There is a love for chess in Bhutan
The Bhutanese chess team showed impressive results at the recent Chess Olympiad.
The Bhutan Chess Federation was founded in 2004 and was functional until 2013. Then, it went inactive for eight years due to a lack of equipment and professional trainers.
The good news is, after eight years of inactivity, the Chess Federation has been revived in Thimphu! Now, the organisation is known as the Bhutan Chess Club. The Bhutan Chess Club has professed its goal — to bring together chess-lovers and spread the love of chess among the people of Bhutan.
As of now, the Bhutanese youth are not particularly exposed to chess. Thus, Ugyen Wangchuk, the general secretary of Bhutan Chess Club, says that the club plans to collaborate with schools and institutions to promote the sport, emphasising that chess enhances creative thinking, planning skills, concentration, and helps cognitive abilities.
At present, the Bhutan Chess Club has around 30 members who meet regularly at Changangkha. The club also has over a hundred online members.
For their dream to become a reality, the Bhutan Chess Club has to first get equipment, then identify players who have the potential to become trainers. Last but not least, they will pick out centres to collaborate with schools. On top of that, the club plans to establish chess centres all over Thimphu, including at bus stops and taxi stands.
The club also plans to hold online chess competitions.
Bhutan’s impressive chess results at the Chess Olympiad
Bhutan’s potential in chess was on display at the 44th Chess Olympiad held in Chennai, India, from 28 July to 9 August 2022. This was their second appearance at the Olympiad. The first time was in 2014 in Norway.
More than 2,000 participants from 180 different countries participated in this 2022 tournament.
On 7 August, the women’s team lost 1-3 to Eswatini. The one victory was achieved by Sonam Choden, and it was her fifth consecutive win. On 8 August, the women’s fate took a turn for the better when they thrashed South Sudan 4-0, earning high praise from the Bhutanese and international spectacles alike.
Their strong standing set them up for a final showing against Cape Verde on 9 August, of which they beat 3-1.
Meanwhile, the men’s team consistently faced strong opponents but gave their best. They lost 0-4 to Malawi on 7 August. They again lost 3.5-0.5 to Mali on 8 August. The half a point was from Ugyen Wangchuk who managed to chalk up a draw.
Nonetheless, it was smiles for the men’s team when they celebrated a win on the final day, beating Comoros 3-1.
In total, the women and men’s teams played 10 matches each. The women beat four teams, whereas the men beat three. Every team member won at least one match.
At one point, the men’s team was in the second position for the category E prize. Unfortunately, they suffered two consecutive losses and the opportunity was gone.
One of the women players, Sonam Choden achieved the Women’s Federation Master (WFM) norm with eight wins. Sadly, she did not have enough FIDE (International Chess Federation) rating for the WFM title.
Similarly, men's player Bhakta Monger won six matches and achieved Candidate Master (CM) norm. But once again, he did not have enough FIDE rating. Thus he was not awarded the CM title.
Despite that, having two members of the team almost achieve the Master level title was an impressive feat for the Bhutanese team.
Equally impressive is the teams’ jump in rankings. The women went from 149 in the beginning to 136 at the end of the tournament, while the men’s team shot from 183 to 172.
Another record for the books is the achievements of Pema Yangsel and Lhundrup Namgyal Dorji, the youngest players of the team. They became the youngest Bhutanese chess players to win at a Chess Olympiad.
The captain of the Bhutanese chess team, Captain Palden, is of the opinion that the good results shown by the Bhutanese team is proof that given resources and support, the Bhutanese have the potential to reach great heights in chess.