‘We are nowhere on chess’ world map now’
Almost a decade-and-half flew by since Enamul Hossain Rajib became the last Bangladeshi to achieve the elusive chess grandmaster status. The current national champion reflects on the sorry state of the sport in the country, and the probable remedies in store, during an exclusive interview with The Daily Star's Sabbir Hossain, the excerpts of which are as follows:
The Daily Star (DS): You bagged the grandmaster appellation back in 2008. Tell us about that achievement.
Enamul Hossain Rajib (EHR): For a chess player, nothing is more longed than achieving the grandmaster title. I had two accomplishments a few months apart: I qualified for the Chess World Cup in 2007 and progressed to the second round [the only Bangladeshi to do so]. The following year, I became the fifth grandmaster from Bangladesh after getting the required rating points.
DS: Since then, no one has been able to emulate that feat. Isn't it frustrating?
EHR: Starting from Zia Bhai [Ziaur Rahman], Bangladesh got four grandmasters, including me, in six years. Bangladesh Chess Federation [BCF] provided us with the necessary support, but mostly it was about our hard work, effort, and determination. I also can't say that the BCF had a systematic plan through which the grandmasters were produced. In the last ten years, only a few have become IM [International Master]. So, it is hard to expect a new grandmaster in the country. I think the number hasn't grown because we lack participation in the international tournaments to fulfil the norms and acquire the rating points in the first place. Plus the scarcity of sponsors is still a thing of worry.
DS: What is your take on the role the BCF is playing?
EHR: I feel the BCF has to lay out a systematic plan so that players can go to overseas tournaments while ensuring that local competitions are held regularly. And we can't ignore the necessity of training programs. We have to provide the players with the best resources possible and then see if positive results come out. Honestly speaking, we are nowhere on chess' world map now. We are neither participating in tournaments nor gaining anything. The present committee of BCF has inherited a lot of problems from the previous one, and they need a lot of time and effort to turn things around. But the young generation of talented and dedicated players, particularly girls, give me hope.
DS: Any other measures that could be taken?
EHR: We need to take distinct steps to spread chess all over the country. I have been voicing, for the last five years, that the BCF should dedicate a specific fund to increase its popularity.
DS: You emerged champion in the National Chess Championship for the fifth time in January. How was the feeling?
EHR: The thrill of winning the National Championship is incomparable. I came out victorious in 2016 and 2017 but didn't participate in the 2018 edition. So, it felt fantastic to become an unbeaten champion again as all of the five grandmasters participated this time.