KHANTY-MANSIYSK, Russia – 128 chess grandmasters from over 40 countries convened in the Russian city of Khanty-Mansiysk for the Chess World Cup, fighting for the shot at the world championship title and $1.6 million in prize money.
Khanty-Mansiysk, an oil town of 72,000 people, is well-known to chess enthusiasts around the world, having hosted two World Cups and a Chess Olympiad. However, this year’s event is exceptional both in terms of the players line up and the quality of the organization. Some of the world’s highest-ranked players are taking part in the tournament: Sergey Karyakin, Alexander Grishuk and Peter Svidler (Russia), Gata Kamsky (USA), Judit Polgar (Hungary), among others.
This year, for the first time in history, the matches are played on the special electronic chessboards that automatically broadcast the games online. Tens of thousands of people watch the matches live on the site that has been set up by the World Cup organizers.
Because of the tournament, Khanty-Mansiysk is receiving major media attention and an influx of tourists. The city is following a growing trend among Russian municipalities to promote itself and increase tourism revenues. Natalia Komarova, the governor of Khanty-Mansiysk region, said at the opening ceremony: “We hope that Khanty-Mansiysk will become a traditional venue for some of the major events of the world of chess. It’s not just an event for our region, but an investment in our children’s education and the means to increase awareness of the region.”
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the president of World Chess Federation (FIDE) said that “Khanty-Mansiysk is not just a city that hosts chess events but rather a quality mark for the grandmasters and millions of chess enthusiasts.”
The Chess World Cup consists of seven rounds, with everyone starting from round one. All matches except the final consist of two games with 90-minute time limit. The finals will take place on September 20.