Lindsborg A small-town chess tournament is hitting the big time when former world champion Anatoly Karpov comes to Lindsborg.
Karpov will preside over the second Lindsborg Rotary Open at Bethany College.
It's like "Michael Jordan coming to play basketball for the Bethany team," said Mikhail Korenman, director of international programs at Bethany.
Five grandmasters, two of them women, and five international masters also have signed on to play.
The chamber of commerce estimates that the tournament, which opens Saturday and continues Dec. 17-23, could mean $250,000 to $300,000 to the local economy.
Karpov, 51, is a global chess ambassador who is known for interacting well with youths in English.
"He is an incredible chess enthusiast and chess supporter," Korenman said.
Karpov's expected accessibility is one of the "key nuggets" of his visit, organizer Kathy Richardson said.
"I think he's interested in reaching out to inspire the next generation of players," she said. "We know that chess has not been played with the same vigor in the U.S. as it has in some of the European countries. Maybe this is just enough to light a fire under the next world champion."
Saturday's chess tourney opening is packed with plenty of entertainment choices in the area including the St. Lucia Fest, Heritage Christmas and The Wichita Metropolitan Ballet's performance of "The Nutcracker."
"It's going to be a really big weekend," said Becky Anderson, owner of the Swedish Country Inn.
Last year's tournament brought 74 players including grandmaster Alexander Onischuk, now of Maryland, a Ukrainian immigrant who is the top-ranked chess player in the United States.
Grandmasters are expert players who have achieved high ranking and show success at a number of major tournaments. There are roughly 700 grandmasters in the world.
"Last year was an absolutely great and perfect tournament," Korenman said. "Everybody was happy. Top players were happy, and the kids were happy."
So what could they do for an encore? Onischuk stepped forward.
"He suggested that we might want to bring Karpov here," said Wes Fisk, who helped form the town's chess club.
The world champion has a four-game match with Garry Kasparov beginning Dec. 19 in New York City. Korenman called Karpov's agent and struck a deal.
The Lindsborg community raised more than $15,000 to cover this year's tournament expenses.
The tournament was moved from the Bethany College library to the church to accommodate the expected numbers of players and spectators. Attendance is free.