Club for the sustainable development of chess

Thinley Namgay

Almost eight years after the chess federation was put on hold, the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) is trying to revive the chess culture in the country.

The BOC is opening a chess club next month for those interested in indoor play. So far, 30 players have signed up for the club.

Chess club general secretary Ugyen Wangchuk said chess improves creative thinking, planning skills, concentration and protects against dementia. “There was a chess federation before, but it’s not operational.”

The lack of sufficient equipment and professional coaches are the main challenges for the development of chess in the country. There is a need for more chairs, tables, chess boards and chess apps.

Young people are also unaware of the importance of chess.

Ugyen Wangchuk said they will hold tournaments and seminars for students and teachers. “The Chess Club will work with various stakeholders such as the Department of Education and Thromdes to foster the game.”

Meanwhile, a chess player from Gelephu, Binod Rai, said chess competition was mainly at school level. “After that, there is no more opportunity. We don’t have a chess championship in the country.

He said the only popular international chess tournament the Bhutanese participated in was in 2014 when five players took part in the Chess Olympiad in Norway.

Currently, Bhutan has two chess instructors recognized by the World Chess Federation.

Meanwhile, chess can also be played online.

In January this year, a first online chess competition was organized between Bhutan and Israel, in which 140 Israelis and 30 Bhutanese participated and Binod Rai, 29, took second place overall.

Binod Rai said chess players need constant practice. “I have a messenger group with 30 players from Bhutan. We share chess rounds and play when we have time.

Chess enthusiast and intern at Samtse College of Education, Hari Prasad Dungyel, said that only a few are genuinely interested in playing chess. “Many may not know the motive behind the game of chess.”

He, however, said that to keep the game alive, online platforms such as Chess Club Bhutan encourage online chess competition among interested players.

A chess player from Tsirang, Sonam Dendup, said that limited competition hindered the popularity of chess. “There is no proper platform for beginners to learn. Without knowing the scope and benefits of chess, it would be difficult to attract and champion people around the game.”

Edited by Tashi Dema

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