Kuzo Zangpo La – chess projects in Bhutan

by ChessBase
2/25/2010 – Located at the eastern end of the Himalaya Mountains, the Kingdom of Bhutan used to be one of the most isolated nations in the world. Today the country has embraced modernization while retaining its ancient culture and traditions. The President of the Asian Chess Federation sent a delegate to promote the game in schools and support the Olympiad team. Pictorial report by IM Ravi Kumar.

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Chess in Bhutan

By IM Ravi Kumar

Kuzo Zangpo La which translates to "Hello" in Bhutanese, sums up my trip to the Mountain Kingdom for the Asian chess Federation. Under the leadership and initiative of His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifah al Nehyan, President of Asian Chess Federation, the trip to Bhutan was intended to set the groundwork for rapid development of Bhutan chess talents.

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A friendly attitude and excellent cooperation from Bhutan Ministry of Youth & Sports means the Chess in Schools project will be initiated in July 2010. The fertile oasis city of Thimphu lies about 65 kilometers from International Airport located in Paro City, with the mountains on one side and greenery on the other. It is the capital Bhutan.

Road signs just before entering the town of Paro

An old fort standing the test of time

The black elephant

The fantastic view from my hotel room

High Street in Thimpu, with malls and stores in a row for easy shopping

Shop girl showing the fabrics and various designs available in Bhutan

The central mall – beautifully decorated

A group of Canadian musicians...

... who play for the locals at the Thailand friendship park

The Paro and Thimpu rivers meet

The Taktshang Monastery, also known as the "Tiger's Nest" [Photo: Douglas J. McLaughlin]

The trip from Paro snaked through the mountains and it was a fantastic journey with natural beauty at its elegance. As we drive away from Paro to Thimphu the rivers Paro and Thimphu meet, creating a scenic picnic spot and a beautiful place. There are fresh waterfalls deep into the mountain which have a therapeutic nature and are considered liquid gold, as explained by Mr. Layke Dorji, the General Secretary of the Bhutan Chess Federation.

Layke Dorji, General Secretary of the Bhutan Chess Federation in his office

The author meets with the Director of Sports and Youth

Dorji spoke about the interest in chess in Bhutan. “I first organized an open chess tournament in 2004, and with the Royal Bhutan institute in 2006. We have a national team, and our aspiring junior Keshav has participated in the Asian Junior Chess Championship in 2009 and the Chennai International Open in 2010 with the support of the All India Chess Federation”

Mr. Chencho Dorji, director of the Youth & Sports Department of Bhutan, is a keen chess enthusiast, and he extended support for the chess in schools project. The next step is to conduct a conference for 60 sports teachers from its 20 districts and a FIDE rated event proposed in July 2010. In Bhutan schools reopen in February after winter holidays, and in July there is two-week break to mark the beginning of a new term. I arrived on February 15th, which happens to be the Bhutanese New Year, with schools reopening the next day.

National passtime: carrom, of tabletop games with similarity to billiards

Archery as a hobby in Bhutan

There is a youth centre in the ground floor of the Youth & Sports Department, with broadband Internet connection. Once the chess in school project identifies the talented juniors they will learn chess in the youth centre and become the junior team of Bhutan. I had asked the director about the participation of Bhutan in the Chess Olympiad in Khanty Mansiysk, and an effort is under way to attain this goal.

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