The Ministry of Culture and Sports, in cooperation with the Prime Minister's Office, has announced that it will allocate NIS 1 million to establish chess clubs in communities in the north and south of the country and in "national priority" areas in 2012-2013. The decision effectively doubles the ongoing budget for the sport from the ministry and the Israel Sports Betting Board.
"We've already heard from people in Dimona who want to start a club," said Yoav Nissenbaum, head of marketing for the Israel Chess Federation. "There was a big budget shortfall, the issue was neglected. The decision is a happy one - it will provide a push. We feel the momentum from every direction. We've also had inquiries from Bat Yam and from Ariel. There's a buzz."
The FIDE World chess championship in Moscow, which ended last week when defending champion Viswanathan Anand beat Israel's Boris Gelfand in a nail-biting tie-breaker round of four games "has raised awareness," says Nissenbaum. "All of a sudden everyone is into chess."
The plan calls for approving applications for new chess clubs within two months. Each such club costs an estimated NIS 10,000 to NIS 20,000 to establish.
An additional amount of around NIS 1.2 million is to be allocated for the European Club Cup 2012 championship in Eilat in October. The tournament is considered one of the most prestigious of its kind, and around 80 teams from more than 50 countries are expected to compete.