We are too busy with politics and not focused on improving chess: Niaz Murshed
In an interview, former world chess champion Viswanathan Anand had said, “Niaz Murshed was much more talented than me. He could’ve made it far had he not taken a break.” Niaz also regrets taking time off chess. After becoming a Grand Master, he took a break from chess and went abroad for higher studies. Due to this break, he couldn’t become a Super Grand Master in chess. Niaz, the first Grand Master from the Indian sub-continent, accepted this failure and also shouldered some of the blame for the current state of chess in the country.
In 1987, you became the first Grand Master of the Indian sub-continent. But now India has 78 Grand Masters while Bangladesh only has five. Why?
I hold myself accountable to some degree for this. Vishwanathan Anand gave chess priority and became an idol. He became the best in the world. I couldn’t reach that level. If I could’ve done it, maybe things would’ve gotten easier for our chess.
After you, four more chess players from Bangladesh became Grand Masters. But why have there not been any Grand Masters in the last 14 years?
Becoming a Grand Master is a long term process. You need to have a definite plan. We don’t have that in our country.
Older players were given sponsorships for political reasons. Whenever the federation received some funds, it was distributed among them like sweets. These things happened for a long time. Due to this, nothing got done.
Why don’t we?
One big reason is that there used to be a lot of politics in the country’s chess in the past. When General Mahbubur Rahman was the chief at National Sports Council he told me one day, there is a lot of politics in Bangladesh’s chess. I said, no field is free of politics! He said, in this regard, chess is the champion.
Different groups had ‘interests’ in the game. At one time, the organisers in chess were extremely self-serving. Some would be here to make a quick buck, others wanted to make a name. This began in the 90s’ and continued for nearly 20 years. Not enough attention was paid during that time to make Grand Masters.
How do you view the current state?
Right now, there is some money in chess. After the former IGP became the chess federation’s chief, chess has become lively. But the void of so many days won’t get filled in a day. There was a lot of stagnancy in the past. To bring out new chess players, the game needed to be taken to the schools. Talent hunts should’ve been held all across the country. Nothing like that happened.
Older players were given sponsorships for political reasons. Whenever the federation received some funds, it was distributed among them like sweets. These things happened for a long time. Due to this, nothing got done. I feel that we fell behind during that period. And in that same period, India started progressing.
How did India improve so much?
Till 1995, India wasn’t strong in chess. They started seeing results from the end of the 90s’. New players started emerging. I had spoken with Dibyendu (Barua) during a zonal tournament in 1996. I told him, “Can’t you win against them (the new players)!”
He brought up the likes of Krishnan Sasikiran as examples and said, “The new players are here now. It gets very difficult to win against them.” I feel that was India’s turning point. That’s when they surpassed us. We are too busy in our politics and other such nonsensical matters. That’s why we are not improving.
*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy