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Garrison Library hosts opening ceremony for #GibChess Battle of Sexes Chess Match-Tournament

Photos by Johnny Bugeja

by John Saunders

The opening ceremony of the #GibChess Battle of Sexes Chess Match-Tournament, to be held at the Garrison Library from January 24 to 3 February, 2022, took place at the Garrison Library at 6pm on Sunday.

The ceremony too place in the presence of Dr John Cortes, the Minister for the Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change and Education, and Dr Jennifer Ballantine, Director of the Gibraltar Garrison Library, which is hosting the event.

Laurent Freyd, director of the Gibraltar International Chess Festival, opened proceedings by explaining the background to this novel chess competition, in which two teams of 10 leading professional chess players, men and women, play 10 rounds of classical chess against each other for a prize fund of £100,000, of which £75,000 would go to the winning side and £25,000 to the runners-up.

It marked another imaginative and innovative chess initiative for a festival which has become world-renowned over the past 18 years and has several times been voted the world’s top open tournament by the World Chess Federation.

It also meant that the festival would maintain its annual continuity through the pandemic, with open-to-all tournaments held at the Caleta Hotel in 2020 and a Women’s World Championship eliminator held there in the summer of 2021.

Dr Cortes congratulated the festival on its achievements and commented on the suitability of the tournament to the historic venue in which it was to be held.

Gibraltar prides itself on its cultural heritage, with the Garrison Library being a prime example of heritage and culture, he said.

Gibraltar has now become known as the home of chess, itself an activity with a long cultural heritage, Dr Cortes added.

The minister wished the tournament and the contestants the best of luck and hoped that everyone involved would take home with them a small piece of Gibraltar in their heart as a fond memory.

Dr Ballantine also wished the contestants luck in their chess competition.

She hoped the players would find time during their stay in Gibraltar to look at the small collection of chess books which reside in a corner of the library and which date back around two centuries.

Dr Cortes was then invited to effect the drawing of colours for the first round of the team event.

In keeping with the library setting, two banks of traditional library card index drawers had inside them a white and black king.

Dr Cortes was asked to choose a drawer on behalf of the women’s team.

He plumped for the left-hand drawer.

It was opened to reveal a white king, which meant that the women’s team will all take the white pieces in round one of the tournament which will start at 3pm on Monday afternoon.

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