The Father of the Euro – and of the Nanjing Tournament

12/15/2008 – Robert Alexander Mundell is an economy professor working and a Nobel Prize winner. In the 1970s he laid the groundwork for the introduction of the Euro, and a few years ago for the staging of an international Super GM chess tournament in Nanjing. On Monday he visited the event he had initiated and spoke with journalists there. We bring you pictures and excerpts from the interviews.

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The Father of the Euro – and of the Nanjing Tournament

A special guest at this tournament was Robert Alexander Mundell, an economy professor working at Columbia University. In the 1970s he laid the groundwork for the introduction of the Euro through his pioneering work in monetary dynamics and optimum currency forms, for which he won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Economics. This chess tournament in Nanjing is attributable to Prof. Mundell’s initiative. He said that the best way for Chinese cities to show openness to the outside world is to host world-class chess tournaments.


Nobel prize winning economist Robert Mundell greeted by ECU President Boris Kutin


A press conference with the world-famous economist

Spokesperson: Professor Mundell, how did you come up with such an idea. Who do you propose Nanjing host such a high-level chess tournament?

Mundell: First of all, thank you very much for your kind words, and I’m very happy to be here in this wonderful occasion in this tournament in Nanjing.

I could tell you frankly how it originated. I was in Beijing helping the Beijing government several years ago, and got to know Mr Zhu Shanlu, party secretary of Nanjing in Beijing. He asked me to come and talk with him about the things that could be done in Nanjing. We have made earlier proposal to do something like this in Beijing, but we hadn’t been able to do that at that time, because the Olympics are coming. But it seems to be an ideal chance to do it in Nanjing, because Nanjing has a history of Chinese chess. Of course China has its own chess, the Chinese chess, which is quite different from the international chess, but not so completely. And the question is which one to host, a tournament in Chinese chess, or a tournament in international chess. But it seems to me that in the situation of globalization, it’s a good idea for Nanjing to rise as a major international city. The best way to do so would be to international chess tournament. Maybe in the future, the Chinese chess can be exported. But now at the moment, the world’s champions all of the world play international chess. And there is another episode of my friend, a first-rate player, Bobby Fischer, who won the world championship in 1972, in Iceland. He was quite a magical and exceptional player. I have once played with him, and of course I lost. But, this was an occasion, he died this year, and I thought it would be nice to have the tournament to be in memory of him.


Mundell joins the audience to watch the games...


... and gets some analysis from a young chess expert

Question: Professor Mundell. I know that you have been watching this round of games this afternoon. I want to know your opinion about facilities and organization here, and are you satisfied with performance of all players this afternoon?

Mundell: Yes, I am. But there are some moves I wondered why the players made them instead of something else. I will speak with them afterwards. I’ll just give you one example: I wondered why on move 19, Mr. Peter Svidler, did not play bishop takes rook. I found the games very fascinating. These are three really tough games going on. I’m thrilled to be watching them and anxious to see who is going to win.

Question: I’m wondering whether you are as excellent in chess as in your field of research. Do you pursue chess as a hobby in your spare time and have you ever reached certain level in playing chess. I have another question, that is, among these six players at the tournament, who is your favorite?

Mundell: Well, chess is for me always a hobby. I learned to play when I was eight years old, and played it ever since. For a certain time in high school and when I went to college, I really didn’t play. But then I took it up later again actively. Of course, I play it with my children. All my children play chess. I take a great interest in the history and the subject of the game. You asked the question: am I as good at chess as I’m at economics. Well, I hope not, because I spend a lot of time in economics. I never play competitive chess. As I said, I played with Bobby Fischer, a great chess player, but just friendly games, not competitive, just for fun. We’ve got 6 of the top 10, 15 players in the world here, except maybe 2 or 3 of the very top players who didn’t come. I think these are magnificent players. We are very happy and honored to have them, lucky to have them in this first tournament. It’s the first one, because it’s going to be, I think, I hope an international tournament that will continue every year.

Nanjing TV Station: Mr. Mundell, tomorrow there will be a simultaneous exhibition between 20 Chinese university students and a chess grandmaster. It is said that it is your idea. I wonder that why you propose such an idea?

Mundell: Well, I like the idea, but I’m not sure I proposed it. I don’t want to take credit for it. I think it is a very good idea because it gives them a chance to play with a great chess player. What an opportunity it is to spread their knowledge and benefit from it. I think it is very interesting to watch. I think it’s Movsesian who is playing in this tournament. It will be fascinating to see how the university students play against him. I think the programme makes the tournament quite diversified. Many different people gain different things from it. So I think it is a very good idea, but it is not my idea.


GM Sergei Movsesian, who is scheduled to give a simultaneous exhibition on Tuesday

Xinhua Daily: You and your children all play chess and you love chess, so I’ve got a question about learning to play chess. What do you think of the interest in playing chess and the talent for chess, which do you think is more important in terms of playing chess? I know that chess is now very popular in the world, but it is not so popularized in the world, what measures can be taken to popularize such sports as chess, bridge? What do you think of the role of holding tournament like this and the role model of international grandmasters? In your talk, you mention that China can export its chess to the outside world, what do you think of the opportunities of exporting Chinese chess to the outside world? What advantages does Chinese chess have?

Mundell: You’ve really asked a lot of questions, the first is about the talent and interest in the game of chess. First of all, I’m not saying everybody should play chess. Chess is after all the primarily a game, just sport. I’m sure you wouldn’t find any of the chess players here who are not good at these because to play chess requires very good physical condition. They do a lot of physical activities. Which is more important, the interest in the game or talent for it? It depends on what you want. If you have interest in the game, and you play it; there is another role of chess, mental exercises. For example the Soviet Union for a long time developed the best chess players in the world, and dominated the chess world for 30 years. When the young people learn chess, especially in their early years when their minds are forming, it does something to the mind, it improves the qualities in the mind. It’s a wonderful exercise. In schools, I think all schools should teach people how to play chess, or something like chess, for example Go. There is a lot of literature on it. There is literature on Chinese chess, but it’s rather small compared with the marvelous literature that has grown over a thousand years in the development of international chess. If I were a headmaster of a private school, I would want to make chess not a required course, but an optional course. If people don’t have any ability in chess, they wouldn’t have any curiosity in chess too, because we naturally do things well what we are interested in and what we are good at. Remember, if you can’t do something enthusiastically, you are going to fail.

Spokesperson: How do you see the prospect of Nanjing Tournament?

Mundell: I think this tournament is going to make a big impact in the world, and it’s going to be an important tournament, I think this tournament should become the beginning of a process to a change the way chess is conducted. And more players will be attracted here.

Source: Tournament web site – all pictures provided by Yu Feng (俞峰).



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