Today is the second rest day before the final three rounds of Thessaloniki Grand Prix. It was a good moment to speak with the tournament director Theodoros Tsorbatzoglou.
Q: Mr. Tsorbatzoglou, the tournament is reaching its final phase, what are your general impressions?
A: I think it is going pretty well. If we take in consideration that we had only 10 days to prepare the event we are satisfied with the organizational results. For this we have to express our gratitude to the “Makedonia Palace” management team and “Mamalakis” audio-visual team who assisted us in any possible way under time pressure.
Q: Are you satisfied with the media interest and visits in the venue?
A: Again I will say that under time conditions we had a small miracle. The local media attention is at the extremely high level. For this of course we own to Mr. Ivan Savvidis who is becoming a prominent business personality in Northern Greece and his actions attract the media interest.
About spectators, after speaking with players & officers and adding my experience, I have the feeling that this is one of the most visited venues for such event. We have many spectators daily and on weekends it is booming. Our target is to reach 5.000 different visitors on spot in 12 days in total (including opening and closing ceremony).
In the final 3 days we expect even bigger number of visitors, naturally because this is when the tournament winner will be decided. Imagine what would have happened if we had two months to communicate the event and prepare organized visits from schools.
Q: Who are actually the people that come to the playing hall in Makedonia Palace?
A: Thessaloniki has a large chess community. About 40 active clubs with thousands of members. Moreover, we have a large number of schools in Thessaloniki and Halkdiki which have endorsed chess lessons.
But the spectators are not only from the chess community. I saw many people that are coming to see it because they have been informed from media.
We also have hotel guests and hotel staff (!) who are following the games daily. Finally, we have spectators from the football club of PAOK because these days the team is constantly staying in Makedonia Palace.
What is really nice, is that people who are watching chess event for the first time are really excited and willing to continue to watch or even more actively take part in our sport.
Q: The live commentary is very engaging.
A: Yes, we are receiving a very nice feedback for live commentary. Our idea was to make it as a live chess show with commentators and guests, even happenings. We want to make it more creative and interesting for the big mass of amateur players and not only them. We have to approach and win the people who are watching a chess event for the first time.
Q: Who do you think is going to win?
A: What is important for us is to ensure good and fair conditions for all players. And we did it. When we work for such events or we have official positions in FIDE or ECU we are obliged to have equal approach to each player. Our only expectation is a well organized and fair tournament and the player with the best performance will win.
Q: How do you see the situation in World and European chess?
A: FIDE is in very good shape today. Many events, a successful format of Grand-Prix, Candidates Tournament, many offers for the World Championship cycle. Top players have never had so many tournaments in the Calendar, of course including the private events.
Moreover, today FIDE has well organized and productive Commissions and this is an additional value in the management.
I think now we have to concentrate more to European Federation development before and after Tromso. We have the plan, we have the sources and we will do it.