This year’s Global Chess Festival - which took place on 10 October - followed a different format to usual.

Where previous years had guests and chess fans wandering the halls of Budapest’s National Gallery to interact with a wide range of programs, for 2020 it was necessary to move the event to an entirely digital space. Luckily, the Judit Polgar Chess Foundation took advantage of disadvantage: we could cooperate with more than 50 scientists, artists, sportsmen and educational experts from all over the world, creating more than 40 varied programs.

One highlight of the festival was a historic talk between Garry Kasparov, former World Champion and Judit Polgar, the greatest female chess player of all time. Though the pair first met three decades ago and have been long-time rivals, the friendly conversation covered a range of topics, from Kasparov’s career and the duo’s shared history to the current World Champion Magnus Carlsen and the rise of chess engines.

Watch the Champions Talk with Garry Kasparov by Judit Polgar

The Judit Polgar Chess Foundation also presented the returning Goodwill Ambassadors of Chess awards, which were handed out to notable figures that have emboldened the values of chess in their fields. These winners were:

  • Simen Agdestein Goodwill Ambassador of Chess as a Sport
  • Oscar Panno, Goodwill Ambassador of Chess in Education
  • Jan Timman, Goodwill Ambassador of Art in Chess
  • John Nunn, Goodwill Ambassador of Science in Chess

Watch the Goodwill Ambassadors of Chess awards ceremony:

Simen Agdestein - Goodwill Ambassador of Chess as a Sport
Oscar Panno - Goodwill Ambassador of Chess in Education
Jan Timmann - Goodwill Ambassador of Art in Chess
John Nunn - Goodwill Ambassador of Science in Chess

There was still some time on the chessboard, too, with a number of international and youth tournaments and exhibition matches taking place throughout the day. While Judit Polgar and Sofia Polgar both played simultaneous games online from around the world, it was the competitions that chess fans were especially keen to see: the Chess Challenge, the Chess Palace Cup, and the World Continental Online Youth Cup. The latter was organised by the Judit Polgar Chess Foundation together with the European Chess Union and ended with the Asian team winning the tournament.

And as ever, the arts remained an ever-important focus for the festival, with a number of chess-themed endeavours becoming a major part of the event. Participants had a chance to watch Chess Brains, a documentary that studies five of the world's masterminds, and ‘Rise Above’, the behind-the-scenes film made for John Leguizamo’s feature, Critical Thinking (2020), about the how chess has to power to equalise us, regardless of social status. There was also an opportunity to watch the The Polgar Variant documentary, which tells the tale of the trio of chess champions.

Event sponsor Morgan Stanley once again took part in the festivities, too. The company has long understood the values of chess and the benefits that can be earned within the workplace. To strengthen this value the Head of Morgan Stanley Budapest, Norbert Fogarasi, hosted his own talk on this exact topic.

While it may not be clear how the Global Chess Festival will be impacted by the worldwide pandemic in 2021, there’s no doubt that the move to an online space has been very successful and provided Judit Polgar and her team with a lot of lessons to learn from. “This year has created very unusual challenges,” says Judit. “To my great regret, I was not able to personally meet with the thousands of visitors of the Global Chess Festival, however we discovered new opportunities in the online space by using the common language of chess. We had the chance to connect to our community from across the entire world by creating an online universe where it was possible to take part in competitions, interactive classes, quizzes and virtual art exhibitions to mention but a few of the nearly 50 activities.

Live streams, interviews and virtual exhibitions are available to view on