Mir Sultan Khan, widely regarded as Asia’s best chess player, has been granted the title of Honorary Grandmaster by Federation Internationale des Echecs (FIDE) President Russia’s Arkady Dvorkovich. However, controversy has erupted over this decision as World Chess Federation has recognised Khan as Pakistan’s first grandmaster even though much of his sporting achievements came in pre-partition India.
Khan was born in 1903 and belonged to Sargodha what is now in the northeast of Pakistan. Among the highlights of his stellar chess career, Khan managed to clinch the British Chess Championship in 1929, 1931 and 1932. He went on to represent England thrice at the Chess Olympiad, famously beating former world champion Jose Raul Capablanca besides some of the famous names in chess like Savielly Tartakower and Frank Marshall, even managing to secure a draw against Max Euwe and Alexander Alekhine.
The decision to grant Sultan Khan the title of Grandmaster has drawn mixed reactions. While it is being celebrated in Pakistan, others reckon that to attribute the chess player’s success to Pakistan is not quite accurate as much of his achievements including the British Chess Championship victories came before the nation was formed.
‘Decision Not One Of Merit But A Matter Of Political Favours’: Scottish GM Jacob Aagaard
Scottish GM Jacob Aagaard put forth his opinion on the same. He took to X (formerly Twitter) to react to the development.
“How should we react to this? Mr Khan has a big name in chess and no one would disagree with this decision on merit. He is remembered fondly despite his short career,” he wrote.
How should we react to this? Mr Khan has a big name in chess and no one would disagree with this decision on merit. He is remembered fondly despite his short career.
But this decision is not one of merit, but a matter of political favours. I have no idea if FIDE is genuinely… https://t.co/54NgqM92hb
— GM Jacob Aagaard (@GMJacobAagaard) February 5, 2024
“But this decision is not one of merit, but a matter of political favours. I have no idea if FIDE is genuinely wanting to promote chess in Pakistan (a worthy goal) or to be soft Russian diplomats. I fear the latter is inescapable for Dvorkovich. While I don’t believe this is what he started out to be, it is clearly part of what FIDE is now under his leadership.” he added.