The Death of International Chess

Dear Chess World,

The game you know and love is in serious trouble. Over the past few years much has happened regarding the international climate for chess… some worthy of praise, and some worthy of denunciation. There have been many attempts to come to an agreement for charting a stable course for international chess. After dozens of meetings, proposed matches, lack of sponsorship, match cancellations and forfeitures, viable solutions are not yet forthcoming. Thus, in this morass of politics, international chess remains in a tailspin.

Running parallel to the world of international chess, a tumultuous political climate has gripped the world as every corner of the globe is beset with a range of emotions, opinions, and views about the pending crisis in the Middle East. There have been many interesting geopolitical and socioeconomic debates by scholars around the world, thus, beginning a new era. In this new era, religion (for better or for worse) is positioned in the epicenter of this political stage and has polarized the globe into spheres of influence and thought.

In the 20th century, the "evil spectre" was Communism… in the 21st century (whether it is admitted or not), the evil spectre has become Islam.
Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" discussed the eventuality of a clash between Western civilization and the Islamic World. In his 1993 treatise, he bases his prophecy on a historic pretext of confrontations and an examination of cultural differences. He goes through meticulous detail in describing the historical basis of this cultural conflict and includes an analysis of the Gulf War of 1991.

Now that this situation has apparently come to pass, the sentiments raised in Huntington's groundbreaking article have gradually seeped into mainstream thinking, and also into the minds of those in the chess world. Recently, comments pertaining to the prospect of Libya's hosting of the FIDE Championships have appeared in the chess media. Unfortunately, many comments made in regard to this matter appear to be based on historical bias, gross over-generalizations, and even emotional fanaticism. reported on one company (UK's that has produced a chess set depicting an increasingly accepted hypothesis… the white pieces representing the "civilized world," and the dark pieces representing the Islamic  "Axis of Evil." While there are many ironies in the characterization of the carved pieces, the imagery and message of this art is quite revealing, but represents all that is wrong with world politics in this day and age. In a free and fair debate, one can make a convincing historical argument that defining the "Axis of Evil" depends on the perspective from which it is viewed.

All chess players would agree that given the current political climate, precautions would have to be taken to avoid a repeat of two concurrent tournaments as occurred in the 1976 Olympiad (one was held in Tripoli, Libya; the other in Haifa, Israel). These issues should be weighed fairly and without false pretense and assumption. Will chess become the next battle ground for these political expressions and invectives? If so, then chess will stage the "mother of all battles." There's only one major problem. Chess will be the ultimate loser.

Dr. Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum

Posted by The Chess Drum: 26 February 2004