE as a chess entity in their own right.
Getting direction from Union members is a great way to achieve that goal.
Judging by some of the chess masters they've cultivated over the years - Arthur Howard Williams, John Grantley Cooper and Richard Jones among them, they're definitely on the right path.
Did you know that Richard Jones first earned the title of Welsh Chess Champion in 2002 and held the title until 2013? He also represented Wales in nine Chess Olympiads.
After hearing about those feats, are you ready to find out how you can prepare for your first chess tournament?
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