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 North America

By Roberto Alvarez
Mexico City Hosts Biggest Simul in the World
Playing Chess at the Zocalo


 
Few events attract as much public attention as a giant simultaneous chess exhibition. And, when it brings together more than 10,000 amateurs and makes a new Guinness World Record, our admiration for those involved should be great!


 

Record number of participants
This year, on October 22, the Second Chess Festival, at the "Plaza del Zocalo" in Mexico City, attracted 10,048 players to challenge 450 masters! It was only last year that the First Festival was held, when 5,049 players and 192 Masters took part in one of the biggest simuls since 1966 following the Chess Olympiad in La Habana.
 

Boris Spassky
Former World Champion Boris Spassky’s stellar presence was "the icing on the cake," and many fans had the opportunity to see one of the bigger names in the chess world. Born in Russia in 1937, Spassky learned how to play chess at the age of 5. He went on to become Junior World Champion in 1955, Soviet Champion in 1964 and World Champion in 1969 after defeating Tigran Petrosian. He played against Robert James Fischer in the "match of the century" in 1972, and although he lost, it is a match for which he will always be remembered.
 
The game is set up as a giant chess board and, within each square, there are seven game modules, which correspond to the color square where they are located. Additionally, the players each received a cap and t-shirt matching the color of the ’square’ where they sat. It makes for a truly magnificent view.
 

Silmultaneous game play
What is a simul exhibition? It consists of a game between a master and several amateurs at the same time. During the Festival, each master plays against an average of 25 amateurs simultaneously.
The Master begins by shaking the hand of each amateur and then, he makes his first moves, moving to each board, and each corresponding amateur in turn. The amateur holds his reply until the Master faces him again. What about the reflection time? The time elapsed until the master returns to one’s board is the time used to prepare a reply. The primary rule passed on from the organizers: " During the game, the player must avoid, if possible, comments aloud and will not touch, nor move, the pieces from his place until his time to play.” Amazingly, the Master is perfectly aware when somebody cheats, many times he claims the position while with others, he simply plays stronger.

Besides increasing the popularity of chess (because it attracts many people not typically drawn to chess), the event is also entertaining and educational: the Master may give advice to the amateur when he deems it appropriate.
 

Life-size pieces
Referred to as a "social and cultural or communication phenomenon," the Second Chess Festival had many other activities, such as shops (from the companies sponsoring the event), food, areas for free play -- where amateurs can meet each other and play chess --, giant screens, and other cultural events such as music, children shops (make a piece, play a collective game, dress up as a piece and play over life-size boards), publications related to the "intellectual game,” theater, stories and even photographic expositions on chess!

A true enjoyment for all chess fans in Mexico, and a lesson to another countries on how to make chess a popular show!
 

Panoramic view of Zocalo

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