Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Transformational Power of Chess

Can a long-term nation-wide effort to promote chess among its citizens spur economic development? An interesting hypothesis... Chess The transformational power of chess With Errol Tiwari Sunday, December 30th 2007 It was on Sunday, March 18, that two chess players took a daring step and announced a chess tournament; the first for well over a decade. Four persons arrived for the tournament, including the two organisers. On Tuesday, December 18, by coincidence, a glorious cocktail reception was held at the King's Plaza Hotel for a number of distinguished guests, including my own Director-General, Ambassador Elisabeth Harper, to celebrate nine months of uninterrupted activity in chess and specifically, to distribute the prizes for the National Chess Championships. It was nine months of magic. Each month there was a tournament. An Interim Steering Committee for the Development of Chess was established. A senior FIDE (the governing body of world chess) official visited us. We took the game to some schools with the intention of carrying the game to all of the schools, and held a chess clinic for school teachers and students. Dr Frank Anthony, the Minister of Youth Sport and Culture, imported 200 chess sets for distribution to schools. Kei-Shar's began reselling tournament-sized chess sets, thereby making chess equipment available to the masses. It was magic. But it was our sponsors who were the true magicians for chess. They crafted the framework paper for us to develop the game. They were the David Copperfields of chess. Our sponsors listened to what we were saying, and they believed in what we were saying. Their response was quick, tangible and mighty. And our best talent came rushing out from little corners of obscurity where they had resided for years. In one moment there was hope again, and a candle was lit to brighten the darkness of chess in Guyana. Significantly, our sponsors supported the renewal of a game and a cause. When chess is integrated fully into the schools, we would have made a great step forward for the game, but more importantly, it a giant leap for Guyana. I believe there is an interconnection between chess and the economic development of one's country. Ever since Viswanathan Anand became a grandmaster in the late 1980s, India has been transformed into an economic giant. Business people think smarter. They make smarter choices. Russia, or the former USSR, prospered rapidly after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution as chess was being developed and promoted among the masses. Lenin was a passionate chess player, and he created the platform for chess to be spread to the four corners of the great land mass of his country. And take a look at China. Quite suddenly, as China began to produce both male and female grandmasters, the economy gathered momentum and began ballooning. China is an economic giant today. Our sponsors did more than sponsor chess this year. They sponsored the development of a nation. They sponsored a platform from which a new discipline will be shared among those who play the game. They sponsored a new beginning, and who knows, perhaps a new culture of intelligent and structured thinking among ourselves. During the year also, the media were lavish in their coverage of chess, especially for the National Championships. The newspapers and television stations worked in a vigorous national effort to promote the ancient game and reached people in some very remote locations in Guyana. If our sponsors and the media can continue to help us reach people, and spread the gospel of the rewards to be gained from playing chess, we would owe them an immeasurable debt of thanks. For next year, our minds are set on attending the 2008 Chess Olympiad in Germany. We will be channelling our energies in that direction. We will also be concentrating on the Inter-Guiana Games. Simultaneously, we will be moving forward with activities to promote the game in schools, and training vigorously for the inevitable foreign competition. In time, we would produce a grandmaster, and then we shall determine for sure whether having a grandmaster has anything to do with economic development. In time we will know. Happy New Year!

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