• By Tracy Cabrera
DESPITE HAMPERING many social and economic functions in most communities, the global coronavirus pandemic in a different light has spurred a surge in many activities — among them the game of chess — with more and more players coming together online, to compete and enjoy its uniqueness.
The coronavirus disease, or Covid-19, has caused a pause for most sport worldwide, but the United Nations has celebrated this highly-competitive game that can be played safely indoors or online—with the added bonus of helping reduce anxiety, and improving mental health.
Monday, July 20, marked the first ever World Chess Day (WCD).
“(It) is a day of celebration for an intellectual game that for centuries has managed to entertain, stimulate and sometimes even confound millions of us, the world over,” UN Global Communications under-secretary general Melissa Fleming said at the virtual commemorative event held to celebrate WCD.
“And as we celebrate, we remind ourselves of the special value that a game such as chess is bringing to so many people during this awful COVID-19 pandemic,” Fleming added.
In her keynote address, the UN communications chief noted that the pandemic represents a physical, social and economic crisis – imposing restrictions on everyone and rendering sports that can be played online, or at a safe physical distance, more important than ever.
“They feed our lifelong sense of play…nurture our passion and enthusiasm . . . refresh our minds and bodies . . . distract us from troubles, and reduce our anxieties,” she enthused.
The UN has long recognized that chess, along with the arts and physical activity, having the power to change perceptions, prejudices and behaviors, as well as to break down racial and political barriers.
Combining sport, scientific thinking and artistic flair, chess is one of the most ancient, intellectual and cultural of games. It is affordable, inclusive and can be played anywhere; across barriers of language, age, gender, physical ability or social status.
And because chess promotes fairness and mutual respect, it can contribute to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding among peoples and nations.
Chess also offers important opportunities to implement the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
“(We are) mainstreaming sport initiatives into its work towards development and peace, part of our wider efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” Fleming affirmed.
This is being done by strengthening education; realizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
Moderating the event, Armenia’s UN ambassador Mher Margaryan said that chess was an “essential part of Armenia’s culture, having earned our country, with a population of three million people, the title of Olympic and world champion”.
Arkady Dvorkovich, president of the International Federation of Chess (FIDE) noted that he looked forward to making chess “a tool to improve the world.”
Fifteenth world chess champion, groundbreaking Indian grandmaster, Viswanathan Anand, also took part in the celebration, reflecting on the long history of chess as a masterful ‘game of strategy’.
The General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution designating the 20th of July as World Chess Day, last year.