Chess Builds Bridges, Spreads Poll Awareness And Other News
Screenshot from the ECU's "We make Europe smarter!" video.

Chess Builds Bridges, Spreads Poll Awareness And Other News

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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62 | Chess Event Coverage

Chess can build bridges between different ethnic groups in a war-torn country, and it can even raise awareness for voting. The royal game, with its long history, can give special opportunities to people with disabilities. This, and more, in a new episode of In Other News.

Building Bridges in South Sudan

As France24 reports, chess is enjoying a boom of popularity in war-torn South Sudan. The France24 reporter visited the Munuki Chess Club, one of several in the country. Symbolizing the hope that an end will come to a war that has been going for over five years, different ethnic groups play each other over the chessboard.

"When I feel traumatized about my plans as an engineer...I go to chess, I find solutions," said the 36-year-old Angelo Legge, one of the players in the club.

South Sudan Chess
South Sudan playing Faroe Islands in Baku 2016. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

The South Sudan team was covered by Chess.com at the 2016 Baku Olympiad—the first Olympiad for the team. The country has only existed since 2011.

One of the players already noted in 2016 that chess is very popular in South Sudan, estimating that one-quarter of the population plays.

Raising Voting Awareness in India

In an attempt to break the Guinness world record for longest chess marathon, two players in India played more than two days of non-stop chess to spread voting awareness. As Chessbase India reported, Hansraj Thakur and Hitesh Azad played 303 blitz games straight as a way of getting people to the polls. A promotional poster read: "For a strong democracy, here is a chess marathon."

Hansraj Thakur vs Hitesh Azad chess marathon India Guinness record
Hansraj Thakur vs Hitesh Azad during their chess marathon. | Photo courtesy of Chessbase India who have the full story.

The whole affair lasted 53 hours, 17 minutes and 49 seconds and this should have beaten an earlier record by the Polish players Jacek Gajewski and Wojciech Waruga, who had played a total of 514 blitz games in 50 hours.

The marathon took place in Mandi, a small town in Himachal Pradesh in northern India. It is the election period in the country, and the election commission has urged people to spread the word, and exercise their right to vote in the elections. Thakur and Azad definitely fulfilled their role here.

Disability Does Not Stop from Playing

Al Jazeera recently demonstrated (once again!) that chess can be played everywhere and by everyone, even if the players are severely disabled.

The 17-year old Sharif Waswa Mbaziira of Uganda was stricken with polio as a baby and ended up with limited movement in his limbs. He can only transport himself in a wheelchair.

"Before I started to play chess at home they were not believing in me. They were knowing I was disabled completely. Like other people they are going to go on road begging money, and so on. And for me I said OK, you believe what you know, but for me I believe in myself," says Mbaziira in this truly inspiring video.

He learned to play chess at the SOM Chess Academy, which was founded by Robert Katende. That name might ring a bell from the Disney movie Queen of Katwe; Katende was also the coach of Phiona Mutesi.

Making Europe Smarter

The Educational Committee of the European Chess Union (ECU) has published a video to promote chess in school programs "in the modern and dynamic world, through Internet as also TV."

It's well worth checking out.

The ECU notes that national chess federations are encouraged to translate and adjust it for their language, and upload their version to their website.

"It is possible to be translated and adjusted in any language, under an already agreed reasonable cost, by the production company," said the ECU. "This option refers to minor changes in the video itself scenario translation, recording professional voice over, uploading titles, adding federation logo and final editing."

A Checkered Past

Although not as old as the ancient board game senet (which was recently covered by the "games for your mind" blog), chess still goes a long way. Our beloved game is believed to be derived from the Indian game chaturanga some time before the seventh century.

Chess was recently covered in the BBC World Service's The Forum, where a panel discussed the game's history, its links to politics and its "at times romantic allure."

On the panel were British women's champion IM Jovanka Houska along with chess historians Jean-Louis Cazaux and Rick Knowlton and Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov. The show was hosted by Bridget Kendall and can still be listened to here.

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