23,000 join Bodhana at ChessFest!

Record-breaking nine-year-old Bodhana Sivanandan celebrated her call-up to England’s chess team in a packed Trafalgar Square on Sunday as ChessFest drew its biggest-ever crowd.

More than 23,000 people—8,000 more than last year—descended on London’s iconic venue to brave a mixed bag of weather as the UK’s annual free chess event got under way.

Bodhana, the superstar schoolgirl from Harrow who was named in England’s squad for the Chess Olympiad in September, spent most of the day taking on all-comers in a simultaneous display. She also took to the main stage for a trans-Atlantic match organised by ChessKid.com against top U.S. talents and, with her father Siva, enjoyed meeting many of her new-found fans.

Bodhana said: ‘ChessFest was so much fun, I had a great time. It rained very heavily at one point but then the sun came out and I played a lot of chess.’

Bodhana was joined by a host of top UK grandmasters and three other young English super-talents: 15-year-old Shreyas Royal, who is on the brink of becoming England’s youngest ever grandmaster, fast-rising under 10 Supratit Banerjee and Ethan Pang, the world’s number-one under-9 player.

British Champion Gawain Jones and England’s number-one Nikita Vitiugov, both world-class grandmasters, treated the crowd to a display of blindfold chess. There was also an appearance from Anthony Mathurin, from the BBC show The Traitors, who is a chess coach.

The festival, now in its fourth year, drew chess enthusiasts from across the country, including many of the country’s top grandmasters, for a day of fun suitable for every level of player. It was organised by the charity Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC) with support from the Mayor of London and XTX Markets.

Malcolm Pein, Chief Executive of Chess in Schools and Communities, said: ‘It was wonderful to see over 23,000 people enjoying what is the Glastonbury of chess in Trafalgar Square. A mid-afternoon downpour did not stop play, unlike the cricket!’

More pictures from the day are available here