Texas Tech freshman Andre Diamant shines at World Chess Olympiad
Posted: October 10, 2010 – 12:03am

The World Chess Olympiad just ended Oct. 3 in West Siberia, Russia. Approximately 1,500 players, coaches and captains of 264 men’s and women’s teams from over 150 countries were in Khanty-Mansiysk for two weeks to battle for the individual and team gold, silver and bronze medals.

Here were the final team standings:

Men’s (Open) Olympiad

1. Ukraine: 8 wins, 3 ties, 0 losses, 19 points, gold medal
2. Russia (A): 8 wins, 2 ties, 1 loss, 18 points, silver
3. Israel: 7 wins, 3 ties, 1 loss, 17 points, bronze

Women’s Olympiad

1. Russia (A): 11 wins, 0 ties, 0 losses, 22 points, gold medal
2. China: 9 wins, 0 ties, 2 losses, 18 points, silver
3. Georgia: 7 wins, 2 ties, 2 losses, 16 points, bronze

Texas Tech freshman Andre Diamant (Brazil) recorded fantastic results at the Chess Olympiad. He scored 5 wins and 3 draws (0 losses) for a winning percentage of 81.3, which was the second highest overall of the Olympiad, and a rating performance of 2644, which was sixth overall of the Olympiad on board five for Brazil. This was his best ever Olympiad performance. He qualified for his first Olympiad appearance in 2008 in Dresden, Germany, at the age of 17.

As I mentioned in a prior column, chess is a part of the IOC (International Olympic Committee). The Chess Olympiad enjoys the second position behind the Summer Olympics with around 150 countries battling every two years.

• 2008 Summer Olympics (Beijing, China): 204 nations.

• 2008 Chess Olympiad (Dresden, Germany): 152 nations.

• 2006 Winter Olympics (Turin, Italy): 86 nations.

Next, Andre and his teammates will represent Tech at the SPICE Cup later in October at the Texas Tech Student Union Building, Texas State Championship in November in Corpus Christi, and the PanAm Intercollegiate Chess Championship in December in Milwaukee, Wis.

I am very proud of what Andre achieved on the world stage in Khanty-Mansiysk where millions of chess enthusiasts followed the live action over a two-week period on the Internet. He handled the immense pressure very well. Andre proudly wore his Knight Raider/SPICE shirts, which served as a great promo for our university. This speaks volumes for the kind of international talent we attract to Tech through the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence.

Tech is now one of the most respected universities with a chess program in the world. We are also the only university with a chess institute. The Knight Raiders have won a total of one regional, two state and five national championships in the past two years.

Chess in schools boom

I recently interviewed Ali Nihat Yazici, president of the Turkish Chess Federation, about the incredible chess in the schools program in his country. Here is what he had to say:

In 2002, Ali approached the minister of education of Turkey with the idea of introducing chess in the schools. At that meeting, he was asked, what is his goal with the project? He made a “blunder” by responding: “Can you imagine Turkey having the next Karpov or the next Kasparov?” His dream was rejected at that time. However, he learned his lesson. He realized that the approach had to be modified.

Ali had to wait another three years before he got the next opportunity to present the “new plan” to the next minister of education. He was asking for an appointment for over two years. One night out of nowhere, he received a phone call from a contact to come and meet in 10 minutes. The minister was having kebab with the contact and he was willing to give Ali 10 minutes! He was on his way immediately.

When Ali met the minister, he presented the idea of chess in the schools to help educate the next generation of Turkish children to grow up more intelligent.

After his presentation, the minister said thank you and told him that it sounded very interesting. He said he would be in touch. Ali left the restaurant and thought sure the minister would call … one day.

To his biggest surprise, the next morning shortly after nine, his phone rang. It was an unknown number. It was none other than the minister. The minister invited him to meet and discuss the idea further. As Ali was driving, he almost caused a mass accident in his (pleasant) shock.

Well, that was 2005, the year when chess was introduced for the first time in some Turkish schools. Since that time, the number of schoolchildren involved in the chess program has grown to 2,250,000 in over 10,000 schools, with around 50,000 chess teachers! Mind-boggling numbers!

The chess in the school project in Turkey currently receives 1.5 million euros in governmental support. That is a huge number! However, through the various forms of taxes, the project also generated 1.8 million euros in revenues for the government.

In addition to the support from the public sector, last year the TCF succeeded in attracting major contribution from the private sector. IS Bank supports scholastic chess with 1.6 million euros to enable schools in need to also introduce chess to underprivileged children.

The TCF has developed its own teaching manuals and recommended learning materials for students; 300,000 of the first edition of the student “source-book” was printed by the nonprofit branch of the TCF Satranc. Many doubted Ali’s decision at the time, asking “what will we do with all those copies?” Since then, over two million copies have been sold, and it became a major source of revenue for the TCF.

In Turkey, chess for the past five years has been a part of the curriculum as an elective. There are only four elective subjects: art, painting, religion (general) and chess. The children who choose chess as an elective learn it two hours a week throughout the entire 32-week school year.

This year in the city of Burdur (west of Turkey) the Turkish Chess Federation started a pilot project with kindergarten-age children, starting at age 4. So far it has been very well received, and the TCF has already donated 10,000 chess sets and boards to the project.

While the above project mostly focuses on the social benefits of chess as a side effect, a certain percentage of kids naturally will take a more serious interest in the game and desire to compete. At Turkey’s 2009 scholastic championship, 30,000 schoolchildren took part.

There are around 1,300 chess clubs in Turkey today. Fourteen of them compete in the first division. Each of those clubs receives 12,500-euro support yearly from the TCF. The TCF currently has 200,000 paid members, including 60,000 rated players.

In the first division team league, many of the players have contracts guided by the template designed by TCF. The league is designed after the most successful professional sport in Turkey, which is soccer.

A very impressive story. Certainly today Turkey is a place to learn from and an example to follow for any country that would like to see chess being a part of the curriculum.

Source: Avalanche Journal

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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