In the historic building of the National Assembly of Serbia players from all continents, FIDE officials, members of the Serbian government, chess celebrities and guests gathered to inaugurate the first-ever Chess Olympiad for people with disabilities

The Serbian National Assembly building is a majestic and breathtaking structure. It has been the epicentre of many historic decisions and events which shaped Southeast Europe and, this evening, it was a place where new pages of chess history were written. The International Chess Federation (FIDE) and the chess world have come together to in recognising the importance of chess in helping people with disabilities to overcome their challenges and achieve their full potential.

In the central hall of the Assembly building, usually reserved for presidents, Prime Ministers, monarchs and politicians, the chess world – represented by about 150 admirers of the game, from various backgrounds and cultures – took centre stage.

The ceremony began with a short video about the previous important events in chess history tied to the capital of Serbia (once, Yugoslavia); to name a few: the days when all top world players and champions in the second part of the 20th century often played in the city, to the huge crowds gathering at the Palace of Unions (which sits just diagonally across the Assembly building) where the first match USSR vs The Rest of the World took place in 1970, to the Fischer-Spassky match in 1992. The video was subtitled and there were also sign language interpreters for people hard of hearing.

“Chess is one of the most inclusive sports in the world”

Following the video, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, as well as the Deputy CEO of the Serbian energy company “NIS Serbia” Vadim Smirnov, the Serbian Minister for Sports Zoran Gajic, as well as the president of the Serbian chess federation Dragan Lazic, addressed the audience.

FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich said that the chess community came together to make this event possible, recognising the power of chess in helping individuals with disabilities achieve their full potential.

 “This is the first ever Chess Olympiad organised by FIDE for players who have disabilities but who are very much able to play chess and able to live their proud lives”, Dvorkovich said.

He thanked the Serbian government for the support and pointed out that it took “just a few minutes” for the Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and the minister of Sport Zoran Gajic to decide that Serbia will host the event.

“Chess is one of the most inclusive sports in the world and we are proud of that. Children and seniors, people from any background are playing chess without any obstacles. We will continue to support this great journey”, the FIDE president said.

Dvorkovich also made reference to the Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic who today won the Australian Open and became the absolute best tennis player in tennis history, noting that Serbia is a country of sport.

Serbia – the country of sport”

Zoran Gajic, the Serbian minister of sport and a well-known person in the volleyball world who won several medals as a coach in Olympic, world, and European events, reiterated Dvorkovich’s concluding statement.

Welcome to Serbia – the country of sport”, Gajic said, noting that his country is very honoured to be hosting this event, the first ever in history. As a country of sport, Serbia wants to use this event to promote sports among people with disabilities. Although Serbia is a country of Novak Djokovic, Nikola Jokic, and other great players, we also respect our great Grandmasters – Svetozar Gligoric, Ljubomir Ljubojevic and Alisa Maric and others, and we want to share that with everyone”.

Sport is a deeply ingrained part of the Serbian culture and has a long-standing tradition in the country. While basketball and football (soccer) are among the most popular sports, chess is very widespread. Despite having roughly 7,5 million people, Serbia is among the top five countries in the world (with Russia, Germany, the US and Spain) with the largest number of titled chess players.

“Chess as a part of a healthy lifestyle”

Vadim Smirnov, the deputy CEO of NIS Serbia, one of the key sponsors of the event, emphasized the importance of chess as a part of a healthy lifestyle.

“NIS is a family of 12.000 employees [in Serbia] and a healthy lifestyle is a part of our values. We will always support sports, and children’s sports in particular. Chess teaches you work and fair play, and those are the values very important in our business. We strongly believe in equality for the whole world, in sports and among us as people”, Smirnov said.

Dragan Lazic, the President of the Serbian chess federation, thanked FIDE for choosing Serbia as the place for the first Olympiad for people with disabilities and expressed hope that in the next years, the country will also host a chess Olympiad.

Following the drawing of lots, Poland – the top seed team – will start the tournament with white pieces.

The link between chess, volleyball and the meaning of life

Zoran Gajic, the Serbian minister of sport, is a renowned coach in volleyball and has won many medals, including in the Olympics. In an interview for FIDE, he pointed out the link between chess and volleyball.

“Mathematics, geometry, physical laws and natural sciences, logical way of thinking – these are all elements that are very important in the preparation of volleyball and general sports teams and all link back to chess. Not to mention the statistical method of opponent analysis, analysis of one’s matches, training, level of training and recovery of athletes… All this must be predicted a few moves in advance. In our sport (in volleyball), there are terms such as a player’s career, a four-year Olympic cycle, mesocycles, and micro cycles… These are periods that are planned in order to be organized. Everything I said reminds irresistibly of chess.”

He also noted that chess is a great metaphor for the meaning of life: “A life path to success is a chess path and you have to be aware of what the ‘opponent’, which is life, will do to you in, and you need to think how to overcome it and emerge victorious. Everyone plays a game of chess for themselves in life. We can change all the other pieces, but only not the king. If he falls – the game is lost. And everyone is a king for themselves in their life game of chess”.

About the event

The Chess Olympiad for People with Disabilities will be played at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Belgrade, Serbia.

The tournament will be played under the Swiss System, with six rounds. The time control is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an addition of 30 seconds per move starting from move one. Default time is 15 minutes.
The first round starts on Monday, 30th January, at 3 PM CET time.

For more about chess for people with disabilities, you can go to the official website of the Players with Disabilities Commission: