Chess King Ali
Chess King Ali is a 25 minute documentary film made in 2002 in the Netherlands, directed by Meral Uslu. Thanks to sponsorship of the Dutch and many others, it was shown in Toronto, Sunday, 2004.05.02 at the Canadian International Documentary Festival, known as "Hot Docs". Here is the description from the program guide: "Originally from Iran, now living in the Netherlands, Ali is a twelve-year-old chess wiz who dreams of becoming world champion. He has the talent to represent Holland in international tournaments but as a refugee he is unable to leave the country."
The film chronicles the daily life of Ali Bitalzadeh, winner of the Dutch Under 12 Championships in regular and rapid play. His younger sister, a girl's champion for her age group, is also shown. Ali takes part in classroom training offered to the best Dutch youth players. His problem is that he can't accept invitations to compete abroad, particularly the European Youth Championships. Ali's father's refugee status has been revoked, and they are awaiting a decision on their appeal; if it fails, they may have to return to Iran. Meanwhile, Ali is not permitted to hold a Dutch passport. As Ali - used to making quick decisions in complicated positions at rapid chess - keenly observes: the government takes forever to make up it's mind, and then it often makes the wrong decision. Ali wisely notes that he is the same as other kids, so why shouldn't he be allowed to compete, just like the other kids?
In his daily life, Ali plays and enjoys other games with the children. Yet he does not join in any chess games with his classmates - they are not at his level. Is it arrogance? Probably not - I think he just would not find it any fun. He has lots of fun at the training sessions with his peers.
So why does Ali play chess? First, he set a goal of beating his father, but he achieved this long ago. Second, to pass the time. His parents are both medical doctors, but as refugees, they cannot practice. So, the family needs to occupy themselves while waiting for the government to rule on their case. Third, it helps him to escape. He does not need to think about his dangerous escape from Iran, nor about his grandparents whom he left behind.
Since the film was made, Ali's story has turned out well. He represented the Netherlands abroad at the 2003 European and World Boys Under 14 Championships, achieving a FIDE rating of 2229.
Ali Bitalzadeh - Mart Jurcik
European Boys Under 14 Championship, Budva, Yugoslavia, Round 4, 2003.09.16
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 Nc6 8. Qd2 Bd7 9. O-O-O Rc8 10. g4 Ne5 11. Kb1 Nc4 12. Bxc4 Rxc4 13. h4 h5 14. g5 Nh7 15. Nd5 O-O 16. b3 Rc8 17. c4 Bc6 18. Nc3 Qa5 19. Nd5 Qd8 20. f4 e6 21. Nc3 Qa5 22. Nxc6 bxc6 23. Na4 Qa6 24. Qxd6 Rb8 25. Kc2 Rfc8 26. Bd4 Bxd4 27. Rxd4 Qa5 28. Qc5 Qa6 29. Rhd1 Nf8 30. Rd6 Qb7 31. Nc3 Qc7 32. Ne2 Rb6 33. Nd4 Ra6 34. a4 Rb6 35. a5 Ra6 36. b4 Kh7 37. Nf3 Qb7 38. Ne5 Kg8 39. Rd8 Rxd8 40. Rxd8 1-0
This article was originally published in Scarborough Community of Toronto Chess News & Views, Volume 6, No. 2, 2004.10.01.