Muscat: In what could boost the development of chess in the country, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) has 'officially' recognised the Oman Chess Committee (OCC) during the Presidential Board held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia recently.
Oman, along with Burkina Faso, was accepted as new member federations of the FIDE.
Speaking exclusively to Times Sport on Sunday, Laila Al Naggar, head of the OCC, confirmed the news and said the recognition by the FIDE comes at a time when the country is beginning to develop the sport.
"This is an important chapter for the country. The FIDE has approved our status. We had sent the application to them a month back and we are extremely happy that they have recognised us. This is big news for all the chess lovers in the country," Laila said.
It is worth noting that Times Sport first reported the formation of the OCC early last month after the Ministry of Sports Affairs (MoSA) appointed an interim committee to run the sport.
MoSA has selected a six-member team committee comprising Laila, chess enthusiast Ameer Al Raisi, Talal Al Maaini, Zayed Al Maqrashi, Shamsa Al Harthy and Ahmed Al Balushi, who will run the office for a period of two years.
The OCC will have its office at the Oman Olympic Committee (OOC) building, from where all other sports associations function.
The immediate plan for the OCC is to host the National Chess Championship to select the national team that will represent Oman in future international tournaments. "We are currently working on the dates and venues to host this unique championship. This will be the flagship tournament of the OCC and it will be conducted every year. But our prime objective now is to select the national team," Laila noted.
Interestingly, the Chess Olympiad set to be held in Norway this year will set the stage for Oman's participation in the first international tournament. The prestigious tournament will be held from August 1-14 with the participation of over 120 national federations.
However, Oman's participation in the Asian Chess Championship to be held in Iran is still unclear.
Ameer Al Raisi welcomed the FIDE decision and said the major challenge for the local governing body is to spread the game across the country.
"That is going to be a huge task for us and we need to draw a plan for that. Soon after we conduct the local championship, we will sit down to work out a plan to spread the game," Al Raisi informed.
According to Ameer Al Raisi, the recent visit of chess legend Gary Kasparov to Muscat was part of the motivation for the new development. "This is certainly a dream come true for chess players and for those who love the game.
"Kasparov pitched for national chess federation in Oman, and I am glad to be a part of this committee. We have some great plans on the cards," he stated.
Ismael Karim, an International Master who runs the International Chess Academy in Oman, expressed his happiness over the FIDE recognition. "That is a great move and a historic moment for chess lovers in Oman. I am sure this will further motivate the players. Without any competition, it is difficult for the players to excel and now with the FIDE recognition, Oman can participate in all international tournaments.
"I am really glad that they received the approval. There are a lot of people who have worked hard for achieving this status. The credit should go to them," Karim said.
"It will be interesting to see where they want to go and what they plan. They should be careful in choosing the international tournaments. Overloading the players with many tournaments will have wrong implications. But the OCC team is doing an excellent job and I am sure they will do wonders for the sport," Karim added.