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Interview with General Secretary of the Iranian Chess Federation

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Interview with General Secretary of the Iranian Chess Federation

We have been fortunate to conduct an email interview with the General Secretary of the  Iranian Chess Federation – Ms Shohreh Bayat.  We get some fascinating insights into the workings of Iranian Chess and see if we Kenyans can get any tips for ourselves.

Iran is an Asian powerhouse in chess and have hosted a number of prestigious and world class events in the recent past.

General Secretary of the Iranian Chess Federation Ms Shohreh Bayat during the 2016 Baku Olympiad. Photo credit unknown.

Personal information

Please give us some back ground info on yourself and how you learnt to play chess.  Do you have siblings or parents who play chess?

I was born in Rasht a city in northern Iran and I have an elder sister. I was taught chess by my father at the age of 9,  then he enrolled me in a chess club.  I am a woman FM and have won numerous national events such as Iranian Women Chess Festival, Iranian Junior Chess Championship, Iranian Blitz Chess Championship, Iranian Rapid Chess Championship.  I have also played in the Iranian National team as an  adult and a junior.   Lastly I am also an International Arbiter.

You were part of the national team.  Did you travel to events and which countries/events did you play in?

I have played in different countries like United Arab Emirates, Armenia, India, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Hungary and Turkmenistan

You were in Baku as an arbiter – was that your first trip and what were your impressions of the place.

I have been in Baku several times for chess and leisure and  I have many good friends there! I even attended a wedding there and what really surprised me was the fact that our cultures are so close to each other. Anyway, I liked the atmosphere of the city and event.  It was my second Olympiad and I think, Baku Olympiad was by far more well organised than Tromso especially the opening ceremony.

Shohreh Bayat in Baku.

What do you find better – player or arbiter?

I like all aspects of chess. Being a player is more risky and everything depends on our results!  It can be the best and worst thing in the world!

Shohreh Bayat as a player.

What is your most memorable event as a player and as an arbiter?

I have played in a friendly match between Iranian national team and Emirate national team for a week in Sharjah. As I said, it was friendly so we enjoyed all the moments on this trip and it was really GREAT. I think as an arbiter, my first experience in Olympiad was the best one because I learnt many things there.

Shohreh Bayat as arbiter during the 14th Khazar Cup. Former World Champion Anatoly Karpov plays an exhibition game.

What is the most difficult decision you had to make as an arbiter?

I once had to forfeit a player because of having smart watch. He was well known to me personally and we were really close family friends.  I had too follow the rules and lost their friendship for a while which was really unpleasant!

Working at the Iranian Chess Federation

You work with the Iran Chess Federation (ICF).  What is your job and how long have you been working there?  How did you end up in ICF?

My job was as a Chairperson of  Iranian Arbiter’s Commission one year ago and I recently got promoted.   I am currently the General Secretary of the Iranian Chess Federation. My appointment means that I am the first female General Secretary among all sporting federations in Iran.  Since I love  chess it is the best job for me!

On the other hand, it is a very difficult career because chess in Iran is very popular.   We have chess associations in all provinces and most major cities.  This means that we have to be ready to help all chess associations, arbiters, coaches and players around the country.  As the President of Iranian Chess Federation says we should work 24 hours and 7 days!

Other tasks include organising local, national and international events in all province.  Appointing arbiters, organising different courses for coaches and arbiters in all around the country.  Ensuring that we have plans for talented chess players, making educational videos.  We also produce and broadcasting chess news as part of our activities!

President of Iranian Chess Federation Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov during the Paytakht International Chess Tournament held in Tehran.

Structure of the Iranian Chess Federation

How big is the office of the ICF?

It is a three storey building with 2 playing hall and about 20 rooms. Around 30 people are employed there, including full time and part time jobs. We also have a chess university.

Building housing the Iranian Chess Federation.

How is ICF structured?  Are regions affiliated to the ICF or is it via clubs or is by individuals?

The Iran Chess Federation is under Sport Ministry and they fund our operations to spread chess all around the country and also participate in international events. Government has also allocated a place for chess associations in most cities all over the Iran. We also have many chess clubs run by individuals.

A tournament being held at the Iranian Chess Federation building.

What is the membership structure in terms of fees (how much do players pay)?  I am keen to see how ICF is organized to see if we can get some ideas for Kenya.  Do they have elections for the officials etc?

An election is held every four years for electing the President of Iranian Chess Federation and also for the President of Chess Associations in every province

Each player pay around USD 10 (KES 1,000) to the  federation for one year membership and we spent this money for chess again.

Does ICF have a website and do they have one in English?

Yes, we have a website and the address is Iranian Chess Federation but the English version is not active yet. We should do it very soon.

Is ICF funded by the government or does it rely only on membership subscriptions?

We have support of government and also we got membership fee too but sometime we need more funding so we try to find some sponsors.

Which events would you recommend for Kenyans to attend in Iran in 2017.

We are organising a winter tour so if they hurry, they will be able to play in the Ferdowsi Cup in Mashahd which is a great international event.

Is chess growing in Iran and what do you think to make it better?

Yes. We are trying very hard to improve chess in Iran. The federation organises international events and training.  We also have contract with some great GM’s such as GM Ivan Sokolov and GM Evgenyi Miroshnichenko for our national teams. We are also getting our players to play in major FIDE  events such as Women’s World Chess Championship and Grand Prix.

Globe trotting Englishman! The popular GM Nigel Short was the coach to the Iranian team some time ago. Photo credit Ashkan Shabani.

Women’s World Championship

Iran is set to host the Women’s World Championship in February 2017.  Will you be arbitrating and what is your reactions to some of the adverse comments in the internet about the “hijab”?  Is the event sponsored by the government or private sponsors?

I will be Deputy Chief Arbiter there and also in organising committee. About “hijab”, as you all know, it is a country code. We respect to all ideas but it is a great step for Iranian women so we kindly ask players to support us.

Shohreh Bayat and Anastasia Sorokina during the 2017 Women’s World Chess Championship Photo credit Niusha Afshar.

Personal interests

What are your other interests besides chess?

I have a master degree in Natural Resources Engineering and did some research on remote sensing in my field . My English is not bad and I have an IELTS degree. I am also familiar with Germany and Russian but I love Persian literature and use to read poetry.  I also enjoy psychology, watching movies , keeping fit and travelling.

Which is your dream country to visit and why?

Egypt! If I have just one month to live, I have to go there to visit the pyramids!

Officials and arbiters during the 2016 FIDE Women’s Grand Prix in Tehran. Shohreh Bayatt sitting front row third from left.

Should chess be compulsory in school?

I think it is better if we have chess as an extra curriculum. We are doing this in most private schools in Iran and it is helpful.

Upcoming players & other events in Iran

Who are the upcoming Iranian players that we should watch?

Shahin Lorparizanganeh, Parham Maghsoudloo, Alireza Firouzja (all 3 shown in the photo below) and Arian Gholani.

What is the biggest chess event that Iran has held?

Final of Men World Chess Championship in 2000 Anand-Shirov.

Does Iran have a chess league?

Yes, we have regional league and also super league.

How does Iran chose the Olympiad Team

A technical committee will chose players according to 3 stage of tournaments including open- semifinal and final events. Committee also consider players rating, title and performance.

The Iranian National Team at the 2016 Baku Olympiad. Sitting from left Alireza Firoozja, Shahin Lorparizangeneh, Parham Maghsoodloo, Ehsan Ghaemmaghami. Standing from left to right Ghazal Hakimifard, Arian Gholami, Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh, Atousa Pourkashiyan, Mitra Hejazipour, Shohreh Bayat and Morteza Mahjoob. Photo credit unknown.

Who is the National Champion in Iran (Open and Ladies)?

Super talented 13 years old Alireza Firoozja is Open Champion and WGM Sara Khadem is Ladies Champion.  You can read more about this event here – Iranian National Championship.

How many GM/IM does Iran have?

11 GMs  and 23 IMs.

Do you get chess books in Farsi or do players have to rely on English/Russian books?

Many chess books are translated into Persian language but we have also English and Russian books too.

Do Iranian newspapers have a weekly article on chess? Do they cover chess news? What about TV?

News agency publish chess news every day on Internet and newspapers cover chess news weekly. We have chess magazines and also some chess pages in famous magazines too.

 Who is the biggest sponsor/supporter of Iranian chess.

Sport Ministry which is related to government.