Emine – the Turkish Chess Delight

4/11/2011 – In today's chess world it is not easy to find a coach who combines passion for the game with the ability to inspire children. A Chess Centre in Salihli, Turkey, is lucky enough to have a tutor who possesses the best qualities of a chess coach whilst being a strong player herself. The English magazine CHESS has a lovely story on Emine Yanik Süral, to which we added a lot of new pictures.

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CHESS Magazine was established in 1935 by B.H. Wood who ran it for over fifty years. It is published each month by the London Chess Centre and is edited by John Saunders. The Executive Editor is Malcolm Pein, who organised the London Chess Classic.

Turkish Chess Delight

Sabrina Chevannes interviews Emine Yanik Süral,
who founded a children’s chess school in Turkey.

SINCE CHESS masters are getting younger and younger these days, there must be a reason for it. Is chess getting easier? Have people “solved” chess? Of course not! It’s as complex as ever. The improvement is largely down to the availability of chess resources and the increased strength of chess computers, but a lot is because of excellent chess coaching on offer.

However, it is not easy to find a coach who combines passion for the game with the ability to inspire children. The Ceren Chess Centre in Salihli, Turkey, is lucky enough to have a tutor who possesses the best qualities a chess coach should have whilst being a strong player herself.

Emine (pronounced Emi-nay) Yanik Süral is the centre’s administrator, chess coach and mentor. She runs everything herself with no help from anyone. She moved to Turkey in 2001 after completing her studies in Germany. Emine is a women’s FIDE master and has represented the Turkish national women’s team. She has also had very notable achievements from a very young age: she played for Germany in the national youth team and in 1996 she won the Women’s World Amateur Championship. On top of all this she is a Second Degree Chess Instructor and FIDE Chess Instructor, making her very well qualified to run a chess school.


Emine (in the middle, getting strangled) with her colleagues from the Turkish team

Emine started by providing a chess programme for the civil government but no money was provided to take the children to competitions. Emine decided to contribute her own money to organise chess trips. Emine soon realised that she should set up her own school if the civil government weren’t really interested in what was best for the children.

The chess centre was established in 2007, with specially-restored indoor and outdoor classrooms. The school boasts an extensive chess library, with books in English, German and Turkish as well as the latest ChessBase software which the children love. Emine is truly grateful to Frederic Friedel and ChessBase who have been extremely supportive of her venture and have supplied the Ceren Chess Centre with all the latest materials to ensure that she has the best resources for teaching.


Emine during a recent visit to the ChessBase office in Hamburg. She also works for
the Turkish Chess Federation which has employed her as a Sysop on Playchess


Forget Willy Wonka – for a chess teacher this is better than any chocolate factory


So many DVDs, so little time...


Relaxing with some blitz against the ChessBase staff: Pascal Simon, multimedia...


... and German news page editor André Schulz...


... with a number of positive results

The school focuses on children aged 5-13 years old but welcomes people of all ages. Emine trains the children from beginner up to intermediate level. As well as teaching chess technique, she also ensures that they play chess in a sporting way and with the right attitude.

Emine takes the children on trips to tournaments for a day or two at a time. In addition to coaching, the children get to eat out and have fun: Emine has found that the social aspect of trips produces better results and happier children.


An outing with the chess kids

The centre’s main problem is lack of funding. Low fees are charged so it doesn’t take in much revenue. Emine runs two classes a week, an hour and a half long each. In wealthier places in the world this would rake in substantial fees, but Salihli (about 100km inland from Izmir, which the middle of the west coast – ed) is a small place and people are not prepared to pay a lot for chess.

Turkish schoolchildren also have a lot of exams. Schools focus on these, as the better the grades, the more respected the school is. Thus time for studying chess is much reduced.

Despite these problems, plus competition from another rival chess school nearby, the centre is very successful, with 25 pupils attending regularly every week. However, Emine’s concerns are not about money, or making the children into champions, but about encouraging as many children as possible to play and love chess. Even so, Emine still believes there are students at her school who can become chess masters.

If you don’t already think that Emine is fantastic, then you should know that she has a six-year-old daughter named Ceren (picture above). Yes, she named the chess centre after her daughter! Ceren goes to school from 7.55 a.m. until 5.15 p.m. – a long day for a six-year-old, and yet Ceren is still game for some chess when she gets home. She is already passionate about the game and accompanies her mother to the sessions at the chess centre and socialises with the other children.

With Emine’s busy schedule as the sole employee of the Ceren Chess Centre, plus admin work and family responsibilities, she has little time left for her own chess study. Teaching children is hard work and can hinder a teacher’s own chess development. She has discarded her chess dream of becoming a WIM to dedicate her time to teaching.

Emine is determined to carry on and make the centre an attraction in Salihli. She is not interested in making money but to bring pleasure to all the children and get them to love chess like she does. It is an honour to have spent so much time with her and to have her as a friend. I know what a wonderful and caring person Emine is and couldn’t think of a better person to be a role model and muse for the children of Turkey.

Here is my interview with Emine for CHESS magazine.

When did you learn to play chess?

I was eleven years old. My older brother is just a year and a half older than me. He was very good at soccer. He played in a soccer team and then decided to take up chess. As a Turkish girl, it was difficult to be accepted as a football player (even though I was very good at football), so I went with my brother for chess lessons and learnt with him!

Did you always want to become a teacher?

Not a chess teacher, no. At the time I was just a player, but now I love and enjoy it very much.

Did you ever want to become a professional chess player?

No, not professional, but I would like to become a Women’s International Master.


Riding a lion in Barcelona: Meri Grigoryan, Sabrina Chevannes and Emine Yanik

Do you have much time to study chess on your own?

I am married with a six-year-old daughter as well as being involved in some complications with my mum since my father died, so things are not easy for me. However, I still try to study and still play actively.

Do you think your chess standard has deteriorated since you began teaching?

Yes, of course! Working with kids is absolutely different. You completely forget all your chess theory!

Describe a typical day at your chess centre.

First I have to plan what I am going to do that day. I work alone so I have to think about absolutely everything. Is everything in order? Chess sets, prizes (when the children are successful, I sometimes give them candy or chocolate), etc. You cannot believe what a child needs during just one hour! Water, tissues, pens, exercise book. I then have to go through all my notes. I have a dossier for each study group – what level are the children at now? Who learned everything last lesson, who did not? When the children arrive, I greet them with a big smile and begin the teaching. Sometimes I am their teacher, sometimes their mother, sometimes a comedian! I try and do my very best for them. This is just an ordinary day for me.

What do you think has made the chess centre so successful?

Love and hard work. I love the game and the children. Teaching chess to children is the best combination for me. And of course, I work very hard when needed.

Do you think about teaching adults as well?

Yes. I have thought about it and have told the parents of the children I teach to come along to learn to play chess as well, so that they can play against their children. However, they prefer going shopping and doing nothing!

Chess can be a brutal game. What do you do when a child gets upset?

I always try to teach them that losing is not a bad thing and that it is a part of chess. I show them that I often lose games and nothing bad happens to me. We just have to work hard to get better at it.

Do you prefer teaching boys or girls?

I don’t see any difference between boys and girls, but boys are more active when making trouble! When I look at either a boy or a girl, I see only their shining eyes and raw brains. When I see their improvement, they are very excited and this makes me very happy. Especially in Turkey, boys are liked very much and always have priority. That is why Turkish girls are very important to me. I show them how I feel about chess and how many opportunities chess has given me.

What is your ultimate goal for the school?

I want to make my school an attractive chess centre in Turkey. I do not want to earn more money – I just want more children to catch chess fever, and to enjoy the game. I want to see the happiness in their eyes when they play chess.

Do you think there is anything holding you back from achieving your ultimate goal?

Time and money, of course. When I was young I had more time for playing and talking to people about chess. Now I am married, I have a daughter in school – I have more responsibilities. Also, I do not want to earn more money from chess but of course I need money in order for my school to stay open. Opening the school and maintaining it are very costly.

What do you think could be improved about the school?

I live in a small district. I don’t have many opportunities to test my students’ progress. I have some promising students but I can’t find suitable tournaments for them near my school. Maybe I should try to find people to organise tournaments in my district because it is not easy for the children to travel to other places, stay in a hotel and take part in tournaments. Also, I hope to invite some good players to come to my school and talk with my children. They need heroes.

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Sabrina Chevannes, 24, is a WFM from Birmingham and has lots of interests besides chess – she is proficient at several sports and has also reached a high level on the violin and the piano. Her extraction: Jamaica and China.

Sabrina has won several national titles and was featured on the cover CHESS for her performance in the UK Chess Challenge.


Sabrina was studying medicine but gave that up in favour of chess teaching


CHESS is mailed to subscribers in over 50 countries. You can subscribe from Europe and Asia at a specially discounted rate for first timers here or from North America here.


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