KATHMANDU, April 30 – About a year ago, a fellow journalist approached this scribe advising him to do a news article on chess. Without even letting him complete his sentence, I shrugged off the idea describing the game as ‘good for nothing’.
Times have changed and so has the game. Chess today is arguably one of the most covered news in dailies and weekly papers alike due to the initiative taken by Nepal Chess Association (NCA) to hold chess tournaments on a regular basis.
Today, NCA conducts about six national tournaments a year. Thanks to NCA efforts, chess is the only sport in recent times to send players to international tournaments on a regular basis. The association, for instance, sent its player to 10 different championships abroad last year while a team just returned home after participating in a Club Championship in Lebanon.
Nepal’s showing in Lebanon was commendable. They finished fifth out of 25 clubs in fray, garnering heaps of praises from the International Chess Association (FIDE) and the Asian Chess Association. However, Hera Kaji Maharjan, NCA media coordinator admits that the country, largely owing to shortage of proper coaches, still has a long way to go to do well at the international level. Maharjan highlighted the role of sponsors in rapid growth of the game when asked how the simple board game played in the alleys of Kathmandu and villages has now created a niche of its own in Nepali sporting fraternity.
But the game’s success story began only a few years ago even though NCA was established in 2031 BS. It was not until Sita Ram Agrahari (2060 BS), former NCA president, came to the helm that chess started getting media attention. Before his arrival, chess was not even considered a game by most people, added Maharjan.
Like every sport, money is the key factor that sustains the game. Before, the association had a hard time finding any sponsor for its tournaments and the association was not rich enough to conducts games on its own. “But the story is different now and companies are willingly to be a part of the game,” said Maharjan, praising the role of the current NCA president Rajesh Hari Joshi in brining in investors to the game.
“His presence has been a blessing for Nepali chess, which otherwise was struggling to make its mark. National Democratic Youth Association also has a major role in the development of chess in the country,” Maharjan added.
Now NCA plans to take the game to new heights by organising a club championship. By doing this, the association aims to add professionals to the game. There will be demand for players in the clubs. The players will have to be bought in order to strengthen each team, said Maharjan, who is the vice president of Himalayan Chess Club. He has already prepared a list of players the club is willing to gamble on. Maharjan claims most Nepali chess players make a living out of the game by coaching in schools and from prize money of the championships held in the country.
For instance, former Nepal champion D.S. Malla, who at 19 was the youngest player to be crowned national champion, used to pay his tuition fees in school and save some pocket money through the prize money won in the championships.
NCA now have all their effort focused in upgrading FIDE Master Manish Hamal (a title awarded by the world chess governing body) to IM, a grade higher to FIDE, in order to uplift the standard of the game in Nepal. Manish is leaving for Greece in a month’s time before competing in a tournament in Mumbai a few days later.
Posted on: 2009-04-29 21:26:45