Bilbao: the “Cathedral” of world chess
In recent years the image of Bilbao has become more and more relevant within the elite of world chess.
From 1998 to 2002, Bilbao was the venue for the best Open in Europe and one of the best three in the world in rapid games with the presence of representatives from more than 30 countries in each of them. In 2004 and 2005 Bilbao organized the Man-Computer World Championship in which some of the world´s best grandmasters confronted the ultimate computer software. An undisputed victory of “silicon” over “carbon”: 8.5 – 3.5 in 2004, and 8 – 4 in 2005. Bilbao put an end to the world debate on this matter and, at present, the chess community recognises the supremacy of “machines” over humans.
In 2006 the picture of Veselin Topalov and Judith Polgar blindfolded playing a “blindfold” game in the Guggenheim Museum went around the world. According to specialised journalists, the media impact obtained was parallel to the impact of the greatest chess events in history. Spassky-Fischer, Kasparov-Karpov, and Kasparov-“Deep Blue”. Topalov won 3.5 – 2.5, but above all chess won.
In 2007 Bilbao moved a step forward with the organitation of the Blindfold World Chess Cup, which was won by Chinese Bu Xiang-zhi over Topalov, Polgar, Kariakin, Carlsen and Harikrishna. This was also the time when The Meeting Room was created with live comments for the public as well as interviews, guests, huge screens, electronic and chessboards. The World Cup had a huge impact on the media appearing on the main printed media, radio, TV, as well as on the Internet with over 1.5 million spectators.
In 2008 Bilbao held the Great Slam Chess Association Final, in which Veselin Topalov, Viswanatan Anand, Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronián, Vasily Ivanchuck, Teimour Radjabov took part. The Tournament became the strongest ever played, rising the record of FIDE category to XXII.
Not only have the best international chess stars played in Bilbao, including several world champions (Karpov, Spassky, Anand, Topalov, Ponomariov, Kasimzhanov, Khalifman), but its festival is also characteristic for its unique atmosphere: it is an open, popular festival, full of participation, with a massive fan attendance and a very special presence of the children in every school chess festivity.
An enormous effort of many years which counted on the support of our institutions and private sponsors, the close cooperation of the Biscay and Basque Chess Federations, the continuous work in the shadow of a lot of chess lovers, … all this made the seed of an illusion grow. We have all together built to its highest extent, stone by stone, block by block, the “Cathedral” of world chess.