A shot in the arm for chess
Monday, 25 May 2009 07:06
GM Rainer Buhmann's visit to Guyana
By Avenash Ramzan
Chess, a recreational and competitive game played between two players, is one of the world's most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide at home, in clubs, online, by correspondence, and in tournaments.
But while it is established in certain parts of the world, it is now in its embryonic stage and growing in popularity among Guyanese.
After being dormant for more than two decades, the Guyana Chess Federation (GCF), which was resuscitated through the efforts of Sport Minister Dr. Frank Anthony, is now headed by veteran player, Errol Tiwari.
Since its revival, the Federation has worked overtime to ensure that chess, which is a recognized sport of the International Olympic Committee, is played extensively throughout the country at both the school and competitive levels.
But while the GCF has been relatively successful in its endeavors to publicize the game as extensively as possible, there was the general feeling that chess needed 'a shot in the arm', something that was missing.
That piece of the puzzle was found early last month when the Federation was informed that 28-year-old German Grandmaster (GM) Rainer Buhmann had express an interest to the Committee for Assistance to Chess Developing Countries (CACDEC) in visiting Guyana, prior to his involvement in the Heroes’ Day Chess tournament, which concluded in Barbados last week.
Without hesitation, the GCF accepted the invitation to host Buhmann, who was the first GM to visit these shores since Vladimir Anatoshin of Russia in June 1795, under the LFS Burnham-led GCF.
Buhmann was born on February 20, 1981 in Leimen, a small city in Germany; he began playing chess at the tender of six after he was introduced to the game by his father.
"I didn't take it seriously until I was 12. I joined my first chess club at the age of 12 and from there it was no turning back," Buhmann explained.
Thereafter, Buhmann made a meteoric rise, discarding of all opponents before him. His tremendous quality was quickly recognized and he was soon challenging and even beating players rated above him.
He soon became a Candidate master, and upon achieving 2,300 rating points, he was elevated to the status of FIDE master. It was not long after that he became an International master when he earned the stipulated 2,400 rating points.
After playing the fixed set of three tournaments maximum involving GMs, Buhmann earned the limit of eight points per tournament to achieve the title of GM at 2,500 rating points.
"I became a Grandmaster in 2007 at the age of 26," GM Buhmann, with a current rating point of 2,582, proudly told this publication. "We have approximately 70 Grandmasters and 202 International masters in Germany. The top Grandmaster is rated at 2,700."
Before becoming a GM, Buhmann traded skills on the chequered board with current world champion Viswanathan Anand of India, who is one of only four players to have broken the 2,800 rating points mark on FIDE's list.
"I was nervous and excited at the same time," GM Buhmann said of his encounter with Anand. "Anand won the game. He commended me on my play and showed me where I went wrong, and what to do to avoid that in the future. He is very friendly and helpful."
Since becoming a GM, Buhmann has played against the likes of Etienne Bacrot, Michael Adams, Vicktor Bologan, and Oleg Romanishin, among others, all with the title of GM to their names.
During his four-day stay in Guyana, which ended on Sunday last, GM Buhmann participated in several activities including a courtesy call on Dr. Anthony, an important meeting with executives of the GCF, a few simultaneous exhibitions, and lectures on the game.
"I'm very impressed with what I saw, especially in the schools. There is potential in a few of the kids, and with the right coaching they will go very far in chess," he observed. "The senior players are very good too. Based on my experience, some of them are rated approximately 2000- 2100."
After brushing aside 18 students during the first simultaneous exhibition at the West Demerara Secondary School last Friday, GM Buhmann was held captive by 13-year-old Crystal Khan, who displayed immense powers on concentration, good tactical skills, and maturity.
Khan, who blundered a rook in the middle game, even forced the GM to blunder a rook heading into the end game, as she played on for about 45 minutes after the others were beaten.
"She's a very good player. She played well on the openings, and despite a blunder she did well throughout the game," he commented after the exhibition. "She was definitely the best player on show, and I think she has a far way to go in the game."
Cecil Cox, another teenager, also displayed good skills against the GM when the other exhibition was held in the auditorium of Queen's College. Despite losing the game, Cox had done enough to impress the German since he finished long after the others would have been beaten.
As Tiwari explained to this publication, Buhmann's visit was a blessing in disguise for local chess.
"Almost 95% of the active players we have now have never met a Grandmaster much less play against one. This would only work towards the upliftment of the personalities of those players, while also serve as an inspiration and boost to their careers."
Apart from the World Champion, Grandmaster or GM, as is abbreviated in chess literature, is the highest title any chess player can attain, and once achieved the title is held for life; it is awarded to extremely strong chess players by the world governing body, FIDE.
Tiwari is optimistic that Buhmann's report to FIDE on what he observed in Guyana will influence the governing body to wipe off this country's arrears as a dysfunctional member during the period of dormancy.
"We are very hopeful that the report on his visit can influence FIDE to clear off our arrears during those years of inactivity," the GCF stated. "For the past 20 years we were being charged a membership fee although we weren’t functioning."
According to Tiwari, GM Buhmann has recommended a rating system for the junior players so as to determine their strength. "He has suggested that we implement a grading system for the younger players where we can start them off with a diploma in chess."
The GCF boss explained that players will have to complete several certificate programmes before the diploma is achieved.
"GM Buhmann has promised to help us out with the structure of that system. He will be sending us materials from Germany to aid in the process," Tiwari declared.
It might just be the boost that is so much needed to complement the excellent work of the GCF. And once the Kids Exchange Programme, where children from Guyana can visit Germany and vice versa, is realized, then chess in Guyana could well be on it ways to matching the popularity that it enjoys in other parts of the world.