“The beauty of chess is it can be whatever you want it to be. It transcends language, age, race, religion, politics, gender, and socioeconomic background. Whatever your circumstances, anyone can enjoy a good fight to the death over the chess board.”
These are the words of Simon Williams, a well-known English chess player, commentator and author. Everyone familiar with the sport confirms that it is an activity that involves human brain and grit. The sport has become popular in Qatar as well. Number of players and competitions continue to grow for both the young and the professional players.
On Qatar Sport's Day 2019 with Mohamed al-Mudahka, president of Qatar Chess Association
recently got a chance to speak to Victor Bologan, head coach of Qatar Chess Association and an expatriate from Moldova. The chess player was awarded the title of grandmaster by Federation Internationale des Echecs – International Chess Federation (FIDE) in 1991. Victor, also an author, reached the number 18 international ranking of FIDE in 2005. A winner of many international chess competitions, the Moldovan has authored numerous books and made DVDs on chess.
For victor, chess is a multilateral phenomenon. “It is definitely a sport. You have players, winners and losers. It is a mental combat and the smartest player wins. It also requires a lot of physical effort because we need resistance and endurance during a game that can last up to seven hours. I see chess as an intellectual sport that also requires some physical effort.”
Victor, who has been coaching young players for many years now, is fascinated more by being a chess player than a coach. “Of course a player is always a player. I prefer to play. I enjoy very much the tournament environment, the competition, and winning the games. But, the joy of getting the silver medals for Qatar in the Asian Championship and having top place in the world tournaments is equal. I think it is very important for a player when he becomes a coach, to give everything he or she knows. He has to be a part of the player. I definitely enjoy and cherish the successes of my students. To be honest, to play chess is still more important for me.”
The Moldovan enjoys his job as a coach and being in Qatar. “I was first invited in 2007 to join Qatar national team as a coach. It was a very nice experience. I was invited by chess grandmaster of Qatar Mohamed Ahmed al-Mudahka. It proved very successful. Immediately, in the 2007 Asian Indoor Games, Qatar won eight medals in total and three of them were obtained by chess players.
“Second time I came to Qatar in 2012. It was a different experience but interesting one. We started different chess projects like chess in schools and in private. Now, we have a new chess centre that I hope will open soon after the pandemic is over. So far my experience with chess in Qatar has been very nice. My association with Qatar has been for over 10 years now. Even during these digital times, we have some new ideas.”
In response to a question that whether or not the interest of young people is increasing in chess, as they spend more and more time using social media and other digital platforms, the coach said: “I agree that they spend too much time on digital screens. Here, chess can play two roles. One role can be educational. For children, playing chess and learning something intellectual online is better than just spending time on digital devices. The second role of chess can be that it offers offline sport and socialising activity for children.
“During the pandemic times, playing and learning chess digitally is getting popular. The number of new players accessing digital chess platforms has increased two to three times. The Qatar Chess Association has also been arranging chess lessons online for the moment, but we hope to start offline lessons in near future. I see it as a positive development for both online and offline chess. There is a lot of potential for chess during these digital times.”