Chess helps to transform lives of people with disabilities

International chess tournament FIDE Confederation Cup important step to break down global barriers for disabled people

Muhammed Enes Calli and Emre Asikci   | 13.12.2019
Chess helps to transform lives of people with disabilities Handenur Sahin, 22, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy is seen during International chess tournament FIDE Confederation Cup, in Ankara, Turkey on December 09, 2019. Handenur Sahin, who has been playing chess for 12 years, becomes one of Turkey’s most successful chess players. ( Esra Hacıoğlu - Anadolu Agency )


Chess encourages disabled people to change their lives, breaking barriers and leading to many inspiring stories both in Turkey and the world at large.

This week’s tournament of the Confederation Cup for disabled people, organized by the International Chess Federation or FIDE, is an important step to make chess more popular among disabled people worldwide.

Turkey became the first host country of the tournament, as 30 international disabled chess players from four continents came to Turkey for the event.

The seven-day tournament in Turkey’s capital Ankara lasts through Dec. 14.

Rosatom - Russian state atomic energy corporation - has been supporting this competition.

The tournament features chess players from 24 countries, including ones who are physically disabled, visually impaired, and hearing impaired.

Landmark event

Gulkiz Tulay, head of the Turkish Chess Federation, highlighted the importance of this event for disabled people.

“For the first time, people with disabilities are competing in a chess tournament,” Tulay said.

“It is important for Turkey to host this competition, as this also proves that FIDE sees Turkey as a reliable partner for this event,” she added.

Tulay also said the tournament would help promote the rise of chess in Turkey.

“We believe that there is no barrier to everyone playing chess. Chess is one of the most successful competitive events in Turkey for people who are disabled,” she said.

Tulay underlined that the federation has carried out many important projects for visually impaired chess players, and they will continue to work on more projects next year.

Chess has recently been gaining popularity in Turkey, with some 900,000 registered chess players.

Next year the federation aims to reach 1 million registered players, she said.

Sahin’s achievements inspire

Handenur Sahin, 22, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy, has become one of Turkey’s most successful chess players.

She has been playing chess for 12 years.

In addition to her professional chess career, Sahin also studies political science at Galatasaray University.

Sahin believes that playing chess helps her in many ways, especially in effectively managing time in her daily life.

“I became a highly organized person by playing chess. While I take part in chess tournaments abroad, I’m continuing my university education. This is why I need to manage my time effectively, which requires me to be a highly organized person,” she said.

She said chess changed her life.

“Chess makes the life more colorful. I started to play when I was in fourth grade. My life has changed, and I have proved myself with this sport. I was fifth in the rankings at Europe when I was only 17.”

She said she dreams of working with disabled chess players, especially girls with disabilities. 

Tournament brings together disabled from different cultures

Campos Eugenio, 44, came to the tournament in Turkey from the Central African country of Angola.

To date he has scored some achievements in chess, winning titles in his home country

Though he has a disability in his left leg, Eugenio works for an insurance company.

“Chess is an activity that creates equality among people. We sit at the same table to play chess. It’s important to get people closer each other through chess. Chess is a chance to fight discrimination,” he said.

“I congratulate Turkey and the federation for this competition. It’s a very good initiative,” he added.

Spanish chess player Draghici Flutur Gavril, 49, traveled from Spain to be in the tournament.

In his country, he sells lottery tickets.

A chess player since age 13, Gavril is blind in the left eye with limited vision in his right.

“I do this sport by touching the chess pieces. Chess helps me to understand how the world works,” he said.

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