Chess developing in Azerbaijan ahead of int'l tournaments

By Gulgiz Dadashova, Azernews

2015 will be an important year - a great milestone in the sporting life of Azerbaijan, as the country is chosen as a venue for the global-scale sports events such as the 2015 World Chess Cup and 2016 World Chess Olympiad.

An organizing committee has been recently established in the country to deal with the issues on holding these events in the Azerbaijani capital Baku.

So, Baku will open wide to welcome all quests at these international chess tournaments.

The venue for the Olympiad was agreed by the sides and will be the magnificent Baku Crystal Hall,which hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012. The area used for the matches alone will be around 12,000 square meters.

As an ultra-modern architectural landmark, the Baku Crystal Hall meets the most rigorous requirements towards facilities for large-scale international events in entertainment and sports. The eye-catching crystalline appearance of the facade with 45,000 LED lamps creates a fascinating environment for world-class events to be held there.

One of the notable novelties in the World Cup Baku will be the size of the prizes for the players that will be raised by 25 percent.

Chess in Azerbaijan

Chess is one of the most popular sports and it has bright history in Azerbaijan.

Several times Azerbaijani men and women chess players wrote down victorious pages in the chess history by their outstanding performance. Azerbaijani chess school brought up a number of international grandmasters and FIDE masters, successfully representing the country in the world.

The biggest achievement of Azerbaijan's grandmasters was recorded in the Serbian town of Novi Sad in October 2009. A brilliant team comprised of Vuqar Gasimov, Teymur Rajabov, Shahriyar Mammadyarov, Gadir Huseynov and Rauf Mammadov became the third team in the history of chess to win a match against the combined team of the world.

Most recent success of the Azerbaijani national chess team came at the 40th Chess Olympiad organized in Istanbul in September 2012, where the country entered the top 10 and grandmaster Sahriyar Mammadyarov showed the best performance of all players at the tournament.

Meanwhile, in the FIDE Top 100 ranking for February 2013, Teymur Rajabov is ranked 4th with 2,793 points, while Shahriyar Mammadyarov - 9th with 2,766 points, Vugar Gashimov 19th with 2,737 points and Rauf Mammadov 96th with 2,651 points.

State care

Azerbaijan is the only state among nearly 180 member countries of the FIDE that has adopted a special state program on the development of chess.

In an exclusive interview with Azernews, Azerbaijan Chess Federation Vice President Faig Hasanov said that the Federation is successfully realizing the state program, which covers the years 2009-2014.

"High-level tournaments have been held and a number of chess schools built throughout Azerbaijan as part of the five-year state program. President Ilham Aliyev personally inaugurated some of the schools built in the regions," he said.

Under the program, the Federation jointly with the Azerbaijani Education Ministry launched a project under which chess is taught in secondary schools since January 2011.

"Now, chess is taught as a mandatory subject at the 1st-4th grades in some schools and by late 2014 this will cover all the secondary schools in Azerbaijan," Hasanov said.

Speaking about the tournaments organized in Azerbaijan, Hasanov spoke about the 'President's Cup' tournament dedicated to the memory of national leader Heydar Aliyev and Baku Open Chess Festival.

"The President's Cup is held in Nakhchivan in May annually and Baku Open Chess Festival is held in three groups: the strong ones, B-group and children. Also, the federation organizes Olympiads in the regions which are participated in by nearly 500 children.

Hasanov said the state program also envisions holding large-scale chess events and Olympiads in the country, and the World Chess Cup 2015 and World Chess Olympiad 2016 to be held in the coming years are to be organized under this program. All FIDE member countries will be able to join the events, he added.

Also, Hasanov said that construction of Baku Chess Palace has been approved under the state program.

"An area of ​​6 hectares has been allocated for the project and the construction work has already been launched. The construction of the Palace is expected to be completed by late 2014," Hasanov said.

The site for the Chess Academy is located at the sea promenade of the urban coastline of Baku. The sculptural design for the Chess Academy has the potential to orientate the building towards the city and towards the Caspian Sea at the same time. The Chess Academy provides space for a multifunctional hall where chess tournaments, exhibitions, trade- and fashion shows and other events will take place.

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