Al Watan Article About the Fischer Tourney & Taher AlKhateeb (Published 1/9/2009)

Chess tournament seeks to bring game official recognition

 Yazan AlـSaadi
Staff Writer
September 1st, 2009
KUWAIT: The Kuwait Chess Federation Club, with additional cooperation and sponsorship by the Taher Legal Group and the Kuwaiti Society of Engineers, is organizing a week long Ramadan Fischerـstyle Open Chess Tournament from September 1ـ8.
Al Watan Daily was able to gain an exclusive interview with the person that brought together the pieces of this unique social event, Taher AlـKhateeb, a 28ـyear old lawyer and former Kuwaiti Chess Champion of 2002. AlـKhateeb spoke about his passion for the beautiful game, on the reasons behind this tournament, and the state of chess in Kuwait.
“I love being a (chess) player more than a sponsor for the tournament,” AlـKhateeb began. “Chess runs in the family, starting from me and passing it on to the younger generation. The older generation were not players, but followers of the game, especially the famous Bobby Fisher and Boris Spassky match in which a nonـSoviet Union chess player broke the hold of the Russians on the game.”
“I learnt chess by chance when my uncle took me to see a Czech grandmaster in 1993; I joined the group and on the first day I lost to everyone. However, by the second day I beat everyone, so he saw talent and my ambition to win and encouraged me to continue learning the game,” remarked AlـKhateeb.
On his love of the game, AlـKhateeb elaborated, “I like the reasoning in Chess, and what is interesting is that it is universal, anyone in, say, Science, can find something in the game, from math to physics. Chess players come from a random background, a doctor can play against a gas pumper creating a sense of equality to things, with the mind rather than the body, that matters. Of course, being fit is a plus.”
AlـKhateeb noted that in chess there are two schools of thought, the tactical and the strategic, both with their underpinnings of reasoning that finally cemented his relationship with it.
He was part of the Chess Federation, which had an annual chess tournament during the National Day celebrations in February sponsored by Souk Sharq and taking place in the mall, over the past four years. It was the only event in Kuwait aimed for chess and chess players, and “without any objective reason it stopped,” he mused.
Pushed further, AlـKhateeb pointed towards “bureaucratic red tape” within the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, including the Sports Public Authority within it, and a mentality against “ish”har” (nurturing an institution) that ended the tournament. “The Chess Federation was forced to relegate into a chess club, with the procedure going on for four years now, “and every time we get close to becoming official, the minister either is changed, on vacation, or some other thing.”
“With the Sharq Tournament stopped, we felt we needed to make this tournament, for the players especially. In order to create unity and a gathering to allow, at the very least, lowـscale practicing for them,” he said.
On a positive note, he said optimistically that he did hear that the Sharq Tournament will begin again next year, “so two tournaments a year would be great.”
On how the present tournament came about, AlـKhateeb said that due to his connections of being a lawyer and an exـchess captain, he offered the founders of Taher Group the opportunity to sponsor the event, and they were keen. “The Kuwait Society of Engineers,” according to AlـKhateeb, “were good supporters of social activities and they were the ones with the spacious halls for the tournament.”
AlـKhateeb explained that currently there are 70 players in the tournament on 35 tables, watched over by two arbiters. The tournament will be played in a Fischer style, with 60 minutes for each player, adding 30 seconds to every played move. First prize is one thousand U.S. dollars, and for every point a player gets, the Kuwait Chess Federation has decided to give away from its collection secondـhand books on chess to the player.
The conversation than moved on to the state of chess in Kuwait, AlـKhateeb noted that in a country like Kuwait, where entertainment is strictly limited, such activities are real benefits to people. He added that there is a strong attraction to chess in the society, with “chess understood as nothing opposed to religion, and therefore is accepted in general.” “To prove (that sentiment),” he continued, “one of the strongest teams in Asia after India is Iran.”
On the reasons of why chess may be limited in Kuwait, AlـKhateeb pointed to two obstacles: publicity and bureaucracy. “People love the game and I see heaps of people playing chess in malls, and when I speak to them about joining the club or tournament, they would say that they just did not know about it.
“As for bureaucracy, the system is slow and we are only surviving with player”s financial support with no government support at all. The papers are ready, but the red tape stops it; it is a boring cycle and it never ends. The irony here is, I am saying this as a lawyer, and as a lawyer we are suppose to push things to be faster, but we can”t. I think it needs ”wasta” (connections), a highـkey wasta,” he said, smiling wryly.
He concluded by offering advice to players, stating that the last thing one should do is look at the opening, because without planning a closure the opening is meaningless. He also encouraged up and coming players to study games of world champions. He was also quick to encourage players who found themselves losing in the first 2 or 3 rounds of the tournament to keep coming back, because “its not about winning or losing, its about losing with dignity.”
The Ramadan Fischer Open Chess Tournament will be held at 8:00 p.m. every evening from September 1ـ8 at the Kuwait Society of Engineers headquarters along the Arabian Gulf Road and AlـSour Street, next to the Safir International Hotel in Bneid AlـGar.
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About Khaled

I am a chess fan who would like to see chess grow in Kuwait. I am sure there are a lot of people like me here and this site is for you.

One thought on “Al Watan Article About the Fischer Tourney & Taher AlKhateeb (Published 1/9/2009)

  1. mark says:

    a lovely article im so pleased to see people following up chess in kuwait (where there isnt much to do! ) i hope that this amongst other tournaments lead to a continuing chess action in here thanks tahir and khalid and all chess supporters

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