Diplomats Test Togyzkumalak Skills at Tournament in Astana

ASTANA – The halls of a hotel venue in Astana echoed rich diplomatic discourse and the click of stones on wooden boards on May 21 as diplomats gathered for a togyzkumalak tournament. This traditional Kazakh game, often likened to chess for its deep strategic elements, became the focus of an event celebrating cultural heritage and international diplomacy.

Director of the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Center (ICCR) Sanjay Vedi and Maciej Adam Madalinski, Head of Political, Press and Information Section at the EU Delegation in Kazakhstan. Photo credit: ICCR

The World Togyzkumalak Federation organized the event in the run-up to the World Nomad Games scheduled for September in Astana, where togyzkumalak is one of the 21 types of sports featured. 

Trainers gave additional lessons to the diplomatic corps representatives who wanted to participate in the competition. Along with diplomats, masters and world champions in togyzkumalak also tested their skills. 

“This event was organized in support of the World Nomad Games. We invited all diplomatic missions,” said Vice President of the World Togyzkumalak Federation Maksat Ramankulov in a comment for this story.

World Togyzkumalak Federation President Alikhan Baimenov and member of the Mazhilis Murat Abenov. Photo credit: Abenov’s Facebook account

He said the preparation for the World Nomad Gomas is in full swing. More than 80 countries confirmed their participation in the grand event. 

“Our federation concluded a memorandum with the Directorate of the World Nomad Games. Now, our federation will be responsible for an intellectual block of the games. In this block, there are three nomad board games. Togyzkumalak is the main one, then comes mangala of Turkiye [a traditional Turkish mancala game] and oware of West Africa,” he explained. 

He added that these games have been included in all World Nomad Games. 

“Many events and tournaments are held now in the support of the World Nomad Games. We plan a tournament among all deputies of all levels, starting from maslikhats [local representative bodies] to Mazhilis [lower chamber of the Kazakh Parliament] and Senate [upper chamber of the Kazakh Parliament]. We will hold a qualifying tournament and the final is scheduled for Aug. 28 in Astana. There are many such events to be held in such a format,” he said. 

He recalled that in 2020, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) inscribed togyzkumalak on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

According to Ramankulov, as of today, togyzkumalak is played in 30 countries worldwide, and the official federation is in place in more than five countries. 

“Other countries have national sports federations where togyzkumalak is featured. They always participate in world championships, Asian championships, and others,” he said. 

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