Petition «Save Biel International Chess Festival!»: Handover to the Authorities

Text of the Petition for the attention of Municipal and City Council of the City of Biel: “Unfortunately the City of Biel plans to completely cancel their financial support of the Chess Festival. The decision is not decretory yet. We, the signatories of this petition ask to review and revise the decision so that the 55 year long tradition of the Chess Festival Biel can remain an inherent part of the global chess agenda.”

No less than 583 times within roughly 10 days during this year’s edition of the International Biel Chess Festival the petition “Save Biel International Chess Festival!” was signed single handedly.

Today the handover of the accumulated signatures will take place to the authorities of Biel Bienne in regards of the upcoming city council meeting of Wednesday, 19th October 2022.

The signing parties demand and expect the financial support by the city of Biel to continue also in the future.

The complete – and on short notice – cancellation of the funds would mean its kiss of death (see text below).

Please find additional information below.

(This text is also handed to the members of the city council and the municipal council).

Debate «Budget 2023 and Substance 2030» & International Chess Festival Biel

To whom it may concern

In scope of “Substance 2030” the municipal council requests to completely cancel the financial support for the Interational Chess Festival Biel (ISF). If this is confirmed, Biel is in danger of losing a prestigious event of unique, international appeal that has been held without interruption for more than half a century.

Year after year, the International Chess Festival brings chess enthusiasts from all over the world to Biel – in 2022, 931 participants were the record of the past 25 years. Hardly any other event in Biel has a greater international character, and enjoys such an excellent reputation in its scene. This is not only reflected in the considerable media presence, but also in added value in terms of tourism and economy – especially since the festival helps to fill the «summer silly season» by generating welcome income for hotels and restaurants in the city of Biel. A few figures from this year’s edition:

Over 1000 designated overnight stays, plus numerous private accommodations

Over 5000 hits per day from no less than 156 countries on the Internet and on the Festival’s website (www.bielchessfestival.ch)

Over 200’000 viewers who followed our produced daily livestream

Close to 1000 participants from 37 countries and from all five continents

Chess is a global phenomenon: according to a survey by the world chess federation FIDE, 600 million people worldwide know the rules of the game and occasionally play chess. In addition, the «Queen’s Gambit» series, which premiered during the lockdown in 2020, has given chess a new lease of life and has triggered a boom — which has also been reflected in the number of participants in 2022.

The Biel-Bienne International Chess Festival has become a fixture in the chess world over 55 — uninterrupted — years. There are hardly any other chess tournaments in the world that come close to the tradition and significance of the annual ISF at the Biel Congress Center. And not only that, three times Biel has also hosted the Interzones tournament — a kind of world championship, in which the challenger to the reigning world champion was determined. Legends such as Garry Kasparov and Vishy Anand have visited Biel and seven world champions have played in Biel, including the current world champion Magnus Carlsen.

The Biel Chess Festival has had to cope with the loss or reduction of contributions several times over the years. In 2014, for example, the city of Biel reduced its contribution from CHF 175,000 to CHF 125,000. A complete cancellation of the support would be an unprecedented blow which after 55 years would most probably mean the death kiss for the International Chess Festival Biel.

In this sense — and also in accordance with the petition «Save Biel International Chess Festival!” (see enclosed media release) we therefore request that the already reduced amount of CHF 125’000.-, possibly a reduction by 20% to CHF 100’000.-, be paid out. In this way, you will help to ensure that over 55 years of developmental work can continue to exist and give pleasure.

For further information and questions, please contact Peter Bohnenblust (076 405 80 87) or Paul Kohler (paul.kohler@bielchessfestival.ch).

Jürg Engel, President Biel-Bienne CHESS

Peter Bohnenblust, OC President ISF

Paul Kohler, Secretary General

bielchessfestival.ch

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