Gib appoints its first professional ‘Community Chess Leader’
by Alice Mascarenhas
Grandmaster Stuart Conquest, director of the Gibraltar International Chess Festival, has been appointed Gibraltar’s first professional Community Chess Leader. An initiative lead by the organisers of the festival about to enter its eleventh year, 60 nations will be represented this year, having grown into the most prestigious open tournament in the world. The appointment has the backing of the main sponsors of the tournament Gibtelecom and Tradewise and the Gibraltar Government via the Sports and Leisure Authority.
Mr Conquest who is being contracted by Gibtelecom to further advance and promote chess throughout the community, with special emphasis on encouraging the playing of chess in schools has committed himself to the promotion of chess in Gibraltar and the continuation of the work already being undertaken in local schools.
Brian Callaghan, creator of the chess festival with its home at The Caleta Hotel believes the initiative is an important one for Gibraltar as a whole to further encourage the development of chess. The aim is for the Community Chess Professional to formulate future strategies, to develop chess with the main emphasis in the schools.
Mr Callaghan praised the work carried out by the local chess club and the team which continues its work in schools with over 500 children playing chess. There has been enormously good work by lots of volunteers, he said, the chess club and chess association, and Stuarts role will help develop what already exists with the continued support of the sponsors of the festival as has been the case for more than ten years.
At the launch at the Caleta Hotel, both Sports Minister Steven Linares and head of the Gibraltar Sports and Leisure Authority, Joe Hernandez were present, as were the leading sponsors of the festival. This initiative has been developed by the Chess Festival organisers, in particular Mr Callaghan, and the sponsors Mr Bristow (Gibtelecom) and James Humphreys from Tradewise Insurance the leading commercial sponsor since 2011. The project is in conjunction with the Gibraltar Sports and Leisure Authority and the Government of Gibraltar, who are providing financial support for the initiative.
Minister Linares said it was exciting to be involved in what is a move towards having a professional who would take chess fully into our community. He acknowledged the Government always used the Chess festival as an example of what can be achieved when selling events-lead-tourism.
“There is a wealth of research that has documented the academic and social benefits of chess, identifying that the game improves analytical skills, strategic thinking, decision making and even encourages patience amongst other attributes,”
Tim Bristow, CEO of Gibtelecom, pointed out.
His company has backed the festival from the start as leading sponsor and now with focus on providing technical support for the live streaming of the event on the internet.
The next few months will see Mr Conquest putting together a strategy to develop chess at all levels with the responsibility for managing the annual Gibraltar Junior International Chess Festival in its third year later this year, co-ordinating international chess visits and providing coaching in schools. Mr Conquest will also look at opportunities for developing the sport in the wider community, co-ordinating with local chess organisations, teachers, workplaces and community groups where chess may aid health and awareness.
The first stage of the project is to design the strategy of how chess is going to get into the community. Mapping out that strategy and what is the best way doing it by making contact with teachers, civil servants, sports people, etc.
Minister Linares commented Gibraltar had already seen some international success with the rise of a potential international chess champion. Stephen Whatley, at the age of nine, is already representing England internationally at chess and teams of local school children are doing well in the UK National Schools Championships.
“We hope this community chess initiative will continue to develop the game locally and I am sure that we will continue to see more success for Gibraltar chess in the future.”
Tim Bristow added Gibtelecom valued the support it gave to the community as demonstrated through its involvement in sponsoring many sporting, cultural and charitable activities over the years.
“When the festival was first being mooted the Company saw this as an opportunity for promoting and developing the game of chess in Gibraltar, as has been evident from the growth in the game’s popularity in local schools. This new project is a next step in ensuring the continuing success of chess locally and we are delighted to be associated with this initiative,” he added.
Like James Humphreys he felt the challenge for the community would be to find someone who would eventually beat GM Stuart Conquest in a game of chess.