Chess player had a fierce intellect – By Tanveer Ahmed

Chess player had a fierce intellect – By Tanveer Ahmed

It was Raymond Chandler who said that chess was as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as an advertising agency. But to the greatest ever American exponent of the game, Bobby Fischer,chess was the most sophisticated representation of war and, much like art, an arena where the self found beauty and expression.

Mosaddeque Ali found his greatest artistic expression in the game of chess right to the end and died in his sleep after taking a quick nap to prepare his energies for another night of chess in a suburban Canberra competition. Like his Bangladeshi nickname, Biddut, which translates as lightning, his life ended dramatically and suddenly.

Ali was born in a ramshackle Bangladeshi hospital in Dhaka on October 5, 1971, during the civil war that split Pakistan and created Bangladesh. His parents were both mathematics graduates and his father was head of the 1970s version of the computer department for what was then the world’s biggest jute mill.

The family arrived to Australia in 1979 and lived in Sydney before moving to Canberra several years later. They were among the first Bangladeshi families to settle in the ACT.

Ali’s life threatened to take a different trajectory after he suffered his first epileptic fit in his early 20s and was placed on high doses of medication. Thereafter, for many years, he often appeared distant and sometimes drowsy, suffering the side effects of the strong medication.

He once had to be woken from a deep slumber so that he would make the wedding of his younger brother on time. He arose suddenly, splashed some water on his face, slipped on a black leather jacket and, voila, was dressed for the occasion.

Ali was known for being softly spoken and was easily underestimated. Behind his unimposing, but strong, physical presence was a fierce intellect that was consumed by the pursuit of excellence in chess and mathematics.

After completing an economics degree at ANU, he studied to become a teacher. Once he was better stabilised medically, he thrived amid opportunities aplenty. However, in spite of receiving attractive job offers as a teacher in Melbourne, he eschewed the individualism of his age and accepted a plea from his father to stay in the Canberra family home to better tend to ageing and potentially ill parents. As the first-born son, this was a culturally accepted obligation to which he submitted willingly. He was accompanied by his wife, Yasmin (nee Alam), whom he had married in 2003.

Ali was highly regarded on the national chess circuit and reached the level of a candidate master, collecting a bookcase full of trophies along the way.

He was president of the ACT chess body for several years and was a passionate, generous teacher of the game to younger generations.

Ali was known as an innovative and sometimes offbeat player, and was famous for playing the Bird opening and the French defence. One of his techniques, known as lines, was profiled in a prestigious chess publication after he defeated a top-ranked international player.

He could be seen teaching these techniques to his chess brethren all hours of the night in Gus’s cafe in the city centre of Canberra.

As a school teacher, he was known for his easy rapport with students and was interested in the minutiae of what made quality teaching in mathematics.

In his final position at Narrabundah College, the school added a role of informational technology teaching so that his continued employment could be approved by administration, such was the eagerness to maintain his services.

He was also known among his teaching colleagues for drinking up to 10 cups of coffee a day, his signature cup being a short black.

In spite of his sometimes unhealthy obsession for chess, Ali was a devoted family man and known to rush home from work to be with his wife and children. He was also a devout Muslim who was steadfast in his faith.

Mosaddeque Ali is survived by Yasmin and their children, Aaryan, Aisha and Aneesa.

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