Bradford Chesstival in the Park
The Bradford & District Chess Association in conjunction with Bradford Council held a successful chess open day on Saturday 14 September at City Park in the centre of Bradford around the mirror pool, the largest man-made water feature in the UK.
All the clubs who make up the league put local rivalries aside for the day to team up and pool resources to ensure we did all we could to make the event a huge success. In fact a hell of a lot of work was undertaken by the sub committee in the lead up to the event.
One of our major aims was to offer 125 opportunities to book a game against a master We were delighted that GM Gawain Jones, IM Richard Palliser, IM Andy Ledger, IM Malcolm Pein and WIM Sue Maroroa not only agreed to come and take part in the event, but also fully throw their enthusiasm and energy into ensuring that everybody enjoyed the event.
The number 125 was to capture the number of years passed since the great Bradford tournament in 1888. The council were keen to get on board, no pun intended, because we also wanted a legacy to commemorate the late Member of Parliament of the area, Marsha Singh who was a keen chess player and who has two brothers who play in the league. Both brothers, Balwir and Nermal were very happy to take part in the day’s events and be available to present the trophy for the match, but more on that later!
Before the event, a number of players spent a couple of days before the event playing chess in the Bradford Interchange and letting people know what to expect from the day. We also booked an hour slot on the BCB Radio Bradford with a selection of hand picked songs. All of them had a chess connection, for example Knights in White Satin, Dancing Queen and Black or White. You can listen to this again by clicking this link and looking for “Our Top Ten Tuesday 10 September”.
I’m pleased to say that we had over 180 players take on a master throughout the day. Each master had their own marquee which held between 18-24 players each, all of whom were eager to defeat their illustrious opponents! All the masters with the exception of Malcolm faced their opponents in the traditional simultaneous format and they all politely stayed in our time schedule of 2 and half hours! Sue Maroroa deserves particular credit as this was her first every simultaneous exhibition but she had to face the highest number of opponents! Their records: Gawain W15 D4, Richard W17 D1, Andy W15 D4, Sue W18 D1 L5. There were also three best game prizes awarded:
- Gawain Jones – “ITactic” Mozepele – for an attractive and sound Greek Gift sacrifice that he nearly made work.
- Richard Palliser – Jonathan Swallow – for being the only player to not lose against the International Master. You can see his game on the Ilkley Chess Club website.
- Andy Ledger – John Bolton – for putting up the stiffest resistance.
- Telegraph and Argus – “Chess festival held in honour of late MP Marsha Singh”
- BCB Radio – Search for “Outside Broadcast Saturday 14th September” for 30 minutes of live coverage and interviews. Also search for “Our Top Ten Tuesday 10th September” for the preview show we did.
- Feature to appear in The Bradfordian – the UK’s first “good news only” regional newspaper
- Bradford Chesstival Facebook Page
- @Chesstival on Twitter
All three players received a book or DVD prize kindly donated by Chess and Bridge
With this being our first event it was difficult to see how things would pan out and a lot of quick thinking was needed on the day to keep things going smoothly. Fortunately our masters were very cooperative, especially the bubbly and enthusiastic Malcolm Pein. As a last minute change, he agreed to assist the Bradford Knights Chess Academy in doing coaching to juniors and passers by. However this quickly turned into an impromptu simultaneous exhibition! Malcolm was playing all day, forsaking a break to keep his simul going to capture all the latecomers. He was very friendly and approachable, giving tips and advice to people as he was playing. Amazingly he was also keeping count of the games! He played 104 games, winning 101(!) and drawing only 3. He gave special mention to George Laszlo of Shipley who proved to be his toughest opponent, and also provided most fun!
Bradford vs Rest of the World
Once the masters finished their simuls they were whisked away for a break and a bite to eat while we set up the match. This became a Bradford versus the Rest of the World and Andy Bak managed to expertly match players to make it a closely contested affair. Each player had two rapid play games against the same opponent.
As the results were coming in thick and fast, the lead was constantly changing hands, but a key 2-0 victory for Kieran O’Driscoll on board 2 was instrumental giving the Rest of the World team a narrow 20.5-17.5 victory.
Our guests of honour, Nermil and Balwir Singh presented Jonathan Nelson with the Marsha Singh Memorial Trophy after the match was completed.
The masters were too late to take part in the match but were happy to again put their necks on the line by taking on all comers at blitz – sometimes with a huge handicap. Gawain often took on players with one minute against five, yet still managed to win most of these. Everyone was very flexble and approachable it was great that we managed to make use of the sunshine and play in the open air so more spectators could huddle round and be amazed at the spectacle.
Throughout the whole day there were many musical treats to delightfully accompany the chess and entertain the passers-by. Aire Ensemble were playing for most of the day, performing Classical music by composers including Bradford-born Delius as well as a few popular numbers from the musical Chess. We also had a spectacular opening to the event courtesy of the City of Bradford Pipe Band, while Kala Sangam provided entertainment for the Deputy Lord Mayor’s visit.
The Deputy Lord Mayor was invited to make a speech about the event and especially the legacy in memory of Marsha Singh, The Giant chess sets that can be borrowed by anyone to play with in Centenary Square. Tony Gillam, author of the recent book on the Bradford 1888 tournament, came and was happy to sign books and provide more information on the early years of chess. David Green, the head of Bradford Council also visited and thought the event was a tremendous success.
In front of the music stage, people were invited to play on the brand new Giant chess sets. These proved to be a very popular attraction and provided ample photo opportunities! The chess sets will remain in City Park and Centenary Square as a legacy to Marsha Singh MP. Nearby, children could have their faces painted with chess pieces and do various arts and crafts. We even had a live size King and Queen walking round! People could also be introduced to internet chess courtesy of Bradford College’s IT Suite in City Park.
The day itself was a tremendous opportunity to sell the chess league and recruit possible new members to the junior academy and our local clubs. We would like to thank the many volunteers who came and assisted us with the smooth running of the event, including helping us set up and pack away before and after the event. We were also delighted to see people travelling from places as diverse as Blackpool, Southampton and South-East England as well as lots of local people from Bradford, Leeds and surrounding cities coming to support the event. Chess and Bridge provided an excellent stall as well as all the equipment used on the day and were very helpful at all points during the day! Also many thanks to Dale Pearson who took all of the excellent pictures that are in this article. You can see more and bigger versions of these photos at our Facebook photos page.
At first glance it seems that the gamble has paid off in a massive way and I would encourage all the major cities in Yorkshire to try an open day of their own. The chess community in Bradford would be sure to help and support such ventures in any way we can.
Report by Ihor Lewyk and Andrew Bak