Chess in Turkey – Is Bankasi anniversary

by ChessBase
8/26/2022 – İş Bankası, one of the biggest commercial companies in Turkey, is celebrating its 98th anniversary on 26th August 2022. It was established by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic (now known as Türkiye), on 26th August 1924. The Bank became the sponsor of the Turkish Chess Federation on 24th December 2005.

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A note about the name of the country we all know as Turkey: two months ago the United Nations changed the country's internationally recognized name from Turkey to Türkiye (pronounced tur-key-yay). In this article, in order not to confuse readers, we will use the familiar Turkey and Turkish.

The sponsorship of İş Bankası was a historic milestone not only for Turkish chess, but also for world chess since the result significantly affected chess in schools, organizations, international events, etc.

Now the sponsorship agreement between İş Bankası and the Turkish Chess Federation (TCF) is in its 17th year. This is the longest corporation sponsorship given to a federation in chess history.

Let us see what changed for Turkish chess in these 17 years:

  Before İş Bankası Since İş Bankası
Medals 1 bronz medal in European Youth championships More than 100 medals in various European and World events
Players Less than 300 Elo rated players 47,109 Elo rated player
Titled players 1 GM, 1 WGM, 7 IM, 1 WIM 13 GMS, 29 IMs, 3 WGMs, 5 WIMs
Chess Olympiads

50th place in open section, 53rd place in women's section

6th Place in open section, 24th place in women's section

Events organised

1 Chess Olympiad, 2 European events

1 Chess Olympiad, more than 100 European and World championships

Due to the involvement of İş Bankası chess became a national sport in Turkey, especially after the bank offered a free license to play chess to all members of Turkish Chess Federations. The bank undertook a number of great media campaigns to promote chess in Turkey. Here are a few promotional campaigns made in prime time for chess.

Noteworthy activities

  • İş Bankası printed chess textbooks in school for children and teachers, and also translated numerous chess books, publishing them in Turkish, e.g. My Great Predecessors (Volume 1) by Gary Kasparov, all study booky of GM Seirewan, etc. The tutorials of ChessBase's Fritz and Chesster ("Cingöz and Fındık" in Turkish) were also published.
  • İş Bankası has hosted Atatürk Women Grandprix in the main building, which was the first version of FIDE Women GP. The Turkish Chess Federation launched the FIDE Women's GP initiative in 2006. Later it became FIDE Women's GP and still continues.
  • İş Bankası has organized a children's chess festival every year since they became the sponsor.

The Bank is not a traditional sponsor, spending money in return for access to new clients. In the 17 years the bank has great motivation in supporting chess using the cooperation as an education project. The management of the Bank has changed a few times, but the sponsorship has always been retained, and has become a corporate tradition for İş Bankası. In 2015, at the renewal ceremony (for six more years) Ersin Özince, chairman of the management board, said: "2005 was a turning point for Turkish chess, with the decision of the national education ministry to accept chess as an elective course in primary school education. Since then we have supported Turkish chess, which was underestimated before 2005."

Adnan Bali, the board chairman today, as the director general, made the following comment on the same day in the ceremony: "I believe deeply in my heart that our efforts to make Turkey a chess country will yield in the future bigger successes for our country in this eminent sport."

Now, Mr. Bali is the board chairman, and there is a new director general, Mr. Hakan Aran. The names change, but the support for chess is improving year by year. At the ceremony of renewal of sponsorship this year, February 2022, Hakan Aran said: 

"We are like a family. We made the first move in 2005 to make Turkey a chess country, and this initiative made chess an easily accessible and popular sport for our nation. I am so happy and proud of the distance we have covered during these 17 years, with the support of our sports ministry and the outstanding efforts of the federation. By signing the renewal contract today, we will be supporting chess for more than 20 years.

To touch the lives of thousands of children and to open them new horizons are so valued for us at İş Bankası. When our players crown their success with global medals and victories, we feel more proud to be part of this family. I strongly believe that our children will achieve more success in the recent future."


Young Turkish player receiving first-time support from İş Bankasi back in 2007

World class trainers GMs Adrian Michalchichin and Efstratios Grivas working with Turkish chess girls, in Antalya 2007

Sample ChessBase reports

Here are a few of the countless reports we filed on Chess in Turkey.

Antalya – an Invitation to Chess
2/8/2007 – Turkey is fast becoming a hotbed of chess. From January 28 to February 3rd the Turkish Youth Championship with 1300 participants was held in Antalya, the same time and place the FIDE Presidential Board met. It all took place in a beautiful hotel resort on the Mediterranean coast. We bring you part one of our illustrated report.

Antalya – an invitation to Chess Part II 
2/16/2007 – During our recent visit to Antalya we had an opportunity to witness a very moving spectacle: 1,300 children taking part in the Turkish Youth Championship, in age groups between 8 and 18. The venue, a five-star hotel resort, was swamped by chess playing kids, some showing remarkable talent, all showing great enthusiasm.

World Youth Chess Championship in Antalya     
11/18/2007 – It is one of the biggest events of its kind in the world, the starting point for new chess talent, a gathering of young chess players, 1450 of them from 103 countries around the globe. The tournament in twelve separate categories is being held in twelve age groups for boys and girls. A warm welcome awaited us on our arrival in the Turkish Mediterranean town of Kemer-Antalya. Big pictorial report.

World Youth Championship in Antalya     
11/24/2009 – A total of 1324 participants from 90 countries took part in six age groups, for boys and girls, at this World Youth Championship in Turkey. A great success for the host nation was the bronze medal for local talent Kübra Öztürk in the Girls U18 section. A protest has been submitted by the Israeli Chess Federation because no anthem was played for the winner of the Girls U14 section.

Istanbul Chess Olympiad – Turkish teams youngest ever 
6/20/2012 – At a Chess Olympiad the host nation has the right to field three teams. Typically the third team will have 2500+ GMs. Not so in Istanbul, where the Turkish Chess Federation is giving youngsters a chance. The average age in the third Open Category team is – 8.2 years! They may get clobbered by the likes of Morozevich and Grischuk in the first round, but watch them playing lesser countries.

2012 Chess Olympiad Istanbul: Round three     
8/30/2012 – In the first "clashes of the titans" we saw a number of board one wins that led to team victory. The dynamics of this are explained to us by GM Alejandro Ramirez, who has picked such a board one win for his game of the day – from the women's section. Andrew Martin shows us a loss by the veteran Alexander Beliavsky to the young Indian GM Pentala Harikrishna in his video analysis.

2012 Chess Olympiad Istanbul: Round three 
8/30/2012 – In the first "clashes of the titans" we saw a number of board one wins that led to team victory. The dynamics of this are explained to us by GM Alejandro Ramirez, who has picked such a board one win for his game of the day – from the women's section. Andrew Martin shows us a loss by the veteran Alexander Beliavsky to the young Indian GM Pentala Harikrishna in his video analysis.

2012 Chess Olympiad Istanbul: Closing ceremony
9/10/2012 – The celebrations at the close of the 40th Chess Olympiad took place after the final round, with the medals going to Armenia, Russia and Ukraine in the Open section, and to Russia, China and Ukraine in the Women's. We have some interesting statistics in the best players in the event – guess who has a 2880 performance in ten games!

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