Qaddafi Plays Chess While Rebels Press On

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Yes, Muammar Qaddafi's regime is beset by NATO airstrikes and battling the Libyan rebels in three areas--Zawiya, Misurata, and Zintan--that are critical to Tripoli's defense. But, as The New York Times notes today, Qaddafi and his aides are still brimming with confidence, at least publicly, that they can "outlast NATO and the rebels" and emerge from the conflict with Qaddafi still in power. As an example, the Times points to the fact that, over a game of chess broadcast on Libyan state television on Sunday, Qaddafi told the visiting head of the World Chess Federation, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, that he had no intention of leaving Libya. 

While the chess match may provide insight into Qaddafi's state of mind, it also has revealed that Qaddafi is a very bad chess player. The AP notes that the Libyan leader "seemed somewhat unsure of how the game is played" and Ilyumzhinov himself declared that Qaddafi is "of course weaker, much weaker than me ... just an enthusiast who knows where to put the pieces and do a child's play checkmate," according to AFP (this view is not universally held; when the BBC reported on Libya hosting the World Chess Championships in 2004, it described Qaddafi as a "calculating player"). Ilyumzhinov, who was visiting Libya as part of an effort to promote chess in Africa, said he had no reservations about meeting with Qaddafi, whom he thanked for spreading the game in the country. He added that Qaddafi's son, Muhammad is a "serious" chess player (unlike his father, presumably) "who knows the theory of chess." The Guardian tells us that Ilyumzhinov and Qaddafi met for about two hours and used the chess opening known as Sicilian Defense, which Gawker notes is considered "combative." Rather than overpower Qaddafi, Ilyumzhinov offered the Libyan leader a draw, which he readily accepted. Footage of the match begins about a little over a minute into this clip:

Recommended Reading

The Libyan rebels, meanwhile, say they've obtained information from a senior Libyan official on Qaddafi's strategy off the chess board, in the form of a 15-page battle plan to rid Misurata of "militant gangs" and "mercenary elements" by attacking the city from six different directions with 11,350 fighters. A rebel spokesman tells CNN, which hasn't independently verified the document's authenticity, that the Libyan regime altered its battle plan when it learned that the document had fallen into rebel hands. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.