Left: Young chess players from New York City in the UN "Fighting stereotypes with Judit Polgar, Planet 50-50 Champion" event, 2017. Photo:UN Women Right: A young man playing chess in Yerevan, Armenia. Photo: Flore de Préneuf /©The World Bankn

Chess for Sustainable Development

The United Nations recognizes that sports, the arts and physical activity have the power to change perceptions, prejudices and behaviours, as well as to inspire people, break down racial and political barriers, combat discrimination and defuse conflict, and therefore contrabute in promoting education, sustainable development, peace, cooperation, solidarity, social inclusion and health at the local, regional and international levels.

Chess is one of the most ancient, intellectual and cultural games, with a combination of sport, scientific thinking and elements of art. As an affordable and inclusive activity, it can be exercised anywhere and played by all, across the barriers of language, age, gender, physical ability or social status.

Chess is a global game, which promotes fairness, inclusion and mutual respect, and noting in this regard that it can contribute to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding among peoples and nations.

Chess also offers important opportunities in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals, including strengthening education, realizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls and fostering inclusion, tolerance, mutual understanding and respect.

 

Background

Chess is a two player strategy board game where the aim is to move different types of playing piece, each with a prescribed set of possible moves, around a chequered square board trying to capture the opponents ‘king’ piece. Today there are over 2,000 identifiable variants of the game. One theory is that an early game similar to chess called Chaturanga originated in Northern Indian Subcontinent during the Gupta period (~ 319 – 543 CE) and spread along the Silk Roads west to Persia.

Whilst modern Chess is believed to have been derived from Chaturanga means ‘four divisions’ referring either to the divisions of the playing pieces into infantry, cavalry, elephantry and chariotry (pieces which in the modern game became the pawn, knight, bishop and rook), or to the fact that the game was played by four players. Chatrang, and later Shatranj, was the name given to the game when it arrived in Sassanid Persia around 600 CE. The earliest reference to the game comes from a Persian manuscript of around 600 CE, which describes an ambassador from the Indian Subcontinent visiting king Khosrow I (531 – 579 CE) and presenting him with the game as a gift. From there it spread along the Silk Road to other regions including the Arabian Peninsula and Byzantium.

In 900 CE, Abbasid chess masters al-Suli and al-Lajlaj composed works on the techniques and strategy of the game, and by 1000 CE Chess was popular across Europe, and in Russia where it was introduced from the Eurasian Steppe. The Alfonso manuscripts, also known as the Libro de los Juegos (Book of Games), a medieval collection of texts on three different types of popular games from the 13th century CE describe the game of Chess as very similar to Persian Shatranj in rules and gameplay.

On 12 December 2019, the General Assembly proclaimed 20 July as World Chess Day to mark the date of the establishment of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) in Paris in 1924.

Under initiative of FIDE, July 20 has been observed as International Chess Day by chess players around the world since 1966.

The designation of World Chess Day of the UN will not only recognize the important role of the FIDE in supporting international cooperation for chess activity and aiming to improve friendly harmony among all peoples of the world, but will also provide an important platform to foster, dialogue, solidarity and culture of peace.

 

Since its onset, the COVID-19 pandemic has spread to almost all countries of the world. Social and physical distancing measures, lockdowns of businesses, schools and overall social life, which have become commonplace to curtail the spread of the disease, have also disrupted many regular aspects of life, including sport and physical activity.

Chess, being a mind game, encourages deep logical thinking which enhances responsible action. Thus, promoting the playing of chess and linking this with issues of sex and sexuality could be a creative and strategic way of taking up the HIV/AIDS challenge.

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.