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Chess returns to Afghanistan

5/26/2003 – The infamous Taliban had stricly forbidden the game, possibly simply to prevent intellectuals from getting together. Now members of Holland's oldest chess club have got together with the Dutch Embassy to revive chess activity in the capital. With great success. 300 players, male and female (!) have registered for the first tournament. Here are some remarkable pictures from Kabul.
 

Chess in Kabul

By Frans M. Hoynck van Papendrecht

Boy Frank, who works at the Dutch Embassy in Kabul, happens to be a member of Hollands oldest chess club. The Royal Dutch Chess Society "Discendo Discimus" in The Hague was founded in the year 1852 and is one of the cradles of FIDE. The former president of Discendo Discimus, Alexander Rueb, was also one of the founders FIDE, and from 1924 untill 1938 FIDE's first administration resided in the mansion ("Het Nationaal Schaakgebouw") that is still premises of Discendo Discimus. Players like Emanual Lasker, Alexander Aljechin, Max Euwe and others played over there. David Bronstein is still an honorary member of Discendo Discimus.

Why do I tell all this. For instance because last week I shipped Discendo Discimus's famous antique 'gong' (a chime from 1932, that is) to Kabul. Its sound was known to the ears of World Champions, famous grandmasters from history and the founders of FIDE. Therefore it should be used (as a symbol) at the re-start of organized chess in Afghanistan.


Chess stamps from pre-Taliban Afghanistan

As you might know our beloved game was "indexed" by the Taliban, that thought it was a devils game. But probably the main reason for the prohibition of chess was that they didn't like intellectuals to have an excuse for joining together.

As a chess player and member of the Dutch diplomatic service Boy Frank got our Foreign Affairs department ready to sponsor the "resurrection" of organized chess in Afghanistan. Because this also has a social purpose, to revive normal everyday life over there and to stimulate the emancipation of (Islamic) women. On a daily basis they can now join together with men (!) at the chessboard. So the project takes two barricades in one!

Only two years ago the picture shown in the photos below (made by Mrs. Judy Vermeulen – also from our diplomatic service) were absolutely unthinkable in Kabul.

At the end of this month a chess tournament will be held in Kabul, organized by the Dutch Embassy. Within three weeks nearly 300 men and women have registered.

My role and that of Van Stockum Booksellers (founded 200 years ago and since a few decades also the best chess shop in Holland) is that of a consultant and business partner. We provide the project in Kabul with all they need at the moment, playing materials, a basic library, software and, last but not least, advise and contacts (for instance to have the Afghanistan on the list of regular FIDE-members a.s.a.p.).

See also the previous ChessBase article: Chess comes back to Afghanistan

Picture gallery


Chess encounters on the grounds of the Dutch Embassy


Afghani women enjoying a game


A Kabul women's chess team


Introducing the chess project


... to an enthusiastic audience


Afghani girls at the start of an interesting game


The menfolk analyse in the gardens


Something we haven't seen in years: women publicly engaged in intellectual activities in Kabul. This is indeed the dawn of a new era for the much-suffering people of Afghanistan.

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