Toledo Trojansâ Grandmaster Amir Bagheri: Mastering the most out of life
Toledo City Trojans Iranian Grandmaster Amir Bagheri

Toledo Trojans’ Grandmaster Amir Bagheri: Mastering the most out of life

Rick Olivares (Philstar.com) - June 15, 2021 - 11:11am

MANILA, Philippines – The figure of speech “a jack of all trades, master of none” has come to rest at the feet of the Toledo City Trojans Iranian Grandmaster Amir Bagheri.

It sounds obvious that it is wrong as there is the word “master” affixed to “grand” indicating he is one of chess’ elite. The crème dela crème. And for sure, the 42-year-old from Tehran Iran is.

Aye. There’s the rub.

Bagheri isn’t just a Grandmaster at chess, but he is also a very good painter and he can make a case for being an excellent cook as well. He is a man of prodigious talents. 

“Interests,” he counters with a smile.

It’s a cool spring day in Nice, on the south east coast of France and not too far away from Monaco. It is a place that GM Amir calls home today.

It’s some 12 hours before he competes for the Trojans, who he has joined for the Wesley So Cup of the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines. He has time to relax, read some, cook, paint and then focus on the matches at hand.

Bagheri opens the window and a stone’s throw away is the Mediterranean Sea.

“This view helps relax my mind every day,” he says. “A calm mind is good for one’s disposition.”

It is a fair point when playing chess or even painting of which he has spent a lot of time in previous years.

“A calm demeanor helps your frame of mind and when thinking when the game is moving at a blitz or rapid pace.”

Amir was 10 years old when he made the old timers and masters in a nearby chess park in Tehran sit up and take notice of the young pup.

Bagheri learned the game by watching, learning and anticipating. 

“If you play this move you will win in three moves,” he once offered to a wizened master of the game. The elder grunted but did give it some thought.

It was a “eureka moment” when young Amir was proven right and then given a chance to play his elders. 

A child prodigy was born. Soon, he began to beat everyone. In the park. Visitors. And everyone in Tehran. One could sense Brad Pitt’s portrayal of Achilles in Troy challenging, “Is there anybody else?”

At 20, Bagheri initially wanted to go to university to take up engineering. Instead like the great Persian kings of old, he set out to conquering Europe (and later the United States) in pursuit of the “Grandmaster” title.

When he achieved his initial goal, Amir returned to Tehran to teach the game to young Iranian children. Soon, he craved for more. 

As a 10-year-old, Amir saw the chess board and all its myriad moves and possibilities. 

As a Grandmaster, he saw the world and what it had to offer. It imbued a nomadic spirit in the chess Grandmaster and he craved a renaissance.

“Chess teaches you to be patient,” Bagheri said of the time-honored benefit of the game. “Except, I wasn’t patient enough. I wanted to see what the world had to offer.”

During a vacation in Thailand, Amir was relaxing in a swimming pool and he found himself gazing at the sky and the jungle forest ahead.

“It was the first time I felt differently,” he bared. “I recognized that I was blind. I mean my eyes were fine eyesight-wise. What I mean is, I was enjoying nature’s colors in a different way.”

Bagheri then met Dariush Zhahedi who would eventually become his teacher and mentor in painting. “Dariush taught me how to appreciate the world around me and to paint what I see,” said Amir. “He never told me negative things. You can do this but never negative. He gave me courage and motivation. I appreciate him.”

Painting cured Amir of wanderlust. He buckled down to master the art and has since sold several dozen.

His new state of nirvana also allowed him to do even better on the chess board.

“Painting is not my profession just my love,” clarified Amir. “In chess, you think like a GM and play like a GM. In painting, your eye should become the master and then your hands. The same principle applies to chess.”

Since he moved to Nice, he has competed for the Monaco Chess Federation (he became the 2021 Monaco Rapid Chess Champion last Sunday, June 13). When the Toledo City Trojans came calling, he immediately said yes. His fond memories of Cebu (where Toledo is also located) made the decision easy.

“The Philippines is land of people of beautiful smiles. In Europe, people are more serious. Maybe it also has something to do with the weather. But the smiles... how can that not make you feel good?”

Since joining the Trojans, he has led them to fourth spot in the Southern Division standings with an 11-4 record (Amir himself has a 16-5-8 record thus far). 

“Of course, we hope to help our team even more.”

Just like that, it is almost time for lunch. And well, Bagheri will cook.

We did say he is also an excellent cook. Not a chef, but a cook. Although he knows that if he puts his mind to it, he can surely attain it.

“We just want to make the most out of this life,” he sums up.

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