Expo in Dubai: memories of the future

By Sergio Negri

The International Chess Federation (FIDE) officially announced that the match for the world championship that will face the current holder of the world, the Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, with the winner of the Candidates Tournament that is expected to take place in Yekaterinburg (Russia) from 15 In March, it will be hosted by the city of Dubai (United Arab Emirates) as of November 2021, within the framework of Expo 2020 (its original opening date postponed due to the effects of the pandemic).

Expo Dubai

This news, from a personal point of view, in addition to provoking the logical expectations for what could happen in the sporting field, refers to memories, taking into account the place and the circumstances where the competition will take place.

In the trips that in recent years, since 2013, I was able to make to the East, following the xiang-qi and chaturanga routes, arriving by the Emirates airline, the modern and imposing city of Dubai has always been transformed into an ideal platform for a search that had as its axis the genesis of chess. Dubai, then, became, by the recurrence of its visit, a recognizable and friendly place for someone from the far away city of Buenos Aires.

Being a fascinating city, with a very interesting cultural dynamic, in which Muslim traditions are combined with the multicultural contributions of those who work there or visit it as tourists from anywhere in the world, there is much that could be said about the site. But in these circumstances, just a reminder is enough: there I was able to appreciate the gestation of his Museum of the Future which, according to the definition of Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is proof that “Humanity is capable of building a tomorrow best”.

This apparent paradox, that of linking the idea of ​​the Museum, which usually refers to the past, defining that its vision in this case is strictly considered towards the future, can only be assumed and settled, without any additional explanation, in a city that, by design, infinity is proposed as a limit, and whose mentors evidently pretend to embrace the idea of ​​the future in advance.

Indeed, Dubai, despite the desert that looms behind it, has a very modern urban design that stretches along its coast and, especially, rising high (as evidenced by the presence of the tallest building of the world). And that powerful modernity is an invitation from the present to imagine the scenario of what will inevitably come.

Is there another place on the planet where that great idea is raised, that a Museum should not necessarily be oriented to what was, but to what is yet to come?

If we do not think that things necessarily occur in a temporal vector that goes from back to front, as some philosophers and scientists dare to suggest, we could come to the conclusion that the circumstance that the past is before the future is only one convention and not a fate. In Dubai they seem to know this perfectly well. And they want to show it to the world.

This Museum of the Future, which is part of a seven-story building built in stainless steel and adorned with backlit Arabic calligraphy, will be, from the formal opening of Expo 2020, one of the attractions of the city.

Museum of the Future in Dubai

But the aforementioned FIDE announcement summons other memories. Some that, more conventionally, is linked to the past of chess. Dubai will not be the first time that a meeting of the highest level of our game has been associated with an Exhibition on a universal scale. Quite the opposite.

In the 19th century, when the matches for the world crown had not yet been established, there were three highly outstanding chess tournaments that took place in events of this nature.

The first occasion on which this occurred in 1851 in London, on the occasion of the Great Exhibition (of the Works of the Industry of All Nations, according to its broad name), which took place in the capital of the British Empire between the May 1st. and October 15, a time in which the values ​​and technical prodigies associated with the Industrial Revolution had to be brought to public consideration.

The imposing building of the Crystal Palace, made of cast iron and glass, was the stage set up to show a country, and exhibit the scope of a model that, as always happens in every time, believed that its own limit was the one that proposed by their promoters.

Photo: Crystal Palace

In this context, the Tournament is organized that will see the German Adolf Anderssen (1818-1879) consecrate himself, to the disappointment of the local fans, who would certainly have wanted the Englishman Howard Staunton (1810-1874) to ratify his power exhibited in the decade previous. With that victory of the chess player born in Breslau (now Wroclaw in Poland), a virtual paradox arose: a representative of the romantic style of the game was to win at a time when a greater technological rationalism was beginning to predominate.

The second opportunity in which this phenomenon of association of a great chess competition with a World Expo was verified in 1867 in Paris, between April 1st. and October 31, when the City of Light hosted another Universal Exhibition, with which they wanted to demonstrate the greatness of the Second French Empire.

Photo: Exposition en Paris, 1867

At that time a test was made where the triumph of Ignác Kolisch (1837-1889), someone who retired from chess early (when he had a fortunate future), to dedicate himself to his personal business (with which he will have to be very successful and that will allow him to be a patron of his favorite game), the Slovak being ahead of the Polish Szymon Winawer (1838-1919) and a great figure that was emerging: the Prague-born Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900). This, in the end, from 1886, will have to become the first world chess champion in history, inaugurating a list that today has Carlsen in the highest chair.

Again in the French capital, and always in the context of another World Expo, those with which Humanity seeks to demonstrate the greatest advances in science, technology and knowledge, now held between May 1st and 10 November 1878, a tournament will be held that will have the characteristic of being the first intercontinental (with the participation of two North American players), in which the aforementioned Winawer and his compatriot Johannes Zukertort (1842-1888) will win, in the presence of a declining Anderssen (he will die the following year) and with the absence of Steinitz.

Photo: Expo Paris, 1878

A great deal of water has flowed under the bridge since those 19th century competitions associated with Universal Expositions. Now, settled that we are in a third millennium, in which the pandemic raises permanent concerns associated with fears of disease and death, in Dubai, as appropriate, as always possible (as soon as we propose it), just look ahead.

Making available a reward of two million euros in prizes, the United Arab Emirates will organize, between November 24 and December 16, 2021, the match for the world chess title, with Carlsen as one of its protagonists.

There is another point that should not fail to be mentioned: it is very emblematic that Spain, when designing the architectural pavilion that it will present at Expo 2020, had chosen chess images, with which it wanted to reinforce the Arab-Hispanic link, a vector that connected, among other elements of the cultural baggage, the shatranj with the European chess.

Photo: Spain´s stand at Expo Dubai

After the entry of that proto-chess to Europe (and the Iberian Peninsula in particular) in the Middle Ages, there will be a time when the game spread, grew and acquired a modern form, already towards the end of that era and the beginning of the following, in a prototype that, with some minor subsequent changes, will determine the chess that survives to this day.

Dubai, then, is the city that will host Expo 2020. There, iconically, stands the Museum of the Future, a remarkable evidence that, instead of paralyzing us in the gazes oriented to the past, or in pitying ourselves in the anguish of the present, it is always possible to bow to what is to come.

The city, in its very modern Dubai Exhibition Center, will witness at the end of 2021 the maximum chess event, which, of course, awakens expectations and memories. More precisely, it should be said that it summons some good Memories of the future.

©ALS, 2021

Se puede acceder a la versión en español de esta nota desde https://ajedrezlatitudsur.wordpress.com/2021/01/29/el-campeonato-mundial-de-ajedrez-2021-en-dubai-recuerdos-del-futuro/.


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