Chess festival, soccer tourneys help fill local hotels -- Gazette.Net


Montgomery County hotels are getting a boost these days not only by tourists visiting the area for summer vacations, but through events like the Washington International Chess Festival.

For the second consecutive year, the Rockville Hilton is hosting the chess festival, which is organized by the Maryland Chess Association. It features national champions and former world women’s champion Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia. Five tournaments of various skill levels started Tuesday and continue through Monday.

Participants and festival attendees have booked some 71 rooms at the Rockville hotel, said Michael Regan, the tournament director. Participants include Justus Williams of New York, this year’s U.S. Junior Open champion; Aaron Kahn, the 2013 Maryland Open champion; and Atulya Shetty of Michigan, this year’s K-12 U.S. champion.

“We’ve been able to attract players from across the country and other countries. We particularly work on getting visibility for some of the younger players,” Regan said.

There is a total prize fund of $26,000. The highest section is only open to top players, increasing the chances for young players to earn international titles. At 8 p.m. Friday, there will be a “Blitz” tournament featuring faster action. Also at 6:30 p.m. Friday, British chess player and instructor Sabrina Chevannes will give a free lecture.

“It’s a great event, coming at a time when we need events like these to help us fill hotel rooms,” said Kelly Groff, executive director of the Conference and Visitors Bureau of Montgomery County. Event participants and attendees not only stay in hotels, but spend at local restaurants and shops, she noted.

AT&T National draws larger crowd than last year

The summer’s biggest event in the county is the AT&T National pro golf tournament, hosted by Tiger Woods at Congressional County Club in Bethesda. This year’s six-day event drew 146,909 people, about 8 percent more than last year, according to the Tiger Woods Foundation. But last year’s tournament was affected by the derecho that forced a one-day ban of spectators.

Attendance this year was 35,565 on the tournament’s final day, when former Wake Forest All-American Bill Haas won the event. That was about 13,000 below the level of 2012’s final day, when Woods was victorious.

Woods did not play this year due to an injury.

In 2009, when about 194,000 people watched Woods win, the golf tournament generated some $29.1 million in direct and indirect spending, including some 23,000 spectators, golfers and others staying overnight in the county, according to a study commissioned by the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development. A figure was not available for this year’s impact.

Soccer and lacrosse tournaments at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds also contribute greatly to filling rooms during the summer, Groff said. In fiscal 2012, tournaments at the SoccerPlex accounted for more than 14,000 room nights with local hotels, according to bureau figures.

Besides state tournaments that attract visitors, some national events are held at the SoccerPlex. Next July, the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships — billed as the most prestigious youth soccer tournament in the country — will be at the SoccerPlex, according to the website of the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association.