Anand to match wits with Aamir, Chahal

India may be ranked fourth in the world and may boast World beaters like Anand and Koneru Humpy, but when it comes to marketing the sport, there is room for improvement.

"I am looking forward to the event, which I expect will be a lot of fun,” Anand told Sportstar." (File Photo)   -  GETTY IMAGES

Viswanathan Anand, Aamir Khan and Yuzvendra Chahal have something in common: love of chess.

Anand is, of course, one of the greatest players the game of chess has ever seen. Chahal may be known more for his googlies- he is a former National age-group champion in the mind sport, though and Aamir for his method acting in Bollywood blockbusters. But on Sunday, the duo will take on the five-time World champion in chess games online.

Aamir and Chahal are just two of the celebrities who will play Anand on chess.com. Actor Riteish Deshmukh, singers Arijit Singh and Ananya Birla, film producer Sajid Nadiadwala and businessmen Nikhil Kamath and Manu Kumar Jain would also take on Anand in the series of matches that will be streamed live on YouTube, from 5 p.m. on Sunday.

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They are coming together to raise funds for COVID-19 relief. “I am looking forward to the event, which I expect will be a lot of fun,” Anand told Sportstar. “I also hope we will be able to raise good money.”

He is delighted with the response from the celebrities. “I have played with Aamir in another exhibition match six years ago, and I found him a good player who is not going to drop anything in a hurry,” he said. “Chahal would be a stronger opponent as he used to be a tournament player.”

The wrist-spinner is one of the three FIDE-rated players in the event. Ananya and Nikhil are the others.

"The proceeds from this event will go mainly to Akshaya Patra Foundation,” said Rakesh Kulkarni, director of chess.com (India). “We are also supporting the AICF’s COVID-19 fund. We were all pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response we received from the celebrities when we approached them with the idea of a game Anand.”

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The initiative will, no doubt, help chess move further into the mainstream in the country. Chess is probably the only sport that has grown hugely in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic. For, you can play in high-quality chess tournaments online.

“After India won the online Chess Olympiad, which was staged on chess.com last year, we have noticed a spurt in interest in chess,” said Rakesh. “And we hope chess will reach even more people with these games featuring celebrities on Sunday.”

Chess certainly has the potential to be even more popular in the country. India may be ranked fourth in the world and may boast World beaters like Anand and Koneru Humpy, but when it comes to marketing the sport, there is room for improvement.

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