Chess boom in Turkey
From a Susan Polgar interview with Mr. Ali Nihat Yazici, President of the Turkish Chess Federation, who had a dream in the arena of scholastic chess. Leading the chess Federation with an ultimate aim of wanting chess to be accepted as sports, as a subject in schools this is about being a true chess leader not merely to warm the seat of the President ship and to cling to it and not doing any development.
It started in 2002 Ali on behalf of the TCF approached the minister of education of Turkey with the idea of introducing chess in the schools. His goal with the project then was to produce a world champion but the idea was put aside until he managed to meet the Minister of Education again two years later that he presented the real ultimate idea :
the idea of chess in the schools to help educate the next generation of Turkish children to grow up more intelligent.Surely Malaysia can study from this development precess and only then we can dream but until we are bold enough to change, in leadership, throw out all the deadwood, Malaysia will slip further in world ranking and its only the parents pushing and developing their children that come about the real story of chess in Malaysia and not MCF.
Since 2005, the year when chess was introduced for the first time in some Turkish schools. Since that time, the number of school children involved in the chess program grew to 2,250,000 in over 10,000 schools, with around 50,000 chess teachers! Mind boggling numbers!
The TCF chess in the school project currently receives 1.5 million euro in governmental support. That is a huge number! However, through the various forms of taxes, the project also generated 1.8 million in revenues for the government.
In addition to the support from the public sector, the TCF succeeded in attracting major contribution from the private sector. Since 2005 IS Bank supports scholastic chess with 1.6 million Euros to enable schools in need to also introduce chess to underprivileged children.
The TCF has developed its own teaching manuals and recommended learning materials for students. 300,000 of the first edition of the student “source-book” was printed by the non-profit branch of the TCF, Satranc. Many doubted Ali’s decision at the time, asking “what will we do with all those copies?” Since then, over two million copies were sold, and it became a major source of revenue for the project.
In Turkey, chess for the past five years has been a part of the curriculum as an elective. There are only four elective subjects: art, painting, religion (general) and chess. The children who chose chess as an elective learn it two hours a week throughout the entire 32 week school year.
This year in the city of Burdur (west of Turkey) the Turkish Chess Federation started a pilot project with kindergarten age children, starting at age four. So far it was very well received, and the TCF has donated already 10,000 chess sets and boards to the project.
While the above project mostly focuses on the social benefits of chess as a side effect, a certain percentage of kids naturally will take a more serious interest in the game and desire to compete. At Turkey’s 2009 scholastic championship, 30,000 school children took part. There are around 1,300 chess clubs in Turkey today. 14 of them compete in the first division. Each of those clubs receives 12,500 euro support yearly from the TCF. The TCF currently has 200,000 paid members, including 60,000 rated players.
In the first division team league, many of the players have contracts guided by the template designed by TCF. The league is designed after the most successful professional sport in Turkey, which is soccer.
While historically Turkey hasn’t been known as a country with much chess traditions, in the past decade or two it made leaps of progress. Today Turkey can pride itself with having 4 home-grown Grandmasters and 12 International Masters.