International Chess Federation
Sunday, 19 May 2024 06:26
FIDE 100 celebrations reach Morocco

The centenary celebrations of the International Chess Federation are unfolding across the globe, and sunny Casablanca in Morocco has been chosen as the African host city for this momentous occasion. On Saturday, May 18, a significant event took place at the Parc de la Ligue Arabe in the heart of Casablanca.

During the opening ceremony of Morocco Chess Week, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich delivered a speech emphasizing the historical significance of the celebration: “It’s not just an event; it’s one of the central elements of our 100-year anniversary celebration this year. We are looking at our history. We started in India, where chess was most likely born; we went to Switzerland, where, for many years, FIDE headquarters has been located, and now we are in Morocco, where chess most likely came to Europe. It’s about our roots.”

The festivities commenced with the Chess Olympiad Torch Relay. The torch’s journey began in India, where the 44th Chess Olympiad took place in 2022. From there, it traveled to Ghana, Switzerland, Canada and finally arrived in Morocco. The enthusiastic crowd of chess fans gathered in the park, welcomed by live traditional Moroccan music performed by expressive musicians.

FIDE officials graced the stage, with FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, Deputy Chair of Management Board Dana Reizniece-Ozola, and Continental President for Africa Tshepiso Lopang, among other distinguished guests. The audience erupted with excitement as grandmasters Hikaru Nakamura, Viswanathan Anand (FIDE Deputy President), and local hero, 7-time African champion Bassem Amin made their appearances. Later that day, Magnus Carlsen joined them in a rapid tournament, showcasing the innovative Casablanca chess variant.

“Welcome to Morocco, welcome to Africa, and welcome to the Arab world!” exclaimed the ceremony’s host. The anthems of Morocco and FIDE were played. 

FIDE President delivered an inspired speech, finishing with words that caused great applause: “This celebration highlights the importance of Morocco and Casablanca in the chess world. It demonstrates our commitment to advancing the game and underscores our unity. The game is just beginning—another century for chess!”

“To be honest, I’ve never seen such enthusiasm for chess. To see all the people who are out here today…” the words of Hikaru Nakamura were drowned in cheering from the crowd. "…I hope it will inspire you to play more chess and enjoy everything about the game!” Anand and Nakamura’s speeches ignited chants of “Bassem! Bassem! Bassem!” in honor of the African hero, who addressed the audience in Arabic. 

The torch relay continues, with upcoming stops in Colombia and Kazakhstan. The flame was passed to Darmen Sadvakasov, 1st Vice-President of the Kazakhstan Federation, and Executive Director Gulmira Dauletova. 

Following the torch ceremony, a massive 100-player simultaneous exhibition unfolded in one of the park’s shadowy alleys. The local talents were tested by IM Mohamed Tissir, GM Laurent Fressinet, GM Alexander Volzhin, WGM Atousa Pourkashiyan, WGM Gulmira Dauletova, WGM Dana Reizniece-Ozola, Nadezhda Marochkina, WIM Tshepiso Lopang, Benard Wanjala, and GM Bashar Kouatly; each of them faced ten opponents. The simul lasted for several hours, with some participants securing draws or even wins against the seasoned players.

In another alley of the park, attendees admired brilliant photographs by Stev Bonhage. His exhibition, titled “Capture,” travels the world, showcasing the art of chess and photography. The pictures feature professional chess players, random strangers, the elderly, and children—all united by their love for the game.

After the exciting day under the sun, the public and distinguished guests moved to the beautiful Mechouar Palace to watch Carlsen, Nakamura, Anand, and Amin battle in the Casablanca Chess rapid tournament

Written by Anna Burtasova, Casablanca Chess Press Officer

Photos: Stev Bonhage