Moscow is widely regarded as the chess capital of the world. Take note then of the Moscow Open 2008, also known as the 4th International Moscow Chess Festival, which will run February 2-10 at the Russian State Social University.
Building on Russia’s illustrious chess playing legacy, a number of leading lights will converge upon Moscow for the tournament, which is going to feature a record 1,200 players from 30 countries, including over 100 grandmasters. Participants will be broken down into four pools with men playing in pool A and women in pool C. There is also a restricted pool B for unrated players with a FIDE rating of under 2,300 and pool D for children.
In pool A, top contenders include Olympic champion Vladimir Akopyan of Armenia, the only player with a FIDE rating of 2,700. A lengthy list of Russian players is led by grandmasters Vladimir Malakhov (2,689), Ernesto Inarkiyev (2,681) and Vadim Zvyagintsev (2,677). Russia’s celebrated chess veteran and former world champion Boris Spassky will head the refereeing team, organizers announced Wednesday.
The standard of play promises to be extremely high and the players will compete for the prize money, which is 3 million rubles (over $122,000) for tournament A, 1 million rubles ($40,500) for tournament B, 700,000 rubles (over $28,000) for tournament C, and 300,000 ($12,100) rubles for tournament D.
The opening ceremony starts at 2 p.m. Saturday in the first building of the Russian State Social University at 4 Vilgelma Pika Street (nearest metro station Botanichesky sad) in northern Moscow. Matches are open to the general public, and access is free but passports are required for admission to University premises. Play starts at 5 p.m. every weekday, but times may be different at weekends. For more information on the playing timetable, visit the tournament’s official website at www.moscowchessopen.ru.
MORE THAN A GAME
Chess probably reached Russia by 1150, via the Volga trade route form Baghdad.
Neither the Russian name nor the early Russian pieces show any sign of European origin. Western influence did not reach the Russian game until the reign of Peter the Great.
Visitors to Russia were struck by the widespread popularity of chess and the high level of skill displayed.
Soviet and Russian players have dominated the game since the 20th century.
Although no official Russian school of play exists, former world champion Mikhail Botvinnik once said: “What are the inherent qualities of our native school; what differentiates it in principle from the foreign school? In my opinion, it is the social status of the game in our country.” Chess has always been more than just a pastime in Russia.