The growth and development of chess players | So Good News


Young stars now dream of making it big in chess, which was not the case before.

Young stars now dream of making it big in chess, which was not the case before.

As soon as I landed at the Chennai airport, I was greeted by the mascot of the 44th Chess Olympiad, Thambi. Dressed in a white dhoti and shirt, he welcomed every passenger from the blue warehouse with open palms. I met him a few times when I was driving to Mamallapuram, the beautiful venue of the Olympics. With over 1,700 players from 186 countries participating, the world’s most prestigious team chess competition created a huge buzz. It is getting the attention it deserves from the public and media in India. This might be the biggest chess event for India, but there have been big events like the 2000 and 2013 world championships. However, these events did not capture the imagination of the public like the Olympics.

Viswanathan Anand was the common feature of both the events. I remember the frenzy it created at the Hyatt Regency in Delhi more than two decades ago. I saw how much he meant to Indian chess fans. This was my second meeting with him. I was not a journalist when I met him for the first time. I was one of the players in the Kerala Junior Chess Championship at Pala. He came to celebrate after winning the 1987 World Youth Championship; It was a turning point in his career and for Indian chess.

When Anand played Magnus Carlsen at home, 13 years after his first title, media interest in chess increased significantly. I remember interacting with members of a particularly large contingent from Norway at the Hyatt Regency in Chennai, who did not want to miss out on being crowned their first world champion. Carlsen did not disappoint them. Now it is back in Chennai and is one of the biggest attractions of the Olympics. It came shortly after he gave up his five consecutive world titles due to a lack of motivation.

Quick steps

Since Carlsen’s last visit, the interest in chess in India has grown even more. Live streaming of chess tournaments, quick moves of the game during the pandemic (which is suitable for the virtual world), India winning the online chess olympiad with Russia, the popularity of the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit, which took the game into the mainstream, and the emergence of a fabulous group of teenagers ready to take over the world are contributing factors to this phenomenon. Anand mentoring youngsters is good news for Indian chess. Young stars like R. Pragnanandhaa, Arjun Erigaisi, Nihal Sarin, D. Gukesh and Raunak Sadhwani can now dream of making chess really big, which was never the case before.

An anecdote illustrates this well. In the early days of his career, Anand was traveling on a train when a fellow passenger struck up a conversation with him. “What will you do?” asked Anand. “I play chess,” said Anand. Passenger: “But what are you going to do?” – he insisted. And he replied: “I play chess.” The man said, “Who do you think you are? Viswanathan Anand?’

Another Indian star of that time also had to answer a difficult question when he met someone as a chess player. “Singles or pairs?” people want to know. Today’s chess star may not have experienced such events.

Indian chess education has come a long way since then. People know that there are great opportunities for a talented child. That is why parents take their children to chess lessons and make huge sacrifices. For example, at a tournament many years ago, I met a gentle man who told me that he had quit his teaching job to focus on his daughter’s chess career. Today, she is the strongest female player at the Chennai Chess Olympiad. And you guessed it right: it’s Koneru Humpi.

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