Thinley Namgay  

Binod Rai, 29, from Gelephu bagged the overall second position in a maiden chess  competition conducted between Bhutan and Israel after establishing formal diplomatic ties in December last year.

The online Chess4Solidarity competition was conducted on January 21.  Sheleg from Israel won the game.

Binod Rai, who worked in Kuwait but returned home in October last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, said his father taught him to play chess since he was seven years old.

“I am glad that I bagged the second position,” he said. “I hope to win in future too.”

He said he kept practising and learning new steps every day.

Binod won the national school chess championship of 2011 and 2012 and came second in the national open chess championship in 2014. He also played in Norway Olympiad in 2014. “I also won twice from the open championship in Kuwait,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the game, Binod scored 7.5 points after completing nine rounds like the first position holder, Sheleg. But in terms of tie break points, he secured only 39.75 whereas Sheleg secured 42.25.

Participants got four minutes in each round to compete with the opponent and were graded with one point for a win and half-point for a draw.

“Normally, we get one-hour timing in the face to face competition, but we got only four minutes in this online competition, which made me rush. Moreover, I played from the phone, and it was hard to focus,” said Binod Rai.

The tournament saw 174 participants of which 30 are Bhutanese. The game was divided into two groups. Group A consists of players with lichess blitz rating between 1,500 to 2,100 and group B players were with the lichess blitz rating between 0 to 1,500.

The Chess4Solidarity initiative was organised by Chess4All organisation to connect the people across the world to show solidarity between people through the game of chess.

An organisation that helps to protect Jews and Israelis around the world from antisemitic and prejudiced actions, Lawfare Project, supported the event.

The event with Bhutan was held in coordination with the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi.

The event facilitator and the chess grandmaster from Israel, Nitzan Steinberg, said that the competition was to engage people around the world amid Covid-19 pandemic. “This platform is to enjoy, play together and to become more realistic in life through this game.”

So far, 12 events were held with different countries.

The news article from the Jerusalem Post on January 17 stated that although Bhutan lies nestled far away in the Himalayas, its deeply-founded and well-preserved culture will be reflected throughout the day’s competition as the event will have live commentary and interactive footage that will help people understand the cultures in both countries, allowing the games to reflect the recent normalisation between the two states.”

In his video message, Ambassador of Bhutan to India, Major General Vetsop Namgyel, expressed that he was happy to see the people-to-people engagement between the two countries. “Chess is not a native game of Bhutan, but it has been gaining interest among our students, young people and individuals. The game of chess develops strategic and tactical thinking which will benefit participants, and players in all walks of life.”