At the gym of Chennai’s Leela Palace the other day, B. Adhiban ran into one of his favourite actors, Sivakarthikeyan. The Chennai-based Grandmaster requested for a selfie with the Tamil film star, who obliged.
When this correspondent met Adhiban for an interview on the final day of the 44th Chess Olympiad, it was the amiable Grandmaster who was constantly being mobbed for selfies. He obliged every single one of them.
“It is a nice feeling being recognised like this,” he tells Sportstar on the day he became the only Indian player to have won a team medal at the Olympiad twice. In 2014, he was part of the team that won the first ever medal at Tromso, Norway.
When he met Sivakarthikeyan, his India 2 teammate R. Praggnandhaa was also with him. “Sivakarthikeyan recognised Pragg,” he says. “That shows chess is getting more popular.”
The past fortnight at Four Points by Sheraton alone will tell you as much. The Indian players were being cheered, mobbed by fans and chased by cameras.
“People ask me and other Indian players if there was pressure playing here at home in Chennai,” says Adhiban. “I rather enjoy playing in front of so many supporters.”
And he is delighted that the Indian players did well and made the fans happy. “Of course, it would have been happier if we won gold instead of bronze – and we came very close -- but it would have been very disappointing if we didn’t win any medal,” he says. “A lot of hard work and money has gone into hosting this Olympiad so we are all happy that we gave everyone something to cheer about.”
Adhiban is also glad that the Tamil Nadu government announced a gift of Rs. 1 crore each for his team and the India 1 women’s team, which also won the bronze. “Our chess players have done the country proud before too, but this is the time we are being recognised like this,” he says. “Rs. 1 crore is a lot of money, but what is even more important that we are being recognised like the champions from other sports.”
Both the Indian teams were felicitated by the Tamil Nadu government at a function on Wednesday. “It was nice that we were being honoured like that,” he says. “And we were happy to hear from a government official saying that more would be done for chess.”
Looking back at his team’s campaign, he said the team was confident of a good show. “I was very happy to be part of this dynamic young Indian team,” says the 29-year-old, whose teammates were all teenagers. “D. Gukesh was phenomenal on the top board and Nihal Sarin was so solid on the second. Pragg was consistent and I think Raunak Sadhwani will become an even stronger player after his superb performance here.”