The second UNAM chess festival, or Gran Fiesta has only just finished, and what a festival it was! The Gran Fiesta ran from November 16th until November 25th, and spectators and contestants alike are still reeling from the tension and excitement of over a week of great chess. Amid the lights and historic edifices of Mexico City, the biggest names in chess, including Magnus Carlsen, Judit Polgar, and Bartlomiej Macieja, and exciting talents such as International Master Olga Alexandrova, met to battle it out! The atmosphere was filled with excitement as thousands of chess fans thronged to observe, to learn, to support the players, and just to have a great time!
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was Magnus Carlsen who was finally declared the overall winner. Chess fans were delighted, as Carlsen has strong support and has had a glittering career. Carlsen is the third youngest chess Grandmaster ever, having earned this title when he was just thirteen years old. Now, at the still youthful age of twenty one, he is a formidable opponent, regularly dominating the board. His win at UNAM will certainly go down in history as a notable occasion in Carlsen’s career.
The odds were certainly for Carlsen winning, however despite this forseeable victory, there were a few really tense moments at the UNAM Gran Fiesta this year. For instance, Hungarian Grandmaster Judit Polgar, who won her first international chess tournament at the age of nine, played well as usual in both the rapids and the blindfold tournament. She beat Carlsen in their initial rapid. This early defeat certainly seemed to unsettle Carlsen, and he hastened to up his game and win overall, defeating Polgar by the time the rapids were over. Subtle and smart, Polgar always plays a powerfully intelligent game, and her playing at UNAM this year was certainly no exception. She and Carlsen were a joy to watch as they battled each other, and kept chess fans right on the edges of their seats until the rapids were over.
35 year old Polish Grandmaster Bartlomiej Macieja won the open very cleanly, with some thoughtful and cunning play. This was perhaps a
particularly interesting aspect of the UNAM event, because, despite being one of the best chess players of all time, Macieja does not always make it to the top spot. He has had some big wins in his career (notably the 2002 European Championship, which was a truly stunning victory) but also some salient losses. Macieje is characterised perhaps by his use of an unobtrusive Giuco Piano to open what is often a deadly game for his opponent. At UNAM, Macieja really did stand head and shoulders above the rest, coming to a clear and well-deserved victory in the open.
Overall, the second UNAM Chess Festival certainly delivered much more than could be hoped for in terms of a pleasant atmosphere, nail-biting games, big names, and memorable moments. All we can say is, roll on the third Gran Fiesta!