site.btaTurkiye's Rise in Chess: Tradition, Commitment, Tournaments
Long-standing traditions, institutional commitment and the hosting of international tournaments have made chess a thriving sport in Turkiye, a country with over a million registered chess players.
"At the moment we have 1.019 million registered chess players in the country," said Turkish Chess Federation President Gulkiz Tulay. Among them, 14 are Grandmasters (2 of which women), 32 are International Masters (5 of which women), 19 are International Chess Federation (FIDE) Masters.
One of the Turkish grandmasters is Cem Kaan Gokerkan, to whom Bulgarian chess player Nurgyul Salimova expressed her gratitude for the support in preparation for the 2023 FIDE’s Women’s World Cup, where she won a silver medal.
23-year-old Cem Kaan was born in Izmir. He started playing chess at the age of 8 in a local club. In 2012 Cem Kaan became the Turkish champion in the junior category. After, he became an International Master, won the Turkish Cup and the title of Grandmaster – the highest title a chess player can attain, apart from World Champion. He is currently a student at Yasar University in Izmir.
Tulay argued that dozens more young people are following in the Masters' footsteps. She pointed out that the traditions, as well as the care of the institutions - the Sports Ministry, the federation, the clubs, and last but not least - the tournaments, which are organized together with the municipalities, are very important for the rise of Turkish chess.
The first organized chess activities in Turkiye date back to the 1930s. In 1943, the Istanbul Chess Association was founded, which is the oldest active chess institution in the country. The Turkish Chess Federation was also founded in the Association’s building and was accepted as a member of FIDE in 1962.
Turkiye’s first participation in the Chess Olympiad was in Bulgaria in 1962. The first medals were won by Ilhan Onat and Nevzat Suer in 1975. In 1991, the Turkish Chess Federation was incorporated into the Sports Ministry and began receiving state support. This move helped spread chess nationwide.
In 2000, Istanbul hosted the Chess Olympiad, which sparked the organization of many international events around the country.
An important step that led to the extraordinary popularization of chess was the protocol signed in 2005 with the Turkish Education Ministry, based on which chess became a free elective subject in Turkish schools as early as pre-school age. The same year, Turkey's most popular bank, Isbank, became the sponsor of the Turkish Chess Federation.
"One can definitely say that chess has become a favourite game today, a favourite pastime of millions of teenagers. In the near future, the chess world will increasingly speak of Turkiye as a forge of young talent," Tulay pointed out.
Chess tournaments, which are held in various cities, are also a very common form of promoting the sport. They are organized jointly by the municipalities and the federation, sponsored of various institutions. The majority of the competitions are with international participation.
"Hosting tournaments with international participation is a very important form for the development of players on a national scale, for discovering talents and providing a competitive environment," said Istanbul Youth and Sports Provincial Director Burhanettin Hacicaferoglu.