Chess and Charity

by Diana Mihajlova
5/26/2015 – In a human society that is afflicted with all manner of misfortunes, charity is an inseparable and vital activity. To give is to perform a human duty. Chess can also play a role in this most noble of acts as WFM Meri Grigoryan shows us. Now in the fifth year, she has organized a series of activities to bring attention and donations to fight cancer. An example to be embraced.

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Meri Grigoryan (ENG, 2028) at the European Team Championships in Warsaw, 2013

Loek Van Wely blitzing against Meri with Lazaro Bruzon kibitzing during the rest day at the
Olympiad in Khanty-Mansyisk, 2010. Meri: "Yes, yes, unlucky Loek's glass was completely
empty and it was two minutes versus five, so I won the game."

Meri Grigoryan is Armenian, born in Yerevan in 1977. She was taught chess and coached by her father. At the age of twelve, she was the Woman's Champion of Yerevan. When she was fifteen, she became a champion of Yerevan in the Boy's under-21 category, and at the time had won the title Armenian Girls Champion in all age groups.

Meri has been living in the UK since the mid 90s and has been playing under the English flag, representing the national Women’s team on several occasions. In 2004 she was a British Ladies Champion. For a number of years, she was also the English Chess Federation’s (ECF) Manager of Women's Chess.

She is multi-talented (chess, painting, singing and writing), multi-lingual (Armenian, Russian, English, Danish, Czech, Polish, French), and has long been a professional chess coach, promoting chess in schools in the UK.

Meri describes the above photo: ’With my talented students (aged four to eleven) after the
UK Chess Challenge Megafinal in Isleworth on May 2, 2015. Out of 29 students, I produced
three supremos and eight qualified for the Gigafinal, considering that in the under-7 group I
had 18 students!’

In 2011, Meri joined a charitable on-line community called ’Just Giving’. She then created ’Meri’s page’ and invited donations to support her chosen charity, Cancer Research UK.

Official site of Cancer Research UK

From the charity’s website: ’Cancer Research UK is the world's leading charity dedicated to beating cancer through research. We are fighting cancer on all fronts, finding new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat it to save more lives. We are entirely funded by the public. With your help, we can ensure more people beat cancer.’

The pink coloured ribbons have become a symbol of awareness to promote the fight against cancer

Meri then had the idea to use chess as a fund-raising tool by giving simultaneous chess exhibitions. During the summer, the British coastal towns are filled with national and international tourists. One of these towns, Bournemouth, on the south English coast where she resides a large part of the year, became a locale to host her Charity and Chess Events.

The English tourist resort, Bournemouth – the Town Centre (photo: Wikipedia)

Under the motto ’together we will beat cancer’, Meri gave her first charitable simul in July 2011. Starting on fifteen boards, she ended up playing 54 games, with onlookers joining whenever a board freed up.

"The simul was a great way of promoting chess in the Dorset area and fund raising for cancer research and women's chess. I was playing on fifteen boards and when a game was completed onlookers were able to join in, so it was more like a chess marathon for me. The crowd was just amazing during my five-hour exhibition. My opponents were from France, Germany, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, Italy, Norway, India and the rest mainly from Dorset. I managed to play over 50 games with 48 wins, 3 losses and 3 draws."

Meri on her first simultaneous exhibition in Bournemouth, 2011

Meri acknowledges, with thanks, Frank Hardman, the manager of Bournemouth International Hotel, who lent her tables and chairs, and Martin Simons (Southbourne Chess Club) who provided the chess sets and helped with transporting the furniture. She had other helpers, like Leo from Bournemouth, Richard and Murray from Hastings, while her mother Mareta Grigoryan and her friend Lusine Vardanyan provided the ever needed moral support and took some great photos.

Meri on her second simultaneous exhibition in Bournemouth, 2012

Apart from the fun and the raised funds, Meri also presented chess books and DVDs for best game, best junior, best senior and best lady. In similar fashion, Meri has repeated the action every year since. It has become an annual chess and charity event, steadily growing in popularity, and, most importantly, the donated funds.

Meri at her third Chess and Charity simultaneous exhibition in Bournemouth, 2013

In 2013, a heartbreaking event confirmed the destruction that cancer causes within our chess midst: the young Slovenian WGM Vesna Rozic succumbed to the disease. As the European Team Chess Championships were approaching at which Vesna could no longer participate, Meri organised her following Bournemouth Chess and Charity event ’In Memory of Vesna Rozic: English Ladies at The European Team Chess Championship in Warsaw, 7-18 Nov 2013.’

WIM Vesna Rožič (1987-2013) at the Dresden Olympiad, 2008

This year, Meri’s Chess and Charity event will run for its fifth time on June 19, 2015 at the Triangle in Bournemouth (next to the library and Flirt cafe). It will take place all afternoon from 1PM to 6PM, and will be hosted under the title, ’Bournemouth Chess Marathon’. The charity to which Meri intends to contribute funds is the Macmillan Cancer Support

The website for Macmillan Cancer Support

Meri explains, "I shall be playing chess on 20 boards simultaneously against the public; whenever I complete a game then an onlooker may join my chess marathon. There will be 3 prizes for the best performers, and sweets for children."

Editor's note: ChessBase invites readers to consider donating to Meri’s cancer research charity. Meri pleads: ’Please donate, as every penny makes a difference!’

How to donate

Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe and your money will go directly to the charity. Please visit the most current ’Meri’s page


Visit the donation page at Just Giving to contribute to the fight against cancer



A former university lecturer in Romance philology, she is currently a painter as well as a chess journalist, and reports regularly from the international tournament scene.
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Philip Feeley Philip Feeley 5/28/2015 09:11
While I'm not entirely hostile to the charity idea, there's something to be said for some of the criticism leveled at it lately. That it covers up a multitude of problems that cause the need for charity in the first place. That businesses should pay people decent wages instead of impoverishing them. That companies need to take more responsibility for the pollution they cause that result in health problems that need charity. That the wealthy should pay more taxes to boost collective efforts to solve problems. And on and on. There's a wealth of criticism out there if you just look a little.
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