When it comes to online chess and the digital representation of the sport, Italy is a country that is spearheading the challenge. The Italian Ministry of Education started to support online chess classrooms, the software company which created FIDE’s platform, PremiumChess, held the junior online blitz finals, while the city of Rome will host the final of the FOA Women World Online Blitz Chess Championship at the wonderful Circolo Canottieri Aniene.
Gianpietro Pagnoncelli, the President of FSI (the Italian Chess Federation) has it clear: the new generation requires an easier and constant access to chess material and training, and the internet is the medium where all this can easily happen. Here is an interview with him regarding the recent developments.
Dear Mr. President, the Italian Chess Federation is one of the most active in the world regarding the digital revolution: National Championships and OnLine titles, game platforms in schools, playing arenas for clubs affiliated with the federation. Can you tell us how this transformation began?
It was mandatory, rather than a choice; the new generations communicate and think in a digital way and it would be a major mistake to consider the chess movement as completely resilient to such changes.
There have been dozens of products and services for online chess play around for some time. What triggered your initiatives?
For an entity like the Federation, a very large offer is a limit rather than an opportunity. We are a movement, hence we need a safe and official environment for online games; but unfortunately we did not have the resources and the ability to assess which products were available; and even if we did, we wanted to share our choice with FIDE. To answer your question, this is how the spark was triggered: when FIDE chose Premium Chess as its official platform for online games. From that moment on, the choice was automatic.
Honestly, we expected many more problems and a less enthusiastic reaction by our members, which was not the case. We must also recognize the quality of the offer and the assistance of Premium Chess. The participation was very good since the beginning; and today we are proud to say that we had more than 3,000 players participating in the last online National Championship. An unexpected success both in figures and for the very favorable comments.
You also have a project with schools.
Perhaps this is the initiative we are most proud of, because we were among the first in the world to reach an agreement with the Education Minister for the provision of a free playing and training platform to schools. One of the Federation’s primary objectives is the dissemination of the culture of chess among the youth; what, if not this initiative, can help us to achieve this target.
What is the origin of this platform?
Junior Arena, this is the name of the platform, is the result of an agreement with Premium Chess, that supplies for free all the environment designed for the game and for learning. Once the kids have learnt the basics of the game, they can subscribe to the playing zone of the Federation and play, as before, both for leisure and to participate in various tournaments.
And finally, please tell us about the integration of the chess players club in the Federation environment.
This is another very important point. The role of the chess clubs is vital for the growth of the movement, but it has always been very difficult to think of ways for cooperation and integration. The digital revolution and the dynamism of Premium Chess offer unique opportunities here, too. With the chance to create independent groups inside the community of the national federation, we have the possibility to guarantee the necessary identity and autonomy to the members of the various clubs, even though they remain under the umbrella of the federation. Players have the opportunity to stay in their own clubs and participate in the initiatives and in the events organized by the National Federation and by FIDE.
Thank you Mr. President, in the end, would you give us a hint of your new objectives.
At the moment we focus on the evolution of the Junior Arena in schools, where the role of our trainers and teachers will be crucial in the process of online learning. However we have many other projects in mind and I would not like to reveal them. Perhaps if you come back in one year I will update you on this!