Incentives from the government, the contributions of the Turkish Chess Federation and increasing public awareness have led to a renaissance of chess playing and competition in Turkey. In 2005 the Ministry of Education signed a protocol designating chess as an elective course in all Turkish schools, to further the mental and physical development of children. Every year more and more students choose chess as an elective class, and now approximately 600,000 students are learning to play chess across the country every year.
Turkish chess students are taught by experienced teachers and can compete in championships after improving their theoretical and practical skills. The students tend to participate in competition more actively as the number of chess opportunities increases. The Turkish Chess Federation is considered among the most prominent chess federations and with its growing numbers has performed successfully in international competitive events around the world.
“The General Directorate for Youth and Sports and the Football Pools Organization Directorate [Spor Toto] allocated a large proportion of their budget for the national and overseas activities of our federation. We also work together with municipalities and local government to maintain participation in our activities and to increase public awareness. Turkey has a great power in its young population, and with students who can think analytically and quickly to solve problems we can become a much more developed and dynamic country,” said Hulusi Cihangir, the Turkish Chess Federation’s representative in Ankara.
According to World Chess Federation (FIDE) statistics, Russia, Ukraine, France, China and Hungary are the most five successful countries in chess competitions, and Turkey’s level rises every year. In Turkey, a large proportion of professional chess players are under age 16. Turkey’s national chess team is really going strong at the world championship level. In the past five years, they have won 130 medals for our country and on July 22, by beating countries such as Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and Germany, our national youth chess team came second in the European Youth Chess Championship.
The benefits of playing chess cannot be denied. Research shows that there are differences between chess-playing students and their non-chess-playing peers. Chess develops concentration because during the game a player’s sole focus is on checkmating the opponent. When playing chess, you must decide when it is best to play certain pieces and keep your king safe at all times, while not creating weaknesses in your position, so chess develops logical thinking and decision making in every part of life. Chess enhances one’s ability to interact with other people, because it is a test of patience and nerves. It also develops self-confidence, imagination and creativity.
Even if chess seems boring from a distance, unlike other board games, no two chess games are ever the same. The chess player is like the general of his or her own army and decides every step of the game. Chess is a unique game which can be played everywhere at every age inexpensively and effortlessly.
The origins of chess are interesting. From the sixth century BC to the 20th century, it travelled from one civilization to another, undergoing many changes in form and rules. The evolution of chess began in the Far East and moved through the Middle East, North Africa and finally to Europe. Historians claim that chess originated from the game “chaturanga,” which was played in a crude form in India. This game was taken to China by Buddhists who fled there due to religious tyranny. On the western side, by A.D. 625 chess had come to Persia, where it was called “shatranj.” From Persia the game spread to Arabia, and the Arabian conquest of Spain was a turning point for chess, as the game caught on slowly all over Europe.
The game of chess was modified by each civilization, as people shaped it according to their own local political, cultural or military character. The history of chess in Turkey dates back to the ninth century. Chess was especially popular in the Anatolian Seljuk Empire, and during the Ottoman Empire, chess sets used to be presented as a gifts to notables and to improve relationships between states. Yavuz Sultan Selim was a renowned chess player of the Ottoman Empire. In the republican period, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and İsmet İnönü used to play chess together often.
The game of chess depicts a medieval battle. The game board represents the battlefield and the pieces: king, queen, bishop, knight, rook and pawn represent fighters from different classes. The pawns represent the poor serfs or peasants fighting on behalf of a feudal lord. The rooks represent the castle walls, which protect the king, queen, bishop and knights. The knights represent highly educated and wealthy men and make a unique L-shaped move. The bishop represents the church and religion and is located on either side of the king and queen. To protect both sides and be present in all areas of life, they can move diagonally. The queen is uniquely powerful in the game with her ability to move in any direction she wants, for as many spaces as she wants. Lastly, the king, the most important figure in the kingdom, is the sine qua non of the game because if the king is captured, the game is lost.