Celebrity Chess Tournaments | ChessBase

The stars also play chess

In 1988, Erik Estrada [pictured] was a celebrity, having portrayed Highway Patrol Officer Frank Poncherello in the hit television series Fries from 1977 to 1983. Estrada and seven other celebrities performed in a three-game, 30-game one-day chess tournament alongside the three-day Memorial Day Classic. The latter attracted 413 chess players, including a 155-player Open section led by four GMs and five IMs. Like John hillery flagged for Life in chess (September 1988 issue, download here), “Between towers? Something for everyone: a talk by Walter Browne, the still young George Koltanowski with his stories and Knight’s tour, a magician, a celebrity tournament, a blitz tournament and a demonstration of the new computer program “Chessbase”.

The 1988 Memorial Day Classic was won by General Managers Larry Christiansen and Walter Browne and IM Jack Peters. Regarding the sideline celebrity chess tournament, Peters said, “I think that sort of thing is good for chess; it’s good to let the players know that the stars are playing too.

Celebrity Chess, Polish Edition

As of 2019, ChessBase is no longer a new computer program but in its 15th edition. Although hosting a celebrity chess tournament is not a new idea either, having one with Polish stars is new. Michał Kanarkiewicz was born in 1995 and had never heard of the 1988 Celebrity Chess Tournament. Yet like the Los Angeles organizers of 1988, Kanarkiewicz wanted to show that chess has something to offer to everyone. everyone, including the stars. Plus, it’s exciting for chess players to realize that their favorite celebrities love chess just like them.

The “All-Star Chess Championship” received a lot of attention in the Polish press, including This article. The tournament took place on November 27, 2019 at a prestigious venue, the PGE Narodowy in Warsaw. Participants included a television meteorologist and a ballroom dance champion. the tournament was won by actor Slawomir Doliniec. International referee and MI Andrzej Filipowicz, better known as the head referee of the 2014 Anand-Carlsen World Chess Championship match, was the tournament director.

Poland, chess

The “Star Chess Championship” took place in Warsaw

Interview with Michał Kanarkiewicz

AR (Alexey Root): How did you come up with the idea for the “Chess Championship of Stars”?

MK (Michał Kanarkiewicz): There are a lot of celebrity events, for example in football, tennis and golf. But there isn’t that much celebrity chess activity. Therefore, I decided to create and organize the First All-Star Chess Championship. I started with no previous experience in such events, no budget and few contacts. But I knew that chess is an interesting, valuable and very ennobling game for the stars in question.

AR: How did you decide which celebrities to contact and how did you convince them to participate?

MK: By researching Google and social media, I found 100 celebrities who are connected with chess. For example, they played with friends, or they played chess as a child, or their children played chess. Then I contacted them. Of course, without a budget, I was sure it would be difficult to invite them. Particularly in 2019, before COVID-19, stars generally only attended events if they received compensation. In addition, some of them had conflicts over the date of the tournament. In the end, there were 12 stars ready to play.

AR: How does “Chess Championship of Stars” match your goals?

Michał KanarkiewiczMK: I invested my own money to create this event, because I really believe that this kind of project will help popularize chess in Poland. However, the Chess Championship of Stars also made me more popular. In recent months, I have been able to give chess lessons to Polish athletes such as Karol Bielecki and Krzysztof Ignaczak.

Nine months after the Chess Championship of Stars, I had the immense pleasure of being a co-organizer – with FIDE Vice-President Lukasz Turlej, Silesian Chess Federation President Andrzej Matusiak, Mokate Adam CEO Mokrysz and BNP Paribas Bank Polska CEO Przemek Gdanski – from the visit of former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov to Poland (Ustron and Warsaw). In the Karpov simultaneous exhibition in honor of Mokate’s 30th birthday, mentioned in the ChessBase article on chess and coffee, I drew Karpov after a hard fight. This game will stay with me forever.


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  • For more information on Michał Kanarkiewicz, visit his website.
  • For more information on the “All-Star Chess Championship”, click on these links
    • Pictures
    • Articles in Polish magazines:

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