FIDE launches the first Online Olympiad for People with Disabilities

by ChessBase
11/21/2020 – The first Online Chess Olympiad for People with Disabilities, organized by the International Chess Federation, kicks off today (November 21) and will run until December 3, a day recognized by the United Nations as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The competition brings together 400 players from all over the world, including two grandmasters. | Photo: David Llada

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Press release by FIDE

61 teams from 45 different countries are taking part in the first Online Chess Olympiad for People with Disabilities, organized by the International Chess Federation (FIDE). The event kicks off today (November 21) and will run until December 3, a day recognized by the United Nations as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The competition brings together 400 players from all over the world (including reserves). Among them, there are two participants with the Grandmaster title, the highest distinction in chess.

Poland, Germany, the Philippines, Israel, and Cuba are the favorites according to the initial rating, followed by other traditional “chess superpowers” like Russia and Ukraine.

During a colorful and eventful opening ceremony [see full video below], FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich greeted the participants of the competition: “I am happy and proud to announce the opening of the first-ever FIDE Online Chess Olympiad for People with Disabilities. It is a real honor to have it under FIDE’s auspices. Chess is winning against obstacles and challenges. You already won against your challenges, you are great people, and I wish you health and all the luck.”

Chess, a tool for inclusion

In chess, all that counts is how strong your ideas are.

Physical differences due to age and sex are not an impediment to battle over the board, and of course, this has huge implications in the case of people with physical impairments.

“I don’t let my disability define who I am. I let my mind, and what I can do, define who I am”, explained to CNN Anna Miller, an 11-year old participant in the 2019 FIDE World Junior Championship for People with Disabilities. “Just spread the word around: chess is for anybody. Anyone can play chess: girls, boys, people with disability”.

“The potential of chess is quite big, not only in terms of leisure but also in terms of meeting the need for communication, cognitive development, and expanding communication capabilities of people with impairments”, explains Irina Mikhaylova, an Associate Professor at the Russian State Social University in Moscow.

FIDE Online Olympiad for People with Disabilities

“It is a way to develop self-esteem and earn recognition”

Grandmaster Thomas Luther is a three-time German Champion (1993, 2002, 2006), who reached the top 100 in the world ranking. Thomas became a world-class figure in an extremely competitive field despite the added challenge of being born with a physical disability.

“Learning chess at an early age was key for me to succeed in life. The Chess Olympiad for People with Disabilities will give a voice to disadvantaged people and will also help them to develop self-esteem and earn recognition. Chess is the only all-inclusive sport”, explains Thomas.

“In these events, there are people who are facing challenges in life, and they will have the opportunity to meet other people facing similar chances. So there is a lot of communication, and friendships develop among the players. The social aspects are very important.”

Thomas Luther

“Chess taught me to be more patient”

Taking up chess has been life-changing for many people with physical impediments: “I was more vulnerable before I started playing chess. But then I took up chess and the game made me stronger. Soon I learned to not give up after defeats, and this is one of the defining characteristics of my personality”, says Handenur Şahin.

Handenur, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), will defend the first board of the Turkish team at the upcoming Olympiad. “Chess also taught me to be more patient. Due to my disability, this feature of being more determined about my goals is crucial. Most things are more difficult to achieve for me and it is so important to know not to give up when you encounter any obstacle which comes from physical problems, or from other people’s prejudices.”

FIDE Online Olympiad for People with Disabilities

The first-ever inclusive sport

Chess became the first-ever inclusive sport in 1848 when, for the first time in history, a chess set was specially adapted to enable visually impaired players to recognize the position of the pieces by touching them. Theodore Tylor was among England’s leading players in the 1930s, and despite being nearly blind he managed to score a draw against Alekhine and Capablanca, two of the best players in the first half of the XX century.

Currently, there are three international associations for blind players (IBCA), for physically impaired players (IPCA), and deaf players (ICCD). Each one of them is affiliated to FIDE and, traditionally, each one of these three organizations would have a team representing them at the World Chess Olympiad.

Now, FIDE has materialized the ambitious project of organizing a dedicated Chess Olympiad exclusively for people with disabilities, to be held every two years. This event will give more players with disabilities the opportunity to compete at an international event, representing their country.

Format, facts and figures

This is a team competition, played on four boards, where at least one of the players has to be a woman.

The event consists of two stages. The first one is a 7 round Swiss System, from which the best 4 teams will qualify to play a double-round semifinal (November 29-30). The two best teams will advance to the finals, while the two others will compete for the third prize. The time control in all stages is 25 minutes + 10 seconds.

61 teams, totaling 396 players (including reserve players)

45 countries represented: 21 teams from Asia, 20 from Europe, 13 from the Americas, and 7 from Africa.

  • Youngest player: Nguyen Tran, from the USA, born in 2011.
  • Oldest player: Aldric Gomez, from France, born in 1941.

Top players:

GM Marcin Tazbir (Poland, 2513)
Alexey Smirnov (Russia, 2436)
IM Igor Yarmonov (Ukraine, 2391)
FM Stanislav Babarykin (Russia, 2387)

The opening ceremony


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Shakey Shakey 11/25/2020 02:55
'Hopefully you've never read any book in your life.'

Why do you hope that? Curious. Please explain.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 11/25/2020 02:25
Curious how the most vacuous commenters seem to think they know something. @Shakey, really? I'm assuming you've never read a chess book or seen a chess video in your life. Why would you, because personal experience is the only way one can learn, right? Hopefully you've never read any book in your life. No attempt to respond to any point I mentioned.
And the other commenter needs to ask what it means to be disabled? The idea that most top chess-players are disabled is so absurd as to not require a response.
Minnesota Fats Minnesota Fats 11/24/2020 08:54
checkmate by Shakey? ;-)
Shakey Shakey 11/23/2020 02:43
'Do not have any personal experience or knowledge...'

The comment could just stop there. It's the internet, we grant you. But still.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 11/22/2020 11:44
Do not have any personal experience or knowledge, but I am a little surprised by this question and would say of course: players, especially strong players, spend a lot of time analyzing with each other. Some players have credited that as the main reason they became a strong player. All of the online video resources could not easily be accessed. If an opponent makes a claim in a tournament game, it will be harder to understand. Etc.
AFAIK, there is only 1 deaf GM.
Shakey Shakey 11/22/2020 12:09
I genuinely mean no disrespect, and this is a genuine question.
To relmeza who just commented, others - is being deaf something that would detract from your ability to play chess?
Blind obviously, impaired motor skills in arms and hands etc, yes.
But is a hearing impairment relevant here?
reylmeza reylmeza 11/22/2020 12:25
I am Deaf I would love to joined a team for the first disabilities olympiad if it posible
Minnesota Fats Minnesota Fats 11/21/2020 08:24
Funny thing is, most 'normal' top chess players are also kind of disabled, as many of them are Asperger or autistic or narcistic or have an antisocial personal disorder.
(Fischer, Morphy?)
Some of the most physical disabled persons are the most healthiest mental persons you can meet!.
So...., what does it mean 'handicapped or disabled, mental or physical?
chessgod0 chessgod0 11/21/2020 06:24
This is fantastic!