Thursday, November 8, 2007

Chess championship hangs in the balance

Nov 7 2007 by David Bartlett, Liverpool Daily Post
Liverpool 800th Anniversary chess tournament at St Georges Hall. Picture: Colin Lane

THE staging of Europe’s most prestigious chess championship in Liverpool appeared in doubt last night after the Culture Company reneged on a deal to contribute £100,000.

It was hoped the European Individual Chess Championship, due at St George’s Hall in September 2008, would be a highlight of the city’s culture year.

Organisers understood they would receive £100,000, but yesterday it emerged that had been cut to £60,000.

Last night, the North West Development Agency said it was confident – but did not confirm – it could find £40,000.

But those behind the event feel “very annoyed” about the episode, and said they believed the Culture Company had failed to grasp the importance of the event.

Leaders from the European Chess Union (ECU) warned that if Liverpool cancelled, it may be too late to find an alternative venue.

Chief organiser Prof David Robertson, of Liverpool John Moores University, said: “I'm delighted the NWDA recognise the strategic importance of what we are attempting.

“Liverpool's future prosperity will come from high skills and high quality achievement. It won't come from a provincial parade of gigs, gags and shopping.

About 200 players will attend, with about 20m internet viewers.

Liverpool beat off Budapest, Dresden and Turin to stage it.

In many countries, chess enjoys a huge following.

The Culture Company last night confirmed it had decided to give just £60,000.

Bernice Law, chief operating officer, said: “The programme for 2008 is constantly evolving and growing and the Culture Company is constantly reviewing how to ensure the people of Liverpool and visitors to the city get the best possible return for the money from the way we invest.

“As a result, instead of just the chess championship, we will be able to announce another event in the future.”

Steve Broomhead, of the NWDA said: “We realise the importance of the chess cham- pionship, which increases visitor numbers to Liverpool.”