Commonwealth Chess: Better days ahead

When the Commonwealth championship opens at the posh Leela Ambience Convention Hotel on Monday, for the first time, this annual event will see competitions held separately in 15 different categories.

Commonwealth Chess Association President Bharat Singh Chauhan has brought in several reforms in the Commonwealth championship beginning in New Delhi on Monday.   -  Special Arrangement

Finally, the long-standing anomalies in the format of the Commonwealth Chess Championship have been set right.

When the Commonwealth championship opens at the posh Leela Ambience Convention Hotel on Monday, for the first time, this annual event will see competitions held separately in 15 different categories.

In the past, the age-group players – from under-8 to under-20 were part of the open field. The players, wherever eligible, were asked to “opt” for the age-category they wished to be considered for prizes.

Until the late 1980s, the Commonwealth title was awarded to the player from a Commonwealth nation posting the highest score in the Lloyds Bank Masters in London. Later, India virtually monopolised the hosting of the event and went on to twist the championship norms to its convenience.

For instance, the title of the championship was changed to “Commonwealth chess championship incorporating International Open”. Here, players from non-Commonwealth countries were ineligible for the main title but were invited to meet the norm-stipulations as per the rules of the game.

The president of Commonwealth Chess Association (CCA) Bharat Singh Chauhan, elected for a second term as the secretary of the All India Chess Federation last week, strongly felt the need for corrective steps.

“Having played the game competitively, I saw the need to raise the profile of the event. I was aware that the format was being ridiculed. When I took charge, my resolve was also to see that there was more participation and quality hospitality to more players,” said Bharat reflecting on the issues that faced CCA.

“Frankly, many CCA members opposed the move because it added to the cost of organising the championship. For instance, from offering boarding and lodging to just two players from each country, to say
18-20 players from a country, the burden on the organiser increases manifold.

“Moreover, these days, premier chess events are held in four-star or five-star hotels and accordingly accommodation is provided,” said Chauhan, adding that getting the move approved in the Commonwealth
Chess Association (CCA) meeting was easy because of the trust reposed in him by the representatives of the member countries.

About the age-group competition, Chauhan admitted, “There was much confusion about the age-categories. It was grossly unfair to make an under-8 or under-10 child play in the open category. And there were issues over the age-group medals, too. I wanted a clear-cut regulation to end all confusion and debates.”

Interestingly, with the restructuring of the championship, CCA is set to make a plea in the World Chess Federation (FIDE) Congress this October to award direct titles (like International Master, FIDE Master etc.) for the champions in age-group category.

Clearly, better days are ahead of the Commonwealth chess fraternity.

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