Grand Master caps World School Chess Championship at Expo 2020 Dubai with ‘blindfold’ matches, book launch

DUBAI, 30 November 2021 – Chess Grandmaster Jose Fernando Cuenca capped the five-day World School Chess Championship at Expo 2020 Dubai with ‘blindfold’ matches and a book launch. Grandmaster Cuenca said Expo’s theme, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ fits well with the sport because the game is “very connected to intelligence.”

“Chess is like life,” said Cuenca, “you have to make a lot of tough decisions in a very short amount of time.”

He added: “Chess is a rollercoaster ride of emotions, and anything can happen. It’s a very exciting sport. People used to think that chess is only reserved for brilliant minds. We don’t think so. Everybody can enjoy chess. It’s a universal language. Chess doesn’t distinguish between gender, culture and age – a five year old can compete against a 90 year old.”

“غراند ماستر” الشطرنج:  “سعيد باهتمام إكسبو 2020 دبي بلعبة الشطرنج”
DUBAI, 29 November 2021. Blindfold chess game at the Spain Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai. (Photo by Mahmoud Khaled/Expo 2020 Dubai)

Cuenca, who is 34 years old, was beaten in one of the ‘blindfold’ matches by a 16 year old FIDE Master from Azerbaijan, Ayan Allahverdiyeva, who was at the Expo to compete in the just-concluded schools tournament, which was organised by the Spain Pavilion and ran from 25-29 November. India’s Velammal Nexus School defeated the rest of the 295 participating teams from across the globe.

“[Allahverdiyeva] played very good. It was a game in Sicilian Defence. She knew the theory. She was a good player for sure,” Cuenca said. Both started playing chess when they were six years old. Cuenca has been playing professional chess since he was 20 while Allahverdiyeva was the 2018 European Youth Chess Championship winner.

The blindfold match saw Cuenca with his back to the board while Chess Master David Martinez, faced it, explaining his opponent’s move. Cuenca would then instruct Martinez on how to countermove.

Cuenca, who said the Netflix hit ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ helped make chess even more popular, praised Expo 2020 for organising the tournament with the World Chess Federation (FIDE).

“The kids were extremely happy. I really have to thank the Expo for doing this chess tournament,” he said.

The book Cuenca launched is called ‘Quien dice que el ajedrez es aburrido? Que me lo cargo!’ which translates as ‘Who says chess is boring? Let me take it!’ Authored by both Cuenca and Martinez, the book takes readers behind the scenes of chess tournaments with plenty of anecdotes. Cuenca said the book proves chess is a “very, very exciting game.”