EC funds children's chess tournament in Tashkent

6/19/2010 – We don't often see a non-sports international organization funding a chess tournament, especially a children's one. But that is exactly what the European Commission recently did in Uzbekistan. The event was organized by Europa House in Tashkent, together with the Uzbek Chess Federation, on the International Children's Day. Beautiful pictorial report by Jamshid Begmatov.

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European Commission Children's Chess Tournament

Report by Jamshid Begmatov

The European Commission (EC) is the central executive body – i.e. the government – of the European Union based in Brussels, Belgium. In many countries it has fully-fledged representations called EC Delegations; and in some, including Uzbekistan, it has smaller liaison offices called Europa Houses. These offices serve as the bridge connecting the EC and the partner countries’ governments in their cooperation activities. Normally this cooperation covers political and economic issues, such areas as energy, judiciary, rural development, poverty reduction, education, public administration etc whereby developing countries benefit from the European experience, know-how and best practices.

This article, though, is about a unique event, a very uncommon activity that almost never appears in the EC cooperation agenda: a chess tournament organized by Europa House in Tashkent, together with the Uzbek Chess Federation, on the occasion of the International Children's Day on June 1 and 2.

What's the International Children's Day? The World Conference for the Well-being of Children in Geneva, Switzerland proclaimed June 1 to be International Children's Day in 1925. Since then, the holiday is celebrated in many countries on 1 June each year. It is usually marked with speeches on children's rights and wellbeing, children TV programs, parties, various actions involving or dedicated to children, families going out etc (Wikipedia).

The tournament was held at the Central Chess Club in Tashkent, and turned into a memorable festival of friendship for kids, with a lot of fighting chess, valuable prizes and delicious meals. No one was left out: along with dedicated chess players from all over the country, we invited kids from orphanages, special schools for disabled children. And no one left the tournament without a prize, no matter what his score.

The opening ceremony with children seated, and parents, coaches and teachers gathered in the hall. The welcoming speech is delivered by Sergey Timofeyevich Pinchuk, Deputy Chairman of the Federation, famous chess coach and 2400+ rated International Master.

A duet of attaches of the Italian embassy, keen chess players themselves, Mr. Fabio Molin and Mr. Raffaele Ungaro were special guests at the opening.

Before the games started, each player received a set of EU items and stationery, and a booklet about the European Union.

We initially envisaged the participation of 60 to 70 kids, but the interest was so high that we had no option than to include the maximum number of players that the playing hall could accommodate – 80.

Now let's look at some faces.

The tournament was a mixed nine-round Swiss for boys and girls, but with separate prizes in the girls' and boys' nominations. The time control was 25 minutes per game with a ten-second increment per move. Chess children are normally extremely well disciplined. They never fail to shake hands before and after each game, and to set up the board after the game is finished.

But they are still kids. They would rush out to the courtyard to play football between the games, and… throw napkins at each other while waiting for the lunch to be served. Who didn't when he was a kid?

The lunch is soon to come. In this picture you see the traditional Uzbek cooking device: ochag (the stove) and kazan (the pot). On day one, the cook produced a masterpiece of Uzbek plov, while on day 2 it was delicious stuffed pepper with roast beef and potatoes.

My colleague and friend Gulnara serving the plov in kosa – the dish that Uzbeks use practically for any meal.


Kids enjoying the plov

The lunches were served in the Club's small park. On day two we were lucky to have finished the lunch just when it started raining crazily. This spring and summer in Tashkent brought surprisingly high precipitation rate and low temperatures.

The role of my colleagues Gulnara (left) and Nigina from Europa House in the organization and success of the tournament was invaluable.

Gulnara and Julia from the Federation preparing the prizes. The prizes ranged from mobile phones to video players, to roller skates, to globes, to table tennis sets, to darts… you name it. There were gifts for everybody, and special prizes for 12 top scoring girls and 12 boys.

Kids gathered in the entrance hall before the final round. And now the winners:

13-year-old Oleg Artemenko from Tashkent, the winner of the boys' section, and the overall winner of the tournament with 8 points out of 9.

The winner in the girls' nomination with six points, 10-year-old Gulruhbegim Tahirjanova from the Fergana region.

There was a massive media coverage, with TV, newspaper and radio journalists all around. I did several live radio interviews and updates, just on the mobile.

After the tournament, grandmaster Anton Filippov, Elo 2607, gave a simultaneous exhibition for the children. It was initially announced that the top five girls and five boys would play. But just before the start, a little girl who didn't qualify into top five asked me, almost with tears in her eyes, to include her in the simul. I found no option than to ask Anton for a favour to play one additional board.

Anton scored 9.5 out of 11, with one draw, and a loss against the tournament winner, Oleg Artemenko. This picture shows him pondering over the lost position before offering a handshake to Oleg.

The final handshake between the exhausted grandmaster Filippov and Pierre-Paul Antheunissens...

... who is the head of Europa House, delivering the closing speech. He is also the President of the French School in Tashkent. Although not a player himself, Pierre-Paul introduced chess classes in his school two years ago.


He also personally handed all prizes to the winners…

I would like to express sincere thanks on behalf of Europa House and the European Commission to the Uzbek Chess Federation who, as a friendly gesture in response to our proposal to organize this tournament, offered their venue, equipment and organizational support free of charge, and even provided free accommodation to visiting players from regions. We also owe gratitude to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan for supporting our initiative. And finally, my very special thanks go to Mr. Mario Ronconi at EC Headquarters in Brussels, and Mr. Pierre-Paul Antheunissens at Europa House Tashkent, who generously supported the idea of organizing this event. Thanks too go to GM Anton Filippov for the simultaneous exhibition.


About the author

Jamshid Begmatov works as a consultant for the European Commission’s office in Tashkent. His hobbies include chess and photography. Jamshid has been writing reports and articles for ChessBase since 2003. Previous ChessBase articles include:


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