Why the Grand Mufti’s fatwa gambit is unlikely to checkmate chess
Saudi Arabia’s leading Muslim cleric has announced a ban on chess, which has sparked reaction around the globe.
By Lisa Suhay
January 22, 2016
Christian Science Monitor
Over the centuries, dozens of religious and political leaders have tried to put chess in a corner, but experts say a fatwa by Saudi Arabia’s leading cleric against the game is an ineffective move.
While the rest of the world has come a long way from the year 1061, when Roman Catholic Cardinal Petrus Damiani (1007-1072) banned the clergy from playing chess, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh is willing to turn back the chess clock this week by issuing a new fatwa, or religious advisory, on a Saudi television show.
The Grand Mufti referred to the game as “the work of Satan,” and akin to alcohol and gambling in the eyes of Allah.
Grandmaster Susan Polgar, head coach of Webster University‘s top-ranked chess team in the nation, says in an interview, “I absolutely disagree with these pronouncements on chess. There is no gambling element in chess. Chess is purely an intellectual game which requires skill and knowledge, and it can help countless young people develop analytical, concentration, calculation, decision making, and problem solving skills, etc.”
“Chess is one of the oldest games and by far the most popular on this planet,” adds Mr. Polgar. “Chess is extremely inexpensive to play and chess also promotes unity, diversity, understanding, and peace. In fact, I led the charge along with former world champion Anatoly Karpov and former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev in the global initiative Chess For Peace more than 10 years ago.”