‘Potentially Transformational’ Boost For Chess In England

'Potentially Transformational' Boost For Chess In England


Chess in England is being given a massive boost in a move that is said to be “potentially transformational” for a nation where chess has struggled to gain attention for years.

“The Great British Chess Revival” could begin this month, as U.K Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set to announce £500,000 ($637,000) in funding to the English Chess Federation (ECF), 100 new chess tables in public parks, and plans to expand the game in schools, Bloomberg has reported.

The news is making headlines in the U.K. as it will be the first time the government has financially earmarked funding for its national teams. Unlike many other countries, chess has not been recognized as a sport in the U.K. and can’t access Sport England’s financial resources.

Sunak visited a Washington, D.C., school in June where he said he was trying to get British children to play more chess and described it as “good for you.”

“It’s a great skill and it’s really good for helping you think and it’s a great hobby,” he said, according to Evening Standard.

IM Malcolm Pein with GM David Howell during Chessfest in London this year. Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com
IM Malcolm Pein with GM David Howell, England’s top-rated player, during ChessFest in London this year. Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

A key figure behind the boost is IM Malcolm Pein, who is known as the “Mister Chess” in the U.K. for his three decades as an organizer, author, journalist, coach, and entrepreneur.

“I’ve been trying for 25 years to secure government support for chess and ideally have it recognized as a sport as it is in many other countries,” he told Chess.com.

The move is a big deal in a nation where chess has struggled recently. One of Europe’s largest nations has just four grandmasters rated above 2600, and none is below the age of 30. England is ranked just 18th on FIDE’s list of strongest nations in the Open and 24th among women.

The U.K.’s highest-rated chess player, GM David Howell, is understandably pleased.

“The support for our national teams is potentially transformational for us and will hopefully help arrest the decline of England’s standing in world chess,” Pein said.

He explained to Chess.com that the boost comes after a carefully designed plan that involved lobbying government officials.

“Last year someone said to me, ‘This chess boom is great, but will it do any good in the long term? How can we exploit it?’ I decided government recognition would be a real tangible benefit and might just be attainable. I devised a political strategy to try and get more attention focused on the game, exploiting the obvious massive increase in popularity,” he added.

Adams vs. Volokitin playing a friendly blitz game at the opening ceremony. Photo: Tao Bhokanandh /CSC.
The Adams vs. Volokitin match in March was key in securing funding for U.K. chess. Photo: Tao Bhokanandh/CSC.

The first step was organizing a match between the U.K. and Ukraine with GM Michael Adams and GM Andrey Volokitin being the players representing their countries. After Pein had secured sponsorship as well as the prestigious venues of the Ukrainian Embassy and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, he arranged for the opening ceremony to be hosted at Speaker’s House, the official residence of the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Pein also contacted Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. She was the British girl’s chess champion at the age of 14 and is a huge supporter of his charity, Chess in Schools and Communities.

“With help from Rachel’s staff and others, including Peter Hornsby who runs 20/20 Chess [Championships held in 2023 at Warwick University] and is very active on Chess.com, and also using more of my parliamentary contacts, we managed to get 24 players for the Lords vs. Commons [match], and around 50 parliamentarians came to the U.K. vs. Ukraine opening ceremony. Between these two events, we certainly got chess noticed in the corridors of power,” Pein said.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP (left) and Ukraine Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko (right) made the ceremonial first move for each side. Photo: Tao Bhokanandh / CSC.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP (left) and Ukraine Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko made the ceremonial first move for each side. Photo: Tao Bhokanandh/CSC.

Pein’s next move was to involve the president of the English Chess Federation, Dominic Lawson, who, as the son of former Minister of Finance Sir Nigel Lawson and one of the U.K.’s leading journalists, has important contacts in the governing Conservative Party.

“Promoting chess fits in nicely with one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s policies of trying to make children smarter by focusing more on math,” Pein says.

He spent months researching the U.K. government’s spending on sports and building an argument for supporting chess. He eventually got a first meeting with government advisors and Lawson to make the case at 10 Downing Street, the official residence and office of the prime minister.

“Since then, there have been lots of negotiations and discussions, and I’m expecting a formal announcement on the extent of government support later this month,” Pein added.

As ECF’s Director of International Chess and External Relations, he has clear ideas for how the funding should be spent.

“I’m hoping for some programs for supporting chess in the community, for example in parks and other public spaces, and also for help in promoting chess in schools, of course,” Pein added.


Source link

Tinggalkan Balasan