From Iceland — Playing chess and doing good

Playing chess and doing good

Published July 23, 2004

Playing chess and doing good

If you’ve never moved a pawn or been check-mated, now may be the time. Iceland’s champion chess club has started up some projects which go beyond the checkerboard and far beyond Iceland.

Hrókurinn’s central pursuit is the promotion of chess to children in Iceland and many of their members are distinguished masters. Last year, one of the more prominent members, Bosnian Ivan Sokolov, mentioned the lack of a chess school in Sarajevo, a city which produced a team of European Champions despite there being no formal school there.

“I was interested in the city of Sarajevo from my time as a journalist, and in helping things develop there,” Hrókurinn’s President Hrafn Jökulsson said. They were given financial backing from the Foreign Ministry in Iceland, and now 300 kids are active in the Sarajevo chess school over the course of a school year.

After that successful venture, the next project was instinctive: to initiate a similar scheme in Moldova, the home country of Hrókurinn’s colleague Victor Bologan. Bologan is one of the top chess players in the world and he has dreamed of opening ten chess schools in Moldova. He’d been looking for assistance and, with financial backing secured in Moldova, Hrókurinn joined forces to begin the organisation of the project.

The country became part of the Soviet Union after World War II, but since 1991 has been an independent republic. Russian forces have remained in Moldova, however, to defend Ukrainians and Russians who have proclaimed a “Transnistria” republic in the northern part of the country. The economy faces numerous hurdles, including exposure to poor agricultural weather, higher fuel prices and reluctance from foreign investors.

Jökulsson emphasized that Moldova is the poorest country in Europe, and that the children’s lack of shoes and clothing often keeps them from going outside, especially in wintertime.

“It’s easy to do something that really matters there,” Jökulsson said of their efforts in Moldova. They are now beginning to collect donations of children’s shoes, and aim to deliver the items near the end of August.

So we get the easy part. Hrókurinn has set it all up; all we have to do is to bring the shoes.You may like to try your chess skills as well. “Everyone is welcome,” Jökulsson says, “we are always there.”
You can bring donations to the Hrókurinn headquarters at Skölatún 4. The hours of the headquarters are 9:30 – 17:00 Monday through Friday and 13:00 -16:00 on Saturdays.

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