On October 22, 2006, Mexico City set a new record for the number of simultaneous chess games played at one place at the same time, with more than 13,000 players hunched for hours over boards on the capital’s main square, the Zocalo. The record didn’t have far to travel, it was snatched from the city of Pachuca, about an hour’s drive away in the state of Hidalgo, where more than 12,000 players set the record in 2005.
It was the second major chess festival this year in Mexico. In February, the colonial city of Morelia hosted the first leg of the famous Linares tournament, known as the Wimbledon of chess, with six of the world’s top 10 players participating.
The chess euphoria hasn’t ended there, however, and next year Mexico City will host the World Chess Championship 2007, to be held at the Sheraton hotel across from the famous Alameda park downtown. The tournament is planned for next September, but early information can be found here.
Although Mexico isn’t a country that springs to mind when one thinks of chess (if one ever does), Mexico had its own wonder player in the figure of Carlos Torre Repetto (1904-1978), author of The Mexican Defense. The height of his career came in 1925, playing in Moscow where he beat U.S. grand master Frank Marshall, drew with Cuban world champion Raul Capablanca, and won a game against former world champion Emmanuel Lasker.
Like so many chess whizzes, Torre was something of a enigma, having raced on to the world scene and beat some of the best around, only to retire as suddenly as he arrived, leaving pundits to speculate for decades on the reasons why. An annual tournament in memory of Torre is held in his native Merida.
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