This week in Saudi Arabia Muslim cleric Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah issued a fatwa on chess. He said the game 'causes hatred and was opportunity to squander money'. Saudi Arabia's top religious cleric has ruled that chess is forbidden for Muslims because it is a 'waste of time' and promotes gambling.
In my experience of chess, and with my involvement in chess at PGS, and a lifetime of playing for fun, I don’t believe either is true. Let’s look at both allegations:
Firstly, it is a “waste of time”. I believe the study of chess, and playing competitive chess are excellent exercises in promoting a logical and analytical mind. The process of planning your own moves, second-guessing your opponent’s, out-witting their traps and planning your own, develop the sort of logical brain skills that are highly valued in our educational system, and rewarded by our employment market. I would equate chess with any other form of brain training, such as crosswords, learning a foreign language or maths homework – all essential for shaping and stretching a growing mind.
The second allegation of gambling has to be taken in context.
It is after all possible to gamble on anything: the weather, the speed of a snail to exit a chalk circle and obviously sport. In a week when we’ve had news of match-fixing in tennis, due to international gambling syndicates, it wouldn’t surprise me if people gamble on the outcome of chess matches too, but this doesn’t mean that chess itself promotes gambling – far from it, players of chess seem to take far more measured approaches to games, weighing up their best moves. Perhaps all activities with uncertain outcomes should be banned to prevent gambling by others…might this mean banning marriage, commuting, life insurance?
The PGS Chess Team is in action again this week. We have an away match against Ryde School on Monday. So far we have a 100% win record this year – anyone fancy our chances?