For Siamak Tari, one of the reasons for fleeing his homeland was the chance to play chess again. Tari, born in Tehran, left Iran in 1986, travelling first to Turkey and then after much effort, securing a passage to Norway.
The 52-year-old Siamak was a budding chess player during his student days at the University of Tehran. However, after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the new regime banned chess and Siamak says the next seven years were perhaps the most difficult in his life. It was then that he decided that the moment he got out of his country, he would teach his children chess. After being granted asylum in Norway, Siamak studied computer engineering and then managed to land a job with an energy company. Soon after, he began teaching chess to his elder son Abtin, but it has been his younger son who has put a broad smile on Siamak’s face.
Aryan, who is currently playing in the World Junior Chess Championship in Pune, is being touted as the next Magnus Carlsen. The 15-year-old youngster became an International Master (IM) last year and has already attained one Grand Master norm. Interestingly, Aryan managed to secure his first GM norm without earning a single IM norm following a great run in the Norwegian national championship in early 2013.
Siamak says though he had never imagined his son to be a chess prodigy, he will be more than happy if his son takes up chess full-time. “I started teaching Abtin when he was eight. Aryan would be perched on the arm of my chair, watching the board intently. One day I found him playing with himself, and that was the beginning,” Siamak says.
Aryan says he found the movement of the pieces on the chessboard quite fascinating and once he had learned the basics, his only goal was to beat his father. “I played everyday, almost every hour because I only wanted to beat my father. I managed that after two years and that desperation to beat my father perhaps kicked off my liking of the game,” he says.
Having set Oslo’s chess scene on fire after a wondrous debut when he was nine, Aryan has steadily climbed up the ranks. He became the Norwegian under-20 champion when he was just 13 and finished last year’s Norwegian national championship at seventh place. After he defeated Grand Master Jon Ludvig Hammer, Norway’s second-best chess player after Carlsen, Aryan was invited to a series of discussion with the world chess champion himself.
“I was quite scared about what to say to the world champion. All through the first meeting, my only concern was that I should not say something stupid,” he says with an impish smile. Since that meeting though, the 23-year-old Carlsen has been providing intermittent advice to the chess whizkid. “He has spoken to me about being mentally strong and also playing in tournaments where almost everyone is rated higher than me. When I go back home I will show him my games and would like to know what he thinks,” Aryan says.