Chess: The mind game

01 Aug 2010


Chess is one of the most popular board games in the world and probably the most well-known. It is a battle of the mind, with two players competing against each other using wit, strategy and tactics with nothing left to chance like in so many other sports.

Played on an eight-by-eight square board with 16 pieces per side, the game of chess is deceptively simple but as mathematical analysis shows, the number of potential games is enormous — in fact, greater than the total number of atoms in the universe, or so they say.

Historically, the game of chess is believed to have originated in ancient India, with the earliest pieces excavated by archaeologists dating back to 3000 BC, although a competing theory traces the game back to China. The game gradually spread west through the Muslim world, reaching Europe by the 10th century. There were many different variations, so players had to make a gentleman's agreement on the rules before a match could start.

By the end of the 15th century, the modern rules were almost all in place after the Europeans extended the power of the Queen and the bishop. The list of unofficial world champions goes back to this time, as there was usually one player regarded as the best — or at least the most famous — in the world, with the title passing from champion to challenger.

Since the game of chess has its roots and origin in the Indus valley, its origins incidentally happened to be in those parts which are now part and parcel of Pakistan. Chess in the present times is played the world over and 125 countries are affiliated to the World Chess Federation. Chess is very popular in Western countries especially in the USSR, the USA, Yugoslavia, Britain, Hungary, Germany and others. Soviet Union has dominated the world championships for the last 50 years. A numbers of magazines are published on chess from different parts of the world. In Pakistan, chess is played throughout the country mostly In Mughal style which is slightly different from the international style. But the Chess Federation of Pakistan (CFP) organises its tournaments in international style and according to the established rules, despite meagre National Championships, sends players abroad for international events regularly for the past six years.

The name of Shahzad Mirza is not unknown in the world of chess. Earning the International Master's title by the World Chess Federation in the year 1984, today Mirza is the serving Secretary General of the PCPA — Pakistan Chess Players Association.

Speaking at a press conference about the status of the game in Pakistan, the former international chess star stresses the need for providing equal promotion opportunities to the game of chess, the same way as cricket, hockey and other games are highlighted in the country.

“Every game has its own worth and due to extraordinary support to cricket, hockey, the people are not taking part in other games,” said Mirza, adding that he sees a lot of passion among the youngsters playing chess locally and that gives him hope that his country can go a along way in the game if the players are facilitated the way they deserve to be and are provided proper, expert training. Mirza also believes that there is immense talent in Pakistan and youngsters are keen to learn.

“These youngsters have enormous abilities to shine at both local and international levels. I can already say Pakistans chess future can be extremely bright if the right measures are taken for promoting this game,” said Mirza, stressing that Pakistan has a flair pool of talent waiting to be polished. “If a player does emerge, his plunge into poverty is ensured. Rather than getting sponsors and advertisements, he is left to yearn for even a stipend,” added Mirza disappointedly. In Mirza's opinion, mind games like chess need sponsorship as well as funding in Pakistan, for without proper funds or a management and training system, the game can't flourish in Pakistan. “Public indifference to games other than cricket, football and hockey has grown manifold over the years. This lack of interest can be taken care of by the media and educational institutes, but it is rather unfortunate that none of our newspapers or television channels are willing to promote the game of chess, despite all the talent the country has,” said Mirza.

Another relevant point that Mirza highlighted was the fact that indoor games aren't given any importance at educational institutions, which is why young people don't show interest in them or seek to learn them during the entire course of their academic lives.