Chess World: Please Help Haiti!

Fellow Chess Enthusiasts:

Haitian Tragedy

You are most certainly aware of the tragedy that has beset the nation of Haiti. A nation of a proud history and a nation sharing the love of our royal game of chess. Less than a week ago, a massive earthquake leveled the capitol city of Port au Prince, devastating the population of nearly 10 million. Some project that 100,000-200,000 will have perished from the disaster.

The initial rescue efforts have been difficult as teams are hampered by lack of supplies and a broken infrastructure. Bodies litter the streets and are being bulldozed into mass graves before being identified. Hospitals are understaffed, tension is rising and the nation could explode into chaos before long.

In 2006, I met the Haitian team at the Olympiad in their first trip to the bienniel chess festival since 1996. They were friendly, in high spirits and were actually part of the photo-op with the host Italian team in round #1. Since that time, disaster has struck the island not once, not twice, but several times. A series of hurricanes prevented the Haitian team from traveling to Dresden for the 2008 Olympiad. Now before the 2010 Olympiad, the nation is hit with another crushing blow.

As contributions are flowing in, there are thousands of groups lending their time and money to help the beleagured nation. There has not been a great deal of attention of this crisis on chess sites and thus far, no official statement or show of moral support has been posted on FIDE’s website. This is unacceptable.

Haiti is like many small federations… a handful of dedicated individuals with the bulk of the players being very young. Since 2006, Haiti has found a degree of success with the founding of the Academie d’Echecs under the leadership of Sabine Bonnet.

Haitians preparing to pawn off in round #1 of 2006 Olympiad in Turin, Italy. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Haitians preparing to pawn off in round #1 of 2006 Olympiad in Turin, Italy.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

L'Académie d'Echecs HAICA is an organization founded on 14 January 2008 to promote chess in Haiti. It is connected with the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Haitian Chess Federation. Sabine Bonnet, President, is on the far left.

L’Académie d’Echecs HAICA is an organization founded on 14 January 2008 to promote chess in Haiti. It is connected with the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Haitian Chess Federation. Sabine Bonnet, President, is on the far left.

It is my hope that organizers, players and officials from around the world will show some solidarity in supporting relief efforts of a devastated nation. The amount of damage done to Haiti will take generations to repair. This is not a political conflict, religious, ethnic or class war. This was a situation brought on by a natural disaster… and it can happen anywhere.

Please find it within your heart to help a nation in need… a nation with a chess community. Haiti needs your help. TIME IS SHORT!

Please click on the icon below or use any of the charities in your home country. Thanks in advance to those who have given and to others who had it in their hearts.


Yours in Chess,

Dr. Daaim Shabazz

16 January 2010

Please donate to

Haiti Haiti Haiti



  1. Daaim, we love you brother! keep doing good. This is just the beginning of what we will have to endure for years to come. Why is this happenning? take a few minute to read over Matthew 24!

  2. Guy,

    It’s the right thing to do. I’m sure Haiti will not be the same. In some ways that is bad; in some ways it is good. Let’s hope the rebuilding process will be steady and that in due time we will see the country and the chess community thrive once again.

  3. Thank you for writing this Daaim. My prayers continue to go out to Sabine (I hope to hear a positive word from you soon) and all in Haiti.

  4. Yele Haiti Promotion

    (Note: There are some accusations about Yele Haiti’s financial managment. Wyclef Jean has just returned from his devastated country and has seen t

  5. I don’t know if this is true but rumours suggest that GM Anish Giri is donating 50$ for every game he wins in Wijk?

  6. Well… that would be very nice. I need verification. I’ll certainly make a story out of that! I’m sure there are some players at Corus who are thinking about the tragedy.

  7. Great story Daaim – your efforts are getting the word out to the international chess community. I just saw this story posted on the Chessbase site. Having firsthand experience with the devastation of Katrina, I realize that the situation in Haiti is much worse: earthquakes provide no warning, so no one could flee to safety before it struck; and even though we recall those terrible scenes of US citizens seemingly left to fend on their own in the immediate aftermath Katrina , they weren’t on an island, and once help did arrive, their circumstances improved rapidly. Our Haitian brethren will need substantial and continuing help just to survive — I implore everyone in the chess community to give assistance to whatever degree you can.

  8. Thanks RJT!

    Frederic Friedel agreed to run the story. I’ve known him since 2004 and he is a supporter of The Chess Drum. As you know, I’ve made a couple of contributions to ChessBase, but this is beyond chess.

    When I visited your hometown of New Orleans last summer, I still saw the remnants of devastation in the 9th ward. Neighborhoods in total disrepair and the eerie instance of one lighted house in the midst of uninhabited houses.

    I shudder at the thought that people will forget about Haiti and a year from now, it will remain a wasteland of death and destruction. We cannot allow that to happen.

    The Haitians spirit is amazing!! I’m listening to CNN now and the Haitians are have a rally at nightfall… drums, signing, dancing, joy!! On forward Haiti… on forward!!


  9. I am not happy with any of the major chess sites. Polgar is the exception, because she was the first major chess site to post a story about Haiti. Chess Base took to long, although your article (Daaim) is very informative. Chess Vibes took to long also. When it comes to purchasing chess related material, I’ll remember.

  10. Glenn,

    It’s true that the response could have been quicker. I posted my first story (“Prayers for Haiti“) the day after the massive earthquake. That was the quickest I could do it. I believe Polgar got a story up a couple days after. Bear in mind, there are probably efforts that have not been publicized.

    I remember the Asia tsunami disaster in 2005. I wrote a few stories on Sri Lanka because I knew chess players from there… including FM Sunil Weeramantry. Sri Lanka’s chess community is still growing. The people of affected nations are appreciative of any efforts and in coming weeks there will still be a need for help on this current issue.

    I’m thankful that my colleagues GM Susan Polgar, Peter Doggers at Chessvibes and Frederic Friedel of ChessBase have publicized the issue. The USCF posted fundraising efforts by FM Mike Klein. The USCF ran another story on the issue. The Haitian chess community needs to know that we support their country.

    FIDE is perhaps the most egregious omission. Even if Haiti were not a FIDE member, it would still be appropriate to provide at least moral support. When the next FIDE election comes, I’m sure this issue will resurface.

  11. I began a thread calling for support for the relief efforts on USCF’s site on Sunday, here:

    It includes links to some blogs from people working there, and all kinds of discussion, as chess players like to discuss things no matter what the subject.

    Few of us here in the US may have ever been caught up in a widespread catastrophe, and may not have thought about how much help is needed when it happens. A lot of help is needed. Those who have been on the receiving end will know this – hopefully, the many who have never needed such help (yet?!) will also respond. Please choose any reputable recipient organization, and give at least a little something!

  12. I was explaining to Frederic Friedel some of the nasty politics that are going on with respect to this relief effort. One of them stems from the controversy of Yéle Haiti, Wyclef Jean’s non-profit charity. When the earthquake hit, there was a flood of money coming into his foundation and he had become the face of the relief effort.

    It is my belief that the U.S. authorities and more powerful non-government organizations wanted to appear in control of the effort, so there was an investigation. They moved to discredit his organization citing his tax discrepancies. The American Red Cross has been rife with fiscal mismanagement, but only Yéle is singled out at such a critical time.

    Fast forward a few days, when panic was beginning to set in. The U.S. relief effort was dragging slowly and medical supplies were not reaching the doctors. Doctors were using hacksaws and vodka as surgical instruments. In fact, the U.S. military turned away French hospital ships that were equipped to handle some of the patient traffic.

    The plane had to go to the Domincan Republic and then drive 10 hours. They also denied entry to a CARICOM group… the Caribbean Common Market of which Haiti is a member. They wanted to conduct an assessment, but the Haitian government had signed an agreement giving the U.S. control of the air traffic control.

    This would not be so serious if people weren’t dying as a result of this gross display of political posturing.

  13. Mehul,

    Obama has his hands full here. Many are complaining that his foreign policy decisions have taken precedence over national economy. Now with the Democrats losing a vital seat, he will not be able to push health care reform through unless a Republican decides to breakaway and support it. His approval ratings are about 51% and he is losing his base.

    He said, “Haiti will not be foresaken” but relief efforts have not gone well. I’m not sure what his view on Haiti Relief is, but we will hear it Wednesday at his State of the Union Address.

  14. Glenn,

    What has irked me is the orchestrated campaign to make this relief effort a political issue. Wyclef Jean, a Haitian, had quickly become the face of the relief effort. When the money was flowing in, powerful organizations found a way to take control of the fundraising effort by discrediting Yele Haiti by citing financial mismanagement. If you Google Yele Haiti you will see a lot of links about the controversy. Frederic Friedel took Yele Haiti off of the article I wrote for ChessBase. When I asked why, he said he got an alert.

    Here is a man who was picking up dead bodies in the streets of his native country and had done commendable work in the past for hurricane victims. The controversy has hurt relief efforts. Since then, they have hired new accountants. Some “experts” said that Yele Haiti has no experience, yet people like George Clooney (and his “Hope for Haiti”) has more? Clooney raised $60 million and no one had raised his lack of experience as an issue. The Clinton-Bush campaign (both who botched relief efforts) has more experience? No… just a bunch of politics.

  15. Daaim,
    Money is Power, and I am sure there are organizations that don’t want a Haitian to control such large sums of money, constructive things might began to get done in a timely manner. I received a card in the mail, a band (Boots & Bonnets) will play in Chester Township Pa, concerning a fund raising for Haiti and the proceeds will go to Wyclef foundation for Haiti. Tom Joiner, national radio program, is speaking up for Wyclef and there are other visual organizations who understand that the allegations against Wyclef Foundation for Haiti is unfounded. I’ll keep helping Haiti, its going to be a long difficult road just to bring Haiti to per earthquake status.

  16. Daaim,
    Wyclef Jean, “If you have ears listen, if you have mouth talk, if not our island is sinking” This is what is saying.

  17. Nice medley!

    That’s a good line in Wyclef’s song.

    Unfortunately, the news crews will eventually leave Haiti and the issue will not make the first story. Let’s hope that the people with sight, speech and hearing will continue to spread the message. Many crews have left and many are winding down their coverage. CNN will stay another week, but what happens after that. That is when the real work starts!

  18. Daaim,
    Do you, or anyone, remember David Paulina an expert from the Washington D.C. area? I think he is Haitian. IM Adu might be in touch with him. David write in so the Drum can help and gather information you might have on the situation in Haitian.

  19. Yes, I called David Paulina and left a message during the week after
    the earthquake. I haven’t had time to follow-up but I will try again

    Kimani A. Stancil

  20. All,

    I plan to launch a fundraising campaign for the Bonnet family. Sabine Bonnet is the President of L’Académie d’Échecs (The Chess Academy) which is mentioned above. Her family is safe in Miami, but have lost everything. I believe Sabine’s brother is still missing. I have already been in contact and have provided the family with initial funds. Stay tuned.

  21. Daaim,
    I commend you for such a great job alerting the world of chess of the current circumstances in Haiti. I think your article has sparked many in the chess world into action. Keep on doing what you do.
    In case you don’t remember, my cousin Guy Colas introduced us at the world open, and I’ve following your site for a couple of years. Again, keep up the good work.

  22. Hello Daaim,
    Here in Mauritius the Government and poulation have raised nearly USD 1 million through public donation as we feel concerned about the haitian plight ,despite being several thousand miles away.Amazingly Haiti and Mauritius share almost the same creole dialect despite the geographical position of the 2 islands, i have witnessed it first hand during the Novi Sad Olympiad when we did converse perfectly in creole with one of the haitian players.

  23. Patrick Li Ying,
    Very good example of a nation coming together to help another nation. Haiti needs your help and your country gave a large donation – you should be proud. Haitians and a large percentage of the Mauritius people came from Africa. ” Brought in as slaves to work the plantations of Mauritius (as well as Réunion and Seychelles), the slaves were Malagasy or East-African and were brought mostly from Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia.” So I can see why Patrick and a Haitian player could speak in the same Creole.

  24. It’s interesting the language since there are so many different dialects. Mauritius is an interesting story. I’ve done a couple of articles on the island. Here is an excerpt from the article:

    Mauritius sits in the Indian Ocean, and like many island nations has a diverse population with a combination of Indian, Chinese and Black Africans. Chess Olympian Patrick Li Ying states, “In the Olympiad we used to meet our friends from the Caribbean islands especially Trinidad and Tobago which I hear is a very similar island to Mauritius in climate and mix of population.

    So at the Olympiad, we often discover these commonalities. At some point, we will see chess back in Haiti again and I hope to travel there to help launch a chess club when the time is right. I hope to go to Mauritius too! 🙂

  25. Hello Daaim and Glen,
    Thanks for your interesting comments, indeed we are proud of the large sum collected to help Haiti as our Prime Minister said Mauritius is a small country with a big heart.Concerning the similarity of the creole dialect in the two countries what is amazing is that haiti creole is closer to ours than that from Seychelles or Reunion 2 sister islands nearby in the indian ocean.I think that has to do with the long colonisation of Haiti and Mauritius by french settlers.One of the first time that mauritians realised that both our creole dialects were close was in the James Bond film “Live and Let Die” where there was a scene featuring a conversation between 2 haitians ,moviegoers here went delirious when they realised that they were speaking our native creole dialect.
    Daaim you are welcome anytime in Mauritius and it is unlikely that we will meet at this year’s olympiad as i will most probably skip this siberian trip.Yes the olympiad is a great place to discover the similarities with people around the world and i wish any budding chess player the opportunity to play in this great chess event.

  26. I read in the New York Times on Tuesday, February 2nd, that aid agencies are considering pooling funds to deliver more efficiently. There was a chart accompanying the article showing the amount that U.S. gave to four recent disasters. They are as follows:

    September 11th attacks (2001) $2.8 billion
    Indian Ocean tsunami (2004) $1.92 billion
    Hurricane Katrina (2005) $6.47 billion
    Haiti earthquake (2010) $560 million

    Notice the contrast in the level of U.S. giving. 😐 Ironically, the money for Katrina has not be evenly spread. I was in New Orleans last August and the neighborhoods destroyed are still abandoned and in disrepair. Most of the money is going toward rebuilding the entertainment strip on Bourbon Street and the French Quarter.

    I’m hoping that Haiti does not suffer the same fate… uneven development and a perpetually impoverished state. I’m hoping that Haiti does not outsource the rebuilding of the country to external organizations. Haiti must be a integral part of the rebuilding, but they need resources. The paltry amount given thus far will not make a dent in rebuilding an entire infrastructure for 10 million.

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