Netflix series inspires Saudis to check out chess

Netflix series inspires Saudis to check out chess
Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit. (Phil Bray/Netflix)
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Updated 17 December 2020

Netflix series inspires Saudis to check out chess

Netflix series inspires Saudis to check out chess
  • ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ is on the top of most-watched shows in KSA

JEDDAH: Droves of Saudis playing card and board games to beat the boredom of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdowns have been making the move over to chess, inspired by a new Netflix series.  

Carrom, Sequence, Uno, and Baloot were among the main home entertainment options at the start of the pandemic but the popularity of historical drama “The Queen’s Gambit” has recently seen fans checking out the age-old strategy board game.

The mini-series tells the story of orphan Beth Harmon who discovers and masters chess in 1960s America. But child stardom comes at a price for the young introvert.

Arab News spoke to Saudis who had either returned to, or taken up, playing chess as a result of being influenced by the TV drama.

Industrial engineer, Manaf Alam, 25, has played chess for four years after learning the game at university.

“Chess is a slow game and has a lot of different tactics to it. It makes you think in a different way; it makes you think two steps ahead of your opponent,” he said, adding that being social was a significant part of Saudi culture evidenced in the games they chose to play.

“People here like strategy games such as Baloot. Saudis have a different mentality to people from other countries. They appreciate games that have tricks in them.” 

Saudi psychology student, Raana Marghalani, 20, became interested in learning chess after watching “The Queen’s Gambit.”

She said: “When I play chess, I feel like I’m in control of everything. My next move also depends on my opponent’s moves.

“It has taught me how to deal with people depending on their reaction, and the plans you have. Chess isn’t like any other game. It has special openings and plans. I read so much about it.”

The 1/15 Neighborhood Cafe in Jeddah has become a popular meeting venue for chess players.

Yemeni product owner, Alawi Al-Jifri, 28, said he noticed visitors playing chess two months ago when Netflix aired “The Queen’s Gambit.”

He first played the game at the age of nine but stopped for more than 10 years before getting back into it two years ago. 

BACKGROUND

Carrom, Sequence, Uno, and Baloot were among the main home entertainment options at the start of the pandemic but the popularity of historical drama “The Queen’s Gambit” has recently seen fans checking out the age-old strategy board game.

“When I started coming to this cafe 14 to 15 months ago there wasn’t a chessboard to be seen. One of the customers brought their own chess set in and I started playing for two days in a row, so I asked them to keep it here so everyone could play. They agreed and we started playing.

“Now everyone is playing chess. Even those who don’t know how to play the game are interested in it,” he added.

Saudi electrical and computer engineer, Ibrahim Al-Muslim, 29, has been playing chess since he was 10 years old. He said Arabs had a competitive personality and enjoyed a good challenge.

“In general, we like to overcome challenges and Arabs are thinkers and are smart. They like to challenge themselves whether in games or at work and they develop strategic thinking fast,” he added.

“The Queen’s Gambit” is currently No. 1 on the top 10 list of most-watched Netflix shows in Saudi Arabia. Set during the Cold War era, it revolves around Harmon who struggles with addiction in her quest to become the greatest chess player in the world.

Last year, the first Hail International Rapid Chess Championship was held with more than 200 players from 17 countries taking part in the four-day tournament.


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Saudi Arabia announces winners of the National Cultural Awards initiative

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Updated 57 min 13 sec ago

Saudi Arabia announces winners of the National Cultural Awards initiative

Saudi Arabia announces winners of the National Cultural Awards initiative

DUBAI: The Governor of Riyadh, Prince Faisal bin Bandar, awarded on Monday the winners of the National Cultural Awards initiative during the closing ceremony at the Culture Palace in the Diplomatic Quarter in Riyadh.

Sheikh Muhammad bin Nasser Al-Aboudi was awarded the Cultural Personality of the Year award due to his literary career across multiple fields. His son Khalid bin Muhammad Al-Aboudi received the award on his behalf.

Meanwhile, the Youth Cultural award went to film director Shahad Ameen for her exceptional contributions to the industry.

The Vice Minister of Culture Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez, who attended the ceremony, praised the Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman for Vision 2030, which said “restored culture as a fundamental pillar in building society and a basis for the national identity.”

“Culture, with its civilizational, social and developmental value, has now been given its rightful place thanks to Saudi Arabia's inspiring and ambitious Vision 2030,” he said, referring to it as the “manifestation of pride in the history and civilization of the Kingdom.”

The National Cultural Awards initiative, according to Fayez, will contribute to cultural development, support intellectuals and appreciate their cultural achievements.

“These awards, with their moral and materialistic value, come in recognition of the outstanding efforts made by local creatives in various cultural fields,” he added.

 The initiative included 14 cultural awards:

Cultural Personality of the Year Award

Youth Cultural Award

Cultural Institutions Award

Film Award

Fashion Award

Music Award

National Heritage Award

Literature Award

Theater and Performing Arts Award

Visual Arts Award

Architecture and Design Award

Culinary Arts Award

Publishing Award

Translation Award


King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

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Updated 20 April 2021

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

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RIYADH: King Salman has authorized SR 1.9 billion to be paid to Saudis who receive social security benefits, Al Ekhbariya reported early Tuesday.
Ahmed Suleiman Al-Rajhi, the minister of human resources and social development, welcomed the king’s generous support to citizens during the holy month of Ramadan. 
The announcement came as Saudis prepare to fast for the eight day.


Saudi deputy defense minister receives British PM's envoy

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Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi deputy defense minister receives British PM's envoy

Saudi deputy defense minister receives British PM's envoy

Saudi Arabia's deputy defense minister Prince Khalid bin Salman recieved special envoy to UK’s PM for the Arabian Gulf, Edward Lister.
They reviewed the “strong cooperation between our two friendly countries, especially in the defense,” Prince Khalid tweeted early on Tuesday.
“We reemphasized the importance of our partnership in preserving regional stability&security,” he added.


Saudi authorities intensify efforts to curb virus

Saudi authorities intensify efforts to curb virus
The Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques has launched a new initiative to transport the elderly and people with disabilities using golf carts within the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)
Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi authorities intensify efforts to curb virus

Saudi authorities intensify efforts to curb virus
  • 970 new cases reported amid crackdown on violators

RIYADH: Amid a rise in the daily tally of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Kingdom, authorities have expedited their efforts to ensure compliance with health precautions.

The Ministry of Health on Monday announced 970 new cases in the Kingdom with the Riyadh region on top with 438 infections.
The Makkah region followed with 227, the Eastern Province reported 131, and the Madinah region reported 37 new cases. The regions with the lowest number of cases are Najran (8), Al-Jouf (4), and Al-Baha (3).
The total number of cases in the Kingdom has gone up to 405,940 now. With 896 new recoveries, the number of people who recovered from the disease has risen to 389,598 since the beginning of the outbreak.
The ministry also reported 11 new deaths due to COVID-19.
The number of active cases in the Kingdom currently stands at 9,508 with 1,087 of those cases in critical condition. According to Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammad Al-Abd Al-Aly, over half of those cases are people above the age of 60.
The Kingdom is vaccinating its population against COVID-19 at a rate of approximately 1.44/second, or 124,661 each day. Currently, over 7 million vaccines have been administered, with the number standing at 7,280,904.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The number of active cases in the Kingdom currently stands at 9,50 8.

• The ministry also reported 11 new deaths due to COVID-19.

• The Riyadh region reported the highest number of cases on Monday.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs on Monday said that in the last 11 weeks, its special teams carried out more than 230,000 inspection tours to various mosques in the Kingdom to ensure that safety measures are followed.
It said a total of 143 violations were detected and necessary actions were taken to address the issue and penalize the violators.
Taif municipality also reportedly carried out over 2,600 inspection tours of commercial establishments during Ramadan. The municipality’s field teams targeted locations projected to see high activity during Ramadan, such as restaurants, bakeries, buffets, and Arabic sweets shops.
Meanwhile, field teams in Jeddah also cracked down on violators, closing 36 locations for failing to adhere to anti-COVID guidelines. Jeddah municipality announced that its teams had carried out 4,049 field trips in 19 sub-municipalities and 15 governorate municipalities. Similarly, in Tabuk, 58 commercial establishments were closed for not implementing anti-virus measures.