Ummer Koya, tireless chess promoter in India

KOCHI: Viswanathan Anand it's the biggest thing that ever happened to Indian chess . The next best is possibly PT Ummer Koya says the former chess champion of Kerala MB Muralidharan .

At first glance, it is a rather scandalous statement because, unlike Vishy, ​​Koya was not a king of the game. In any case, he was a pawn, about his modest beginnings in Kozhikode, until his youth, when he did, among many servile jobs, that of a areca nut peeler, a hotel waiter and a water pump operator.

But as in the game, it is the pawn, the humblest piece of a board, which has such unique powers that it can get promoted, even for the most powerful member of the game, the queen, once it reaches the eighth and final. rank. Although the rules allow it, it is a journey quite difficult to achieve and only a pawn with a certain ambition, courage, vision and luck can achieve it. Ummer Koya had it all, and that's how he became the vice president of FIDE , the world chess body, and kept it for a decade (1996-2006).

On Tuesday, when their adventurous former official, aged 69, breathed his last, to a prolonged illness, at his residence at Panniyankara in Kozhikode, north Kerala, FIDE remembered Ummer Koya as a cornerstone for the development of chess in his country.

The All India Chess Federation, where he had served as joint secretary (1985-89) and secretary-general (1989-2005), reciprocated: " Indian chess achieved glorious heights during his tenure. He was instrumental in establishing age category chess championships at the national and world level. He set standards in the organization of chess tournaments in India."

Ummer Koya was a visionary who saw great potential for chess in India and in himself, and left no stone unturned to achieve the goals.

He was loved, for making chess great in India, by bringing important events to the country (India hosted: the World Chess Championship in 2000, the World Chess Cup in 2002 and four youth world championships in 1993, 1998, 2002 and 2004) during its term), presenting large prize money events at a time when such tournaments were few and far between and possibly to promote chess literature. He was the founder and editor of AICF Forum, a monthly magazine that was popular with chess players.

India No. 2 Pentala Harikrishna was one of those great players who benefited from a stimulus in the national chess activity during Koya's tenure.

"He worked very hard to improve Indian chess by arranging coaching camps, exposure trips for juniors and seniors, world juniors in India, round robin events and many open events. He had a vision to make India a super power in chess. I personally benefitted from various coaching camps with GM (Yevgeniy) Vladimirov. Among other strong events, World juniors which was held in Kochi in 2004 was very important for my career," said Harikrishna.

Female chess was also shot in the arm when Koya was at the helm. Former National Women's Champion,

Nisha Mohota, he believes, Koya raised the level of chess and chess players in general during his tenure.

He held chess tournaments, including national women in star hotels. He presented exhibition trips for the Indian team and gave players the opportunity to go abroad and compete with the world's strongest players ..., Nisha wrote in a Facebook post.

Ummer Koya's contributions weren't limited to adminstration, he famously introduced the Koya System, a tiebreaker method that was adopted by FIDE in round-robin tournaments.

Then there was the Ummer Koya, WHO was loathed. At least three associations state, Including Tamil Nadu, the home state of veteran administrator Manuel Aaron, who is Also Regarded as Koya's mentor at the AICF, Had Moved the Madras High Court When Koya was then a president Kirsan Iljumzhinov's trusted lieutenant at FIDE. They accused him of 'misfeasance and malfeasance'.

Meanwhile, he had also become unpopular among a group of players. Koya had angered the major players domestically and Dibyendu Barua, Abhijit Kunte, Surya Shekhar Ganguly, etc. With a couple of questionable revisions. Some bad plays he made were to increase registration fees for players and, most notably, imposing a cut of 10 percent of all the money of the prize won by the players. According to reports, even Vishy Anand, who was already a world superstar, was upset.

The voices of dissent became louder and with the judicial cases on the move, Ummer Koya's influence had diminished, after 2006. However, the legal battle continued and he remained optimistic of a return, but that was when the grim reaper called .

Ummer Koya had lost his parents when he was still a child, his grandparents raised him and it was his grandfather's passion for the 'chathurangam' (former strategic game considered the precursor of chess) that had hit him.

He leaves his wife Najma Koya, his daughters Nasiya Nona and Nadiya Nona, both named in honor of the iconic Georgian player Nona Gaprindashivli, who was the first woman Grand Master, and his son Nigel Rahman, named after the British GM Nigel Short, who by the way, sits in the chair. from the vice president of Fide, who once adorned.