5 Unique Chess Tournaments Where You See More Than Just Chess!

Chess Tournaments – What picture comes first to your mind when you think of them?

Most probably – a bunch of serious people staring at wooden pieces. That’s how most tournaments would look.

But some exciting chess tournaments happen worldwide where you get to see more than just chess.

In one of them, you get to see your favorite chess player bantering against their rival. In another, you can explore one of the world’s best cities while playing chess and sipping beer!

In this article, we’ve combined a list of 5 unique tournaments worldwide that you’ll love to be a part of!

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1. Sinquefield Cup, Ultimate Moves Edition

Named after Rex Sinquefield, this is an annual invite-only chess tournament held at the St. Louis Chess Club in Saint Louis, United States of America.

The first edition of this tournament was launched in 2013, with the event having an attractive prize pool. Since then, it has only grown in popularity.

In the 2021 edition, the total prize fund was $325,000, with the winner, Maxime Vachier Lagrave, taking home $90,000.

Since it’s an invite-only event with an attractive prize, you see some of the best players in action.

But there’s something else that makes the tournament unique.

What’s Unique?

Once the main tournament gets over, there’s a fun half-day event known as Ultimate Moves!

Here’s how it looks like – 10 of the leading chess players in the world are divided into 2 teams.

Each team has 1 amateur, so the team composition looks like 5 super GMs + 1 amateur.

The 2 teams play a best of 6 blitz games to determine the winner.

Each player, including the amateur, makes 5 moves. And most importantly, everyone is encouraged to trash talk!

In the past editions, some of the participating players were greats like Garry Kasparov, Magnus Carlsen, Vishwanathan Anand, and Hikaru Nakamura.

You not only see how the elite GMs think but also how they deliver witty blows with their words! You can watch the entire 2019 event below.

The Ultimate Moves edition of the Sinquefield Cup is one of those rare events where you see the lighter side of all GMs. If you ever get a chance, don’t miss it!

2. Chess Train

Ever thought about playing a chess tournament on a train while enjoying the European countryside and cities?

If yes, then you must hop on the chess train!

This event usually lasts for 5 days. The train leaves from Prague in the Czech Republic and then travels across the different parts of Europe before returning to the original destination.

You finish the scheduled rounds in the morning, reach a new city by early afternoon and explore it in the evening! Sounds like a perfect travel plan, isn’t it? Chess makes it even more memorable!

2011 marked the birth of this event. The latest edition was organized in 2019. Unfortunately, Covid-19 put brakes on this event.

But expect this unique event to make a comeback soon!

You can get in touch with their organizing team via their Official Chess Train Facebook page.

3. Chess Olympiad

They say chess is an individual sport. But it becomes a team game at the FIDE Olympiad!

To put things in context, the Olympiad is to chess what the FIFA World Cup is to football.

Conducted every 2 years, here it’s the national teams that wrestle it out to clinch the top spot and make their country proud.

Naturally, every nation fields its best team and the best players!

The teams face-off each other in a Swiss tournament format. Each team has 4 active players and 1 reserve.

The 4 active players determine the results of a team.

So let’s take an actual example where the US team was paired against Azerbaijan in the 43rd Batumi Chess Olympiad. Then here’s how the pairing might look:

United States of America 2.5‑1.5 Azerbaijan
Fabiano Caruana 1‑0 Shakhriyar Mammedyarov
Wesley So 0‑1 Teimour Radjabov
Hikaru Nakamura 0.5‑0.5 Arkadij Naiditsch
Samuel Shankland 1‑0 Rauf Mamedov

The US team won the match with a score of 2.5 - 1.5 because two of their players scored, while one lost and the other drew.

And as you can clearly see, for a team to win, the individual players must perform well in their game.

This instills a lot of motivation in the players. No wonder playing in the Chess Olympiad under your nation’s flag is a dream for any professional. The feeling is priceless!

4. Banff Open Chess Tournament

Imagine you make a move, press the clock and decide to take a stroll while your opponent thinks.

You get up from your chair and go to the nearby window to breathe some fresh mountain air. The view of the lush green forest calms your mind when suddenly, you spot a deer running in the wild…

Well, this isn’t a scene from any chess novel, but if you play in the Banff Open, this is what happens.

If you love to play chess where snowy mountains and a green forest surround you, then the Banff Open is a tournament to participate in.

Banff is a resort town in the Rocky Mountain chain in Canada, which is approximately a 1-hour 30-minute drive away from the city of Calgary.

The tournament is conducted in a Swiss format. In 2021, the chances of conducting the tournament seemed bleak due to the region's sudden rise in Covid cases.

But the organizers persisted, sticking to the strict government guidelines and ensuring smooth conduct of the tournament! It just shows how committed they are to conducting the event and ensuring everyone’s well-being.

No wonder the event has grown in popularity since its inception.

If you love to play chess in the midst of mountains and forests, Banff is the place to be!

For more details on the upcoming editions, please get in touch with their organizing team via their Facebook page.

5. Amsterdam Pub Crawl

Does the idea of drinking beer and playing chess in a 2-player team excite you?

If yes, participate in the Amsterdam Pub Crawl Tournament!

All you need is a partner with chess skills you can trust and who’s willing to travel to the Netherlands! A good alcohol tolerance would be a bonus too 😀 😀

You don’t just get to play chess, but explore the different pubs of one of the world’s finest cities.

The theme of the tournament isn’t just limited to Amsterdam. Other Dutch cities like Leiden, Dieren, and Amersfoort also host similar pub crawl events!

Which tournament would you love to be a part of?

Now that you know some exciting tournaments around the globe, which are the ones you’ll take part in?

Let the organizers of the respective tournaments know!

And if you’re looking to organize a unique chess event yourself, our FIDE-approved tournament software can help you easily create the pairings!

Start your free ChessManager trial now!

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Ranveer Mohite is a professional chess player from India with an impressive ELO rating of 2277. He's also a contributing author here at ChessManager where he expresses his passion for the game.