I have loved chess since I was young, playing with and being taught by my
father. If I had a previous life, it was as a chess player.
In this life, I pursued stories, content and technology that I aspire
to positively impact our world.
These two "lives" collided one day.
My love for chess was rekindled by Bruce Pandolfini
(and who the ‘coach’ character in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer
was based on) in New York City on April 28, 2010. Bruce eloquently spoke about François-André Danican Philidor,
the great 18th Century French composer/chess player, and the intersection of his chess and music careers, including
with performances of his most well-known pieces.
After that lecture, I gravitated to the parks of NYC to watch the street games being played out, irrespective of class,
by the homeless, the high powered executives, and everyone in between, dueling each other for a bit of ego and a few dollars.
Moi (right), most likely getting hustled at chess in the Tompkins Square Park, NYC
In 2011, I moved to Qatar where I serendipitously met a chess coach who told me about the members of the women’s Qatar National
Chess team that she trains. She detailed how she was preparing them for the World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, a competition
bringing the best players from around the world to fight for their country. There was an ‘Olympics for chess’, I curiously wondered to myself?!
I started researching and diving deeper into the sport, and was fascinated by the chess (under)world as I learned more and more.
I met the male and female players of the Qatar National Chess teams and was captivated by their stories. When I thought chess players,
images of nerdy introverts conjured in my mind; these players were not that at all. They were hip, witty, with ebullient personalities –
and yes, there were also very smart.
I knew I had to tell their story – the story of chess in Qatar and the journey of its national chess teams as they competed on the global
stage at the World Chess Olympiad with its sub stories: the mental preparation, the intensity of 6-hour games, and how they handled the pressure.
But there was also a bigger story. The story of this medieval game being played in the modern day. A game, which for professional players,
carries with it an immense weight of history on their shoulders. A board game that was less game and more an all-encompassing way of life.
I enlisted many friends and colleagues to help me bring two passion projects to fruition. The first was a documentary on Qatar's National Teams,
"Kings & Queens of Qatar". And the second is
"Through the Golden Ages: the History of Chess",
an animated short film on the roots, evolution and spread of the game through time and throughout the globe.
In March 2014, both films premiered at the Museum of Islamic Art as part of their chess exhibit and
Kings & Queens of Qatar has gone on to screen at the
Abu Dhabi Film Festival (UAE)
and the Ajyal Film Festival (Qatar).
Me (second from the left), with members of/my friends in the Qatar chess teams, at the post-screening discussion on stage.
The premiere of the films took place at the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar as part of their exhibit on chess. Image courtesy of Hammad Iqbal.
Thank you to the many people who supported the productions.
And thank you for your interest in the film.