In November all eyes will be on Chennai
Anand won his maiden World title in Teheran in 2000 and has successfully defended it four times, in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Yes, he should have got a chance to defend his title at home much earlier than this, but the chess administrators of this country were not bothered about it, as he played the World championship finals in Mexico, Germany, Bulgaria and Russia. By P. K. Ajith Kumar.
When Viswanathan Anand comes to Chennai in the latter part of this year from his base in Spain, it will not be just another homecoming. This time around, his visit would not just be all about spending time with his parents and relatives and catching up with old friends. There would also be this little matter of defending a World title.
From November 6 to 26, Anand, the reigning World champion, will compete with Norway’s Magnus Carlsen for the ultimate crown in chess. Though he has played several finals of the World championship since 1995, when he took on Garry Kasparov in New York, this is the first time that he would play such a prestigious match before his own countrymen.
Anand won his maiden World title in Teheran in 2000 and has successfully defended it four times, in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Yes, he should have got a chance to defend his title at home much earlier than this, but the chess administrators of this country were not bothered about it, as he played the World championship finals in Mexico, Germany, Bulgaria and Russia.
The All India Chess Federation (AICF) could claim credit for bringing the match to India at least now. It is after all better late than never. The AICF officials have to thank the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa for the role she played in getting Chennai the match.
Now it is up to the AICF to ensure that it gets the maximum out of the November match. If ever there is an opportunity to take chess to the masses of this country, this is it.
If properly marketed, chess could take off in India in a big way with the World championship. “I expect at least 500,000 new players of chess because of the World championship,” says Pravin Thipsay, one of India’s senior- most chess players. “The amount of interest that such a match generates would be huge. The AICF should ensure that the championship reaches all parts of the country, especially our schools.”
He believes the AICF could make use of the large number of Grandmasters and International Masters in India to make the game familiar to those uninitiated. “They could be roped in as commentators to explain the moves to schoolchildren and others,” Thipsay says. “The AICF has to change its mindset and include more players as administrators.”
In November all eyes of the chess world will be on Chennai. And it will be a huge media event too. Since Anand is playing, the Indian media too is sure to play it up. Chess should make the front page of our newspapers and it would also be there on the scroll of breaking news on television channels. The sport will receive the attention it deserves and that should help make India an even stronger nation in chess than it already is, as thousands of youngsters would be inspired to play the game. Just as Anand triggered, singlehandledly, a chess revolution in this country some two decades ago with his exploits.
India is ranked eighth in the world and besides Anand, there are other Indians in the top 100. Koneru Humpy is the World No. 3 and another Andhra girl, D. Harika is World No. 18 among the women. In the more competitive men’s list, Pendyala Harikrishna is ranked at 42 and Krishnan Sasikiran at 74.
These Indians hardly get to play in India, for there are no tournaments good enough for them to participate in. “Yes, the AICF should organise quality chess events in India so that our top players can compete with the best in the world,” says Thipsay. “Earlier, we used to have regular camps involving reputed trainers. I don’t know why we don’t have such camps now.”
All these years, Anand played just a handful of events in India — the World Candidates in Sanghi Nagar (Andhra) in 1994, the first part of the World championship in New Delhi in 1999 and the World Cup in 2002 in Hyderabad. He had once told this writer that he would have wanted to play more in India.
The AICF could make amends with the Chennai World championship. Why can’t there be a quality tournament involving Indian players like Humpy, Harikrishna and Sasikiran, along with some top international players, prior to the big event?
“Yes, such a tournament would be an ideal run-up to the World championship,” says Thipsay. “That is one of the ways to market a sport like chess.”
Could Chennai add more pressure to Anand?
“I hope it doesn’t,” says Thipsay. “I remember at Sanghi Nagar people used to stop him while he was walking to the venue and ask for autographs. Being such a nice man, he never refused anyone. And of course, he had lost to Gata Kamsky in that event after being in such a dominant position. Let us hope Anand will not be disturbed unduly in Chennai, though it is his hometown.”
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