Thinley Namgay 

Almost eight years after the chess federation became dormant, the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) is trying to revive the chess culture in the country.  

BOC is starting a chess club next month for those interested in the indoor game. So far, 30 players have registered for the club.  

The general secretary of the chess club, Ugyen Wangchuk, said chess enhances creative thinking, planning skills, focus and protects against dementia. “There was a chess federation before, but it’s not operational.” 

The lack of sufficient equipment and professional trainers are the main challenges for chess development in the country. There is a need for more chairs, tables, chess boards and chess apps. 

 There is also limited awareness among youth on the importance of chess.

Ugyen Wangchuk said they would organise tournaments and seminars for both students and teachers. “The chess club will collaborate with various stakeholders such as education ministry and thromdes to foster the game.” 

Meanwhile, a chess player from Gelephu, Binod Rai, said the chess competition was mostly at the school level. “After that, there is no opportunity. We don’t have a chess championship in the country.”

He said the only popular international chess tournament participated by Bhutanese was in 2014, where five players took part in the Chess Olympiad in Norway. 

At present, Bhutan has two chess instructors recognised by the World Chess Federation. 

Meanwhile, chess can also be played online. 

In January this year, a maiden online chess competition was conducted between Bhutan and Israel, where 140 Israelis and 30 Bhutanese participated and Binod Rai, 29, bagged overall second position.  

Binod Rai said that chess players require constant practice. “I have a group in messenger with 30 players from Bhutan. We share chess tricks and play when we get time.”

Chess enthusiast and a trainee at the Samtse College of Education, Hari Prasad Dungyel, said that only a few are genuinely interested in playing chess. “Many might not know the motive behind playing chess.”

He, however, said that to keep the game alive, online platforms such as Chess Club Bhutan encouraged online chess competition among interested players.

A chess player from Tsirang, Sonam Dendup, said limited competition hindered chess popularity. “There is no proper platform for beginners to learn. Without knowing the scope and benefits of chess, it would be challenging to attract and advocate people about the game.”

Edited by Tashi Dema