Today The Checker Maven has a special feature highlighting the work of Pakistan's tireless checkers and draughts promoter, Iqbal Salarzai. Most active on-line players know about Mr. Salarzai through the English Draughts group on Facebook, where he organizes weekly tournaments which run on the PlayOk site. These tournaments are recognized and sanctioned by the World Checkers Draughts Federation, who have named Mr. Salarzai their first Draughts Ambassador.
Mr. Salarzai graciously answered a series of interview questions in which he describes his interest in checkers, his promotional efforts, the checkers scene in Pakistan, and his vision and hopes for the future.
Checker Maven Interview with Iqbal Salarzai
Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
I am Iqbal Ahmed Salarzai, Founder and President of the Pakistan Checkers Draughts Association (PCDA). I am the world's first WCDF Draughts Ambassador.
I promote both 64 and 100 square draughts. I am the Honorary Principal of the First Experimental Primary (Draughts) School in China.
I am Pakistan's first international draughts player and the world's top online checkers and draughts tournament organizer.
So far I have organized many draughts tournaments and draughts training programs in different cities and villages of Pakistan in which a large number of children have participated. Apart from this I have to date conducted seven National Draughts Championships in which men, women and children participated in large numbers. I have also run a checkers training program in which children in primary schools in China were trained in checkers.
Q. Tell us about your interest in Anglo-American style checkers.
The game of draughts originated in the Indian subcontinent during British rule. Our elders used to play this game very fondly. During my childhood, checkers was a very popular indoor game played with passion by children, men and women alike. I also have loved the game of checkers since childhood.
Q. Tell us something about your many on-line tournaments. What led you to begin them? How successful have they been? Where do you see them going in the future?
In 2020, people were confined to their homes due to Covid-19 all over the world and offline tournaments were being canceled. That's when I felt the need to organize online tournaments.
Also, I think it's very important to organize online players and organize tournaments for online players because there are many players around the world who don't have the money to play tournaments. They cannot travel to other countries to play and many face difficulties in getting visas. Today, in our online tournaments, big players and new players from Africa, Asia, America and Europe play together without spending money and without traveling. Our Salarzai international online tournaments include the world's most famous players, such as Alexander Moiseyev, Sergio Scarpetta, Richard Beckwith, William Docherty, Donald Oliphant, Kent Layne, Filip Kareta, Alona Maksymova and other great players. Given the immense popularity of online tournaments, WCDF has established an online section in its event calendar and thus FMJD has a separate online section.
I organized the world's first Dr. Richard Beckwith Online Checkers World Cup 2021 to popularize online draughts and similarly organized the second Richard Beckwith Online Checkers World Cup in 2022. I have conducted more than 160 online checkers draughts tournaments so far. I believe that if online draughts are seriously worked on continuously, it will increase the number of players around the world and checkers will flourish all over the world. When online draughts players join offline tournaments, they will make offline tournaments stronger and more interesting, thus we will get new players.
WCDF awarded me the title of Draughts Ambassador in 2022 in view of my tireless work for checkers all over the world for which I am grateful to WCDF. I will always work for the development and promotion of checkers and draughts worldwide with the support and encouragement of WCDF, ADC and FMJD. I have done all this despite financial difficulties. If I have the financial resources, I believe with my enthusiasm and sincerity that I can make checkers more popular and developed worldwide in a very short period of time. There is still a lot to do in checkers.
Q. There is an active checkers scene in your country, Pakistan. Can you tell us about that?
Yes, checkers was a very popular game in our country until the 1980s, then gradually it declined, especially among children and women. The game of checkers almost became extinct. Seeing this I decided to re-popularize and organize this sport especially among children and women. Today again, due to our training programs and tournaments, the game of checkers is being played with renewed enthusiasm across the country and gaining popularity among the new generations.
Q. Tell us about Pakistan's top players. Do they have world championship ambitions?
Yes, there are very high quality checkers players in Pakistan who can not only play in, but also win any international tournament. The names of some of these players are Azhar Javed, Aqeel Ahmad, Muhammad Rafiq Baloch, Imam Bakhsh Khaskheli, Muhammad Shafiq and Salahuddin. Apart from this, there are many such players in Pakistan. But all these players belong to the middle class and have not been able to participate in any international tournament yet due to lack of financial resources. Some players plan to go to the GAYP WQT in Turkey in 2023 and are trying to get resources so they can participate in this tournament.
Q. Does your country sponsor national and international tournaments?
We have not received any financial support from the Government of Pakistan so far. All the national tournaments held in Pakistan have been made possible by my personal expenses and the support of checkers loving friends.
Q. Anything you'd like to add?
When I was young, I loved the game of draughts. I wanted to make a name for my country as a player but I saw that there was a dire need to organize the game in Pakistan according to international standards. Therefore, instead of playing, I worked to gather the players of the entire country in one place, and gave his players a strong platform in the form of thePakistan Checkers Draughts Association. I participated in the Thailand Open Draughts Tournament and Asian Draughts Tournament and saw international quality tournaments organized and learned from there to organize high quality tournaments in Pakistan. I am very grateful to Andrew Tjon A Ong (Thailand Open tournament organizer) and the President of the Asian Draughts Confederation, Baterdene Chimeddorj, for their cooperation in this regard.
In my journey to success, WCDF President Dr. Richard Beckwith has given a lot of support and sincerity. If Dr. Richard Beckwith had not been with me, I would not have been able to promote Checkers. Apart from this, Alexander Moiseyev and many Pakistani and foreign friends have always encouraged me, for which I am grateful to all of them. I wish to establish a Draughts Academy in Pakistan to train men, women and children. I am working tirelessly to establish the academy. I will definitely succeed in my intentions one day.
On my behalf and on behalf of Pakistan Checkers, I am extremely grateful to Bob Newell, (Editor-in-Chief, Checker Maven Webzine) for interviewing me for the world's greatest checkers website. For Pakistan Checkers this is an honor. It will be very helpful in promoting checkers in Pakistan and the world.
We asked Mr. Salarzai for his favorite checker problem and he chose the following. We've seen it before but it is worth repeating. It's by L.J. Vair, who in his day as a resident of Denver was known as the "Kolorado Kowboy."
And, in order to have something new, here's another by L.J. Vair which we believe we've not previously printed in our columns.
We hope you enjoyed today's special spotlight on checkers in Pakistan and the work of Mr. Salarzai. Solutions to the problems above can be seen as always by clicking on Read More.
24-19 15x24 20x27 32x23 1-5 9-14---A 25-22 18x25 5-9 13x6 2x27 WW.
A---18-22 25-18 23-14 2-6 WW.
10-7 20-24 3-8 11x4 22-17 21x14 7-10 14x7 2x27--- WW.
A---The Black King can't quite make it to the double corner: 4-8 27-23 8-11 23-19 11-7 19-15 7-2 15-10 and it's all over.