Turkmen Chess masters ready for Ashgabat 2017
The game of 64 squares has enjoyed a rich and varied history in Turkmenistan over the years to become one of the country’s favourite sporting pastimes.
So when the curtains go up at the Ashgabat 2017 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, Turkmenistan Chess fans will expect medals after the host country named an impressive 27-member team consisting of 14 men and 13 women.
There are some notable names in the Turkmen national team line-up, including two brothers — Maksat and Saparmyrat Atabayew and their cousin Yusup Atabayew.
The trio, who are among the highest-rated players in the country, said they were ready for the mental challenges ahead.
“I’m a soldier with the Turkmenistan Armed Forces so I don’t get stressed out very easily,” said said Maksat, 22, who was also the 2015 Turkmen national champion. “I think it will be the case during Ashgabat 2017 as well. I’ve been training at home and at the Turkmen Chess Institute for more than six hours each day and I feel I’m ready. I’m confident of winning a medal at home.”
His 18-year-old brother Saparmyrat, who is a second-year student at the National Institute of Sports and Tourism of Turkmenistan, spoke about their introduction into the sport.
“Like Maksat, I too began my sporting journey when I was five years old. Choosing the path was easy because I come from a chess-loving family. My grandfather Annamuhammet was a chess player and he’s our inspiration. After Maksat started playing, I developed an interest for chess as well which is still going strong. Chess runs in our blood,” said Saparmyrat, who finished third at the 2016 Turkmen National Championships.
So do the two brothers compete against one another at home?
“Whenever we play at home, my brother wins because he’s the more experienced player. But these games help a lot as both of us follow very different playing styles. Our aim is to win at least one medal between us at Ashgabat 2017,” he said.
Their cousin Yusup, who is 22, became the Turkmen National Champion last year and is considered as a bright medal prospect. The youngster, who joined the army after graduating from the National Institute of Sports and Tourism of Turkmenistan, said he was looking forward to putting up a strong show.
“Last year, we finished 40th out of 180 teams at the World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan. In 2015, the team took silver at the Central Asian Championships in Tajikistan. This time, we want to win at home. I think we’ve got a great chance to be successful,” he said.
The women are feeling confident too. Bahar Hallayewa, 29, is the country’s most experienced having been on the national team since she was 14.
“I started playing chess as a five-year-old and entered the national team at 10. My first international competition was the Chess Olympiad in Bled, Slovenia, in 2002. I want to do something special for my country and I hope it’ll be a medal at Ashgabat 2017,” she said.
“But I also realise that things won’t be so easy. India, China and Japan are all strong in women’s Chess so there will be plenty of tough competition.”
The Turkmenistan team also contains some very young, but determined, players. Annagozel Mekanowa, a 15-year-old native of Mary province, has overcome distance and travel in order to be ready for Ashgabat 2017.
“Since I study in Mary, it’s impossible for me to come to Ashgabat to train on a daily basis. So I’ve taken special permission from school to attend classes for two weeks and train in Ashgabat for the next two. It isn’t easy, but I hope the hard work will pay off,” she said.
The youngster, who took part in the 2015 World School Individual Championships in Pattaya, Thailand, said she will not be intimidated by older players.
“Age is nothing but a number. I’m confident in myself and I won’t be intimidated in my own home ground. I’m ready for the challenge.” she said.
Turkmenistan women’s national team coach Karen Grigoryan said his athletes had prepared hard for the event.
“We invited Dutch Grandmaster Sergei Tiviakov over and, since February, he’s been helping the girls improve their technique and strategy. The women’s team also took part in five international tournaments this year — in China, the Czech Republic, Georgia, UAE and Uzbekistan,” he said.
Chess at the Ashgabat 2017 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games will be held at the Chess Arena in the Ashgabat Olympic Complex from 21–27 September.
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