A unique train just for chess enthusiasts departs from Prague’s main station Friday (October 13), an eastbound locomotive hosting a nine-round onboard tournament making stops at Olomouc, Trencin, Bratislava, and Lednice.
The movable chess tournament, organized by the Prague Chess Society and Czech Railways, sees contestants from around the world vying for a crystal-train trophy that’s presented to the champion upon return to the Czech capital.
Now in its seventh outing, last year’s Chess Train saw 118 competitors from a range of ages and skill sets compete; Turkish GM Suat Atalik took home the top prize.
The event has become quite the phenomenon on the professional chess-playing circuit and its Czech organizers believe their tournament occupies a rare position historically and on a global scale.
Czech Railways has already signed a contract with the PCS to continue the tournament through 2019.
Last year a short documentary Chess Train – My Game screened at Prague’s Ponrepo cinema on the eve of its departure.
Insiders say the Czech Republic is experiencing a renaissance as a chess-playing capital, not only with the rising popularity of the Chess Train but also due in part to the 2015 opening of the Chess Café Šachový Václavák, inspired by the original chess cafés of First Republic Czechoslovakia, on the second floor of the Hotel Julius.
The most famous chess café was U Nováků just off Prague’s Wenceslas Square, the only venue to have hosted a Chess Olympiad (1931) and which also witnessed an epic 20-board simultaneous exhibition in 1960 by new World Champion Mikhail Tal.
U Nováků survived until shortly after the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, later becoming a casino.
Prague’s newest café for chess lovers was founded by Pavel Matocha chairman of the Prague Chess Society, but it isn’t the only venue in town for putting your opponent in check; the Chess Café project currently lists 37 Prague venues, among them tea rooms, wine bars, and pubs, that make chess boards available to guests.
The group has put together a handy interactive map of such places throughout the Czech capital and beyond.
Featured image: Praguechess.cz