Grandmasters from 55 countries are competing under supervision of the World Chess Federation (FIDE).
Organized by the Saudi General Sports Authority (GSA), the event opened on Tuesday and will conclude on Saturday.
The venue has been turned into an Arabian mirage, with traditional red Saudi textiles and coverings, and a Bedouin tent with pillows and floor settings.
Arabic coffee is continuously served to eager visitors.
Female chess players are not required to wear abayas, but have opted to wear black or navy suits.
“It’s a well-represented championship, with all continents participating,” FIDE referee Jamie Kenmure told Arab News, commending the “very good turnout at this first world chess event in Saudi Arabia.”
Russian champion Vladimir Fedoseev told Arab News: “The organization committee gave the players a very comfortable and good atmosphere. Saudi Arabia may not have a long chess history, but with this tournament it’s on its way.”
England grandmaster Nigel D. Short told Arab News: “It’s a superbly organized event with exceptional arrangements. The playing hall is awesome, the prize money is fantastic, and the organizer has extended warm hospitality.” The championship “will mark a golden moment for Saudi sports,” he said.
Ukrainian player Kuzubov Yuriy told Arab News: “The tournament is excellent and will be a huge success. Its organization has been perfect.”
When asked if he would like to compete in the Kingdom again, he said: “Yes of course, the organizers have provided excellent conditions for the players.”
Saudi player Afnan Hassan was thrilled to enter the tournament, saying: “I’ve played chess since I was very young, but it’s my first time competing in a world championship.”
The opening ceremony was attended by the GSA’s chairman, FIDE’s CEO and deputy president, and the presidents of the Asian Chess Federation, the Confederation of Chess for Americas, and the Saudi Arabia Chess Federation.