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Sun 21 Jul 2019 08:26 AM

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Where are they now? Dubai's International Chess City

Dubai's International Chess City plans included building a series of towers in the shape of chessboard pieces

Where are they now? Dubai's International Chess City
Dubai's International Chess City was to cover an estimated 64,000 square metres and Ilumjinov claimed the project could generate investment of up to AED9.6 billion ($2.6 billion).

As part of our ongoing summer series, we will be looking back at some of the most colourful and extraordinary proposals pitched in Dubai and the wider region and investigating what happened to them.

Last week, we looked at plans for an underwater tennis stadium pitched by a Polish architect, Hollywood actor Brad Pitt’s ideas for a series of environmentally-friendly projects, a Swedish firm’s designs for a moving statue, a Chinese team’s ambitions for a globe-shaped, technologically-advanced neighbourhood and on Thursday we focused on a Hong Kong designer’s ambitions for a water park containing the world’s highest water slide and man-made waterfall.

Today we are focusing on one of my favourite of all the crazy projects from this era in Dubai’s history before the global financial crisis brought things back down to reality: International Chess City.

The project was the brainchild of Kirsan Ilumjinov, former president of the Russian republic of Kalmykia, who announced the project while on a visit to Dubai in August 2004.

According to a report by The Khaleej Times, the project was to include 32 buildings in the shape of pieces from a chessboard. The largest towers - in the shape of the king piece - would stand 64 storeys tall and the city's buildings would be marked out in the traditional black and white design of the board.

The entire city was to cover an estimated 64,000 square metres and Ilumjinov claimed the project could generate investment of up to AED9.6 billion ($2.6 billion).

Ilumjinov, who was also president of the World Chess Federation at the time, said he had picked Dubai as the location for the project because of the city’s “international reputation as a place where imaginative projects such as the International Chess City can come to life”.

“Dubai will play host to over 60 million amateur and professional chess followers from around the globe annually. They will have a permanent venue where they can congregate and play 24-hour championships throughout the year, while some other 500 million lovers of the game will have the chance to follow the excitement via interactive electronic screens,” he added.

While Ilumjinov claimed that work on the project was underway, nothing happened until the project was raised again in 2006, according to a 2015 article on the project by Esquire Middle East magazine.

Ilumjinov was president of the World Chess Federation from 1995 until he departed in 2018. 

“I am afraid I have no first-hand information about the chess city in Dubai,” a spokesperson for the World Chess Federation said when contacted by Arabian Business.

Early reports claimed that Dubai’s Armada Group had been involved in the project, but attempts to contact them have also proved fruitless.

Ilumjinov himself has not responded to attempts to contact him through his official website.

Coming up tomorrow: The underwater World Cup TV studio

Check out the other projects in the series:

Dubai’s underwater tennis stadium

Brad Pitt's eco-friendly Dubai projects

Dubai moving statue

Dubai Technosphere 

Dubai Heart Water Park Resort (below)

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