The football legend Diego Armando Maradona put his most important hand and final touch in the closing ceremonies of the longest festival in the history to promote, not football, but the game of chess. The 40-day long festival was held in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the United Arab Emirates starting December 2nd, the UAE national day.
Under the slogan “We All Love Khalifa” in honor of the UAE President, the Chess and Society Campaign was organized by the Al Ain Chess Club under the patronage of Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, president of the Asian Chess Federation.
Maradona graced the chess festival’s closing ceremonies. He made the ceremonial move ‘e6’ with Black, known as the French defense against ‘1. e4′. In 2005, Maradona played the Ruy Lopez in a human chess game, drawing with former world champion Anatoly Karpov who wore a blindfold in the television show “La Noche del 10″ hosted by Maradona in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (See youtube video).
Maradona, considered one of the best 50 Hall of Fame sports personalities in history, honored the festivities, marking the agreement with the Yellow Empire of Al Wasl Club as the best in UAE sports. The agreement with Maradona has generated a lot of gains and attracted wide international coverage for the country in the field of sports in traditional media and internet sites.
Hisham Al Taher, Secretary General of the Asian Chess Federation and Al Ain Chess Club, presenting the official T-shirt to Maradona.
, Secretary General of the Asian Chess Federation and General Manager of the Al Ain Chess Club, presented Maradona with the official T-Shirt featuring the image of UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in an unforgettable hysterical moment.
The Chess & Society Campaign was held in many stages across various sectors of the community. The aim was to promote chess around the city and the country, taking chess outside the closed halls.
Targeting the entire community in different places, the pioneering and innovative campaign brought chess to new areas in the government and private sectors. In order to attract new players and more spectators, the events were held in public places to create a chess climate.
The big attendance in these public places make chess popular and enlarge the mass base of players. The campaign management also conducted seminars for fathers and housewives because they are strategic partners in the development of children. Around three thousand players and supporters took part in the chess campaign.
The campaign highlighted the benefits of chess for children’s development of their mental prowess, decision making, logical thinking, strategic planning and memory exercise, ability to concentrate and handle time management and other personal skills. Instructional brochures were given to spectators, and chess sets and clocks for the winners.
There were humorous moments as well like when half the participants at the Bus Station chess tournament had to leave after the third round in order to catch their bus. And in the Coffeehouse tournament, players wanted to change World Chess Federation (FIDE) rules to make chess more enjoyable by not using a clock, and more friendly by requiring players to loudly announce the check. And they were against the no smoking rule of FIDE and proposed to allow sheesha during the game. It was a raucous gathering with spectators kibitzing tournament games.
The Coffeehouse tournament was won by Kamal Al Najar of Egypt.
At the Al Ain Airport tournament among pilots and airport personnel, Duty Manager Ali Khalifah Al Khitbi won the Cup.
The tournament at the Al Ain Museum was won by Mohammed Al Harmoodi of the UAE.
Visitors to the Al Ain Musuem also played a tournament won by Ail Amini from Bahrain.
At the Al Ain Mall, considered one of the biggest malls in Asia, the tournament was won by Talal Al Halwani of Syria.
In the Zafranaa Bazaar, a place for goods made in the UAE, the tournament was won by Rocky Pabalan of the Philippines.
At the Al Ain Café, the tournament was won by Muohsen Abdel Baset.
There were also lectures on various themes of chess with over 500 attending and playing in the shopping center. Engineer Ahmed Zarouni and International Chess Arbiter Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh lectured about online play and demonstrated how to utilize the Iphone and Ipad for playing chess, and showed popular chess playing software.
Nader Adly, Chairman of the Alexandra Film Festival in Egypt, lectured on chess and cinema. He compared the improvement in cinematography to the improvements in chess and showed how the movie director is like the chess player, both taking care of their pieces and cinema elements. He then showed two movies with chess themes.
Aside from local tournaments, the Campaign also staged the Al Ain International Commercial Companies Chess Championship won by Mohammed Rasool Khoury and Sons group which hired the Armenian national team, winner of the World Team Championship and two Chess Olympiads.
The Teachers Chess Championship was won by Hussein Elsayed of Egypt, Sultan Daheri for boys, and Salma Dhafari for girls.
The 2nd of December Chess Festival was held in three parts. The blitz tournament was won by IM Ilgar Bajarani of Azerbaijan and the Rapid tournament was won by GM Ehsan Ghaem Maghami of Iran. Among the exhibitions, Abdel Naby of Egypt played simultaneously against 40 opponents at the Bawadi Mall.
The Al Ain Chess Club, in coordination with the UAE University and Zayed’s Supreme Humanitarian Establishment, conducted a tournament for the handicapped and disabled which was won by Majid Al Blushi.
Exhibits about chess promotion and cartoons were done by UAE students in Media College.
A happy end for this campaign took place with the ceremonial move made by Maradona which brought the campaign to a close,with the same hand which held the World Cup and brought joy to millions of his fans.