International Chess Federation
Thursday, 30 May 2024 11:01
Interview: Timur Turlov, CEO of Freedom Holding Corp. on сhess and business

Chess as a Global Business Language

By Milan Dinic

Freedom Holding Corp.'s CEO, Timur Turlov, has positioned his company as a formidable supporter of chess on the world stage. Now, he explains why and what connections he sees between the game and the business world

Freedom Holding Corp., a global diversified financial services company with a presence in 19 countries and roots in Kazakhstan, has, in recent years, emerged as a key supporter of chess worldwide.

Headed by a 36-year-old financier and chess enthusiast, Timur Turlov, the company has recently sponsored some of the most prestigious events in chess, including the World Rapid and Blitz Championships in Almaty in 2022 and the Match for the World Championship Title held in Astana in April 2023. Freedom Holding Corp. is also sponsoring other events aimed at promoting chess globally but also in Kazakhstan where they want to grow local talent and give more exposure to chess in central Asia. Turlov is also the president of the Kazakhstan Chess Federation.

Photo: Anna Shtourman

This year, the company has partnered with FIDE to organize the World Corporate Chess Championship, which will take place in New York from June 14 to 17. The event will bring together chess players of different levels from major world companies playing in a competitive format.

 Ahead of the spectacle in New York, FIDE spoke with Timur Turlov about his involvement in chess and the links between the game and business.

FIDE: What inspired you to sponsor a chess event for corporations?

Timur Turlov: Chess has become one of the most popular and engaging games in recent years, and some talented players work for the corporations taking part in this event, Freedom Holding Corp. included!

Working with a global chess partner such as FIDE allows these corporations to showcase their talented team members and brings world-class organizations together in a spirit of camaraderie, competition, and, most of all, fun. And in today's world, we think that all of us could use a little more fun!

FIDE: What do you hope to achieve through this sponsorship?

T.T: We are interested in promoting a spirit of fellowship and understanding amongst diverse peoples of the world, and we would like the Freedom Holding Corp. name to be synonymous with this.

We have seen this work very well on a micro level in Kazakhstan [Turlov's home country – note], where citizens of highly diverse ethnicities come together in peace and engagement over the board, and we think this has the potential for similar success on a macro-international level.

Photo: Anna Shtourman

FIDE: How does sponsoring this chess event align with your company's values or mission statement?

T.T: At Freedom Holding Corp. we have a strong drive towards community engagement, personal improvement, and the social elevation of all members of the societies we operate in. Better resources, well-being, and the expansion of thoughtful engagement between all people are good for everyone. In fact, we think it is the foundation of peaceful coexistence. In one way or another, chess touches on all these issues.

FIDE: How is business relevant to chess?

T.T: Strategy, deeper longer-term thinking, engagement, understanding of the person across from you, and sometimes compromise to get to an ultimate goal, are all hallmarks of chess that have analogies in business. I am sure all the corporate challengers at this year's championship understand this.

FIDE: Let's be more specific - how does the strategic thinking and planning in chess reflect the decision-making process in your company?

T.T: Life is a diverse thing, which can sometimes feel like a race or a roller coaster. Over short periods of time, we experience radically different moments and cycle through a whole range of emotions, which can affect our decision-making process. And that's okay. But I think what's important in this fast-paced race is to step back and reflect on how we can try to live in the moment, be thoughtful, and achieve a kind of balance so that we can make good decisions that create an environment that generates positive outcomes.

Chess is about this kind of patience and balance that allows you to realize the full potential of an opportunity, i.e., checkmate, when the time is right.

Photo: Mark Livshitz

FIDE: In recent years, we have seen Freedom Holding sponsoring several important chess events globally. Where did the interest in chess come from, and what are your plans for the future?

T.T: Some time ago, we realized the universal language of chess and its value in character development when introduced at an early age. Think about it in these terms: chess knows no borders, requires no special translators, and brings together the most unlikely sorts of people across the board and - across continents!

We like to believe that the Freedom Holding Corp. model of business functions in very much the same way. We now have a presence in 19 different countries, and we expect this number to grow. And while we do, of course, use translators, we do speak a common language around advancement, social responsibility, community engagement, and business success in the regions in which we operate. 

You can be assured that we will continue our involvement in the chess community for some time to come!