“But all of a sudden, Mokaddes Hossain became the federation’s politically appointed general secretary. That’s when the damage occurred. Chess in the country didn’t progress during that period. Players were no longer sent overseas.”

But what Shamim is complaining of what happened 14 years ago. Moreover, Abu Sufian and Minhaj Uddin became IMs during that period.

How much progress has been made in the following 14 years?

After former IGP Benazir Ahmed took over as the federation’s president, he brought in money in the federation. Tarafdar Ruhul Amin and a few other sponsors like him came into chess. Still, why has there not been any visible change?

Shahabuddin Shamim tried to explain, “After I became the general secretary of the federation in 2016, I started sending promising young players abroad. After I took over, (Sharmin) Shirin, Fahad (Rahman) became IM. A few more became Fide Masters. Now, we are hopeful of getting a GM too.”

The general secretary claimed they have been following the calendar down to a t. They have held 34 tournaments in the Mujib Borsho. They have held a Tk 25 million worth tournament with Saif Power Tech as its sponsor. If they can carry on like this, Shamim is hopeful of getting a GM very soon.

However, according to Shamim, that will only happen, “If someone inexperienced doesn’t again become the federation’s general secretary!”

When asked why there isn’t a long term plan to create more title holders in chess, the general secretary said, “Now, chess players get whatever they ask for. If they want to go abroad, we send them. Along with regular events, we are holding school chess and district leagues. Chess has also been added to the ongoing youth games.”

However, in the last five years no one from Bangladesh has competed in European tournaments other than Fide listed competitions. Shamim said that the federation is planning to send the likes of Fahad, Noshin (Anjum) and Walijah (Ahmed) to Europe.

When Reefat (Bin Sattar), (Abdullah Al) Rakib and Rajib became GMs, Syed Sujauddin Ahmed was the president of the chess federation. Sujauddin was the federation’s general secretary when Ziaur Rahman became a GM.

When asked why more GMs aren’t emerging right now, Sujauddin said, “I feel that the current leadership of the federation is sincere about the game’s development. But first, they need to understand the game! They need to find out who has the potential. The ability to sniff out talent is crucial and so is impartiality. My kid is playing, so I will give him advantage or he is my relative so I will give him opportunities, such biases can’t exist.”

He said, “Owing to the efforts of the current president, the chess federation has received a lot of funds. Now, they just need to use the funds correctly. The coaching programme needs to be held regularly. We have to hold chess championships in each district. Just staging two GM tournaments is not enough to ensure development. We have to send the promising players abroad for long periods.”

What did I get, questions Rajib

In India, the government gives Rs 500,000 if a chess player can become a Grand Master. The state government rewards the player with an even bigger amount.

Bangladesh’s Grand Master Enamul Hossain Rajib asks, “What did we get after becoming Grand Masters? All of my Indian contemporaries like GN Gopal, Neelotpal Das, Surya Shekhar Ganguly are part of different organisations. Deep Sengupta is with Indian Oil. They earn Rs 100,000 as salary per month.”

After winning gold at the SA Games, Mabia Akter was awarded a flat. But Bangladesh’s Grand Masters received no such financial benefits. Rajib lamented and said, “Why would the new generation choose chess? We received no financial benefit for becoming GMs. Reefat bhai works at an organisation at his own merit. I’m somehow surviving as a coach. Things can’t continue like this.”

Young chess players Fahad is also unhappy with the lack of financial incentives for chess in Bangladesh, “In Kolkata, chess players get jobs if they can become an IM. Here, no one even looks at you if you become an IM. There is no financial benefit.”

*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