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20 years of the Bangkok Chess Open

by Peter Long - 20/02/2024

The BCC Open steps into the third decade of the critically acclaimed tournament. What makes this tournament special, is the utmost care given to the playing conditions. Peter Long writes the history of this tournament which will have the 21st edition this April. How did an engineer, a huge chess enthusiast - Kai Tuorila made Thailand, a must visit destination for chess players from all around the globe. Why he has been so successful in the creation of a long-lasting tradition where there is always a strong line-up of GMs and IMs always ready to play, most importantly many returning players. Peter Long mentions them all in this article which covers the history of this tournament. Photos: FM IA FT Peter Long

The rich history of the BCC Open

This year the BCC (Bangkok Chess Club) International Chess Open & Challenger moves into it’s third decade with the 21st edition to be held at from 13th - 21st April 2024 at the Sheraton Hua Hin Resort & Spa and this is perhaps the time to recap how the BCC started and evolved.

Kai Tuorila

Successful chess events are often identified with the driving force behind it and so, and very deservingly, Kai Tuorila has become synonymous with this BCC Open, not only the founder but also the Chief Organiser and Tournament Director and who is often also seen to be the de facto Chief Arbiter.

Kai Tuorila deep in thought at 18th BCC Open 2018

Kai is as crazy about chess as any passionate amateur can be… and certainly well beyond that as he actually gets up and makes things happen, and unless travelling for work, can always be found every Friday evening at the BCC (Bangkok Chess Club) ensuring the weekly blitz chess tournament (a particular chess passion) takes place and where he is of course always the first entry.

Tournament Organizer Kai Tuorila holds GM Dibyendu Barua to a draw - 19th BCC Open | Video: ChessBase India

He studied engineering in his native Jämsä, Finland, and when it was love at first sight with Thailand when he visited for the first time on the university’s visit to Asia in 1988 and it was not long after that he moved over permanently, even convincing a beautiful young lady - we all know her as the only person he listens too - to marry him after which two equally beautiful daughters also came along.

Kai Tuorila at the closing ceremony of the 19th edition in 2019

In the beginning of the 90s, there was very little in terms of chess life in Thailand, certainly no chess clubs and the only annual tournament being the Thailand Chess Championship and having just a handful of rated players in the FIDE (International Chess Federation) ranking list.

Kai Tuorila with the 28th Prime Minister of Thailand - Yingluck Shinawatra

Kai did two things very early to help grow chess in Thailand, the first by volunteering to be the Thailand Chess Association Ratings Officer, a position he has now held since 1995, so ensuring that results of events were submitted to FIDE and then, because he could not play his beloved game regularly, started the BCC using a restaurant premises, the current host being the Royal Oak located at 595/10-11 Sukhumvit 33/1 in Bangkok.

Interview with IO Kai Tuorila at the conclusion of 19th BCC Open 2019 | Video: ChessBase India

Starting the Bangkok Chess Club Open

With these two things in place, the third thing that Kai did was to begin looking to have a Bangkok Chess Club Open and in 2002, the luxurious Amari Orchid Resort in Pattaya became the first host, and a tradition was started where every venue was going to be a five or six-star hotel or resort and spa, and to have 50 participants from 13 countries including no less than five International Masters was a huge success in a time of few titled players and when the internet was a slow dial-up service not widely used.


Sponsorship has always been difficult to find and besides the entry fees, a great deal of financial help given is from the kindness of friends and like-minded enthusiasts and of course the not so deep pockets of Kai himself, and in this regard, the hotel’s sponsorship of the playing hall and rooms for select Grandmasters has been absolutely critical to make it happen.

Kai Tuorila shaking the trunk of a friendly baby elephant at the 2007 edition

Now of course everyone knows about the Bangkok Open and the BCC website gets millions of visitors and there are regulars even amongst very strong grandmasters who make a point to return year after year and this can be seen for the list of illustrious winners taking pride of place on the BCC website.


On 15 occasions the BCC Open has had dates which clash with the cash rich Dubai International Open and yet has always had more entries despite a very modest prize fund (not even 5 percent) and that goes to show that former FIDE President Florencio Campomanes was right when he said a successful chess event only needs a great venue, a great hotel, both in a great city and with great hospitality, and what else describes that better than Thailand?

One of the most hilarious reaction after a game was captured at 19th BCC Blitz Open 2019 | Video: ChessBase India

Would be superstar visitors and one who made it!

Some great chess players have also missed the tournament. In 2015, the World Champion, Viswanathan Anand from India, now FIDE Deputy President, was planning to come to play a simultaneous exhibition match during the BCC blitz chess tournament and to provide commentary for the main tournament but he cancelled his participation when offered a big fee at another tournament.

Then 11-year-old D Gukesh finished third on the 18th edition of BCC Open in 2018

Leading USA Grandmaster, Hikaru Nakamura, already then a top 10 player internationally, would have come to play in 2010 but could not get a fast enough flight connection needed from the Saint Louis tournament he was playing in to be able to get to Bangkok in time.

GM Hao Wang (CHN) won the Blitz Finals last year at the 20th edition

China’s Women World Champion and Grandmaster Hou Yifan visited Thailand in 2012 and also took part in the BCC Open, when the tournament was played in Bangkok's Dusit Thani and the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand who was also then President of the Thailand Chess Federation invited Hou and Kai together with the Ambassador of China to meet the Prime Minister and where a simultaneous exhibition match against 30 players consisting of high level government officials was quickly organised in the Government House.

13th Women's World Champion - GM Hou Yifan flanked by GM Jan Gustafsson, GM Nigel Short and Kai Tuorila

The 21st BCC Open 2024 and Beyond

This year the BCC Open returns to its original dates to coincide with Songkran, the Thailand New Year celebration and water festival, which is its most important holiday.


On nine occasions the BCC Open has been held in Bangkok, and ten times in nearby resort cities Pattaya, Petchaburi, and soon to be Hua Hin, once in second city Chiang Mai and once in Phuket island.


For many years now there has been a challengers together with an open, and despite a significant increase in cost, games are played one round a day.


This is in response to feedback from participants who want to have the right level of competition to get norms, rating, or experience, and optimal playing conditions together with having a relaxed vacation.


No doubt the BCC Open will evolve further if only incrementally as there has been a formula that has worked well all these years.


Tournament Registration

Hotel Reservation (Special rates valid till 30th March)

Bangkok Chess Club: Official site, fb page

About the Author

One Night in Bangkok! Peter Long, FM, IA and FT, no longer Secretary of the FIDE Trainers’ Commission

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