Chess diplomacy: battles over 64 squares instead of machine guns

President of the International Chess Federation Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Vice President of Uzbekistan Chess Federation Husan Turdialiyev made a trip to Afghanistan to give impetus to the development of this sport in the neighbouring country.

A correspondent of Uzbekistan Today met with H. Turdialiev and asked him to tell more about this visit.

‘During the 2-day visit, we were received by Prime Minister of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah. Meetings were held with leaders of the National Olympic Committee and local chess federation. During the visit, we opened a chess school in Kabul and outlined joint activities that will lead the development of this ancient game to a higher level.
During official meetings, Kirsan Nikolaevich constantly stressed that he sincerely hopes that people in this country would fight using chessboards instead of Kalashnikov rifles. All his proposals were aimed at achieving this goal’.
- How did it happen that you accompanied FIDE President on a trip to Afghanistan?
Ilyumzhinov flew to Tashkent in late November and familiarized himself with the development of children's chess in our republic. Later, he told about his forthcoming visit to the neighbouring country and expressed the wish that a representative of UCF would go with him. Kirsan Nikolaevich proceeded from the fact that Afghanistan and Uzbekistan are linked by long-standing ties of friendship. Moreover, our country renders considerable help to its neighbours in implementing various projects.
He also took into account that the authority of Uzbek chess players is very high in our region and the fact that Uzbekistan has trained up its world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov.
- How safe were you in Kabul?
- We moved around in an armoured jeep and lived in the Intercontinental hotel, which is heavily guarded. In general, the situation in the city seemed to me rather calm during these days.
- What other important chess related decisions were made during this trip?
The most important one is the holding of Central Asia Chess Cup for the prize of FIDE President in Kabul next spring. This tournament, initiated by K. Ilyumzhinov, has been regularly held for the last four years and is very prestigious among chess players. Kirsan Nikolayevich established a large prize fund from his personal money especially for the tournament in the capital of Afghanistan.
In addition, certain measures are planned to be taken for introduction of chess in schools and training both members of the Afghan national team and talented youth by international grandmasters. To this end, teams of well-known Uzbek chess players will regularly leave for the neighbouring country starting from the beginning of next year.
- How does Kirsan Ilyumzhinov react to the attempts of some FIDE officials to remove him from the leadership of the federation and block his nomination for a new term?
He is a very bright person, very sociable, calm and having a great sense of humour. It seems that he does not care about the struggle around the post of FIDE president. Nevertheless, he has already told me that he intends to put forward his candidature for a new presidential term. By the way, Afghan officials have assured that they will support him in the election for the presidency of FIDE that will be held in autumn 2018.
- Will Uzbekistan support Ilyumzhinov?