On Sunday morning of December 26th at 6:58am, the Indian Ocean floor cracked as a result of a powerful earthquake that registered 9.0 on the Richter scale (the instrument for measuring seismic activity). This alone was one of the most powerful earthquakes in history, but it would only be a prelude for the disaster that was to come. Two hours later, a "tsunami" lifted majestically from the depths of the ocean and mesmerized its unsuspecting onlookers. As wave drew nearer to the coast (at 500 miles per hour), this spectacle transformed into a powerful force equivalent to a million atomic bombs (by some estimates) and destroyed everything in its path.
The 40-foot wave of destruction spanned a dozen countries (Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, the Maldives, the Seychelles, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania). In seeing the unimaginable devastation and grief of thousands of people, I immediately thought about the welfare of the friendly Sri Lankans whom I had met only two months earlier at the Chess Olympiad in Mallorca, Spain. I also thought of New-York based Sunil Weeramantry and sent him well-wishes for his family in Sri Lanka.
After continuing to think of my acquaintances in Sri Lanka, I e-mailed Derrick Perera (FIDE General Secretary for the Asian Region). After that I went to the website of the Anatoly Karpov Chess Club in Sri Lanka. I learned about this site from Vineetha Wijesuriya, the women's team captain. There were wonderful pictures on the chess site and everyone was wearing such bright smiles… the same smiles I remembered from Mallorca. Such warmth… such pride!
Ironically, I began to think how chess had become so insignificant in the past few days as the death toll keeps climbing… 13,000… 23,000… 55,000… 60,000… and now over 100,000. As I sit down to work on The Chess Drum each day, I cannot not stop thinking about a special photograph I took of the Sri Lanka women's team in Mallorca. At this point, I do not know of the welfare of these chess players, but it is my sincere prayer that they can once again wear the smiles that warmed my heart in Mallorca.
Dr. Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum