Delhi International Open: Country’s richest chess event becomes richer

Free lodging is offered to over 1300 players and 20,000 cups of tea/coffee will be served every day over the course of the eight-day event.

The men behind the country's biggest chess event: (From left) Bharat Singh Chauhan (second from right) with Venue in-charge Shivakant Mishra, Tournament Director M. S. Gopakumar and Organising Secretary A. K. Verma.   -  Rakesh Rao

Traditionally in Indian chess, the unjustifiable frugal ways of those in authority resulted in the profile of the sport remaining abysmally low. For decades, the paucity of funds was shown as a reason for the cost-cutting decisions. Worse, even when the financial health of the All India Chess Federation (AICF) improved noticeably, the benefits were not passed on to the performing players in the quantum they deserved.

But now, the winds of change are gradually blowing away the cobwebs of frugality.

The creamy layer of Indian chess may not get too excited with these changes but for the mid-riff of country’s chess players, the improvement in prize-money structure and overall treatment of a participant is welcome in more ways than one.

Read: Anand to represent India at Chess Olympiad

This year, the Delhi International Open – the country’s richest prize-money chess event – offers a whopping Rs. 77.77 lakh. In its 16 years, the event boasts of a jump of more than Rs. 21 lakh spread over 100 cash prizes in each of the three categories.

“We are already thinking of hosting the country’s first Rs. 1-crore prize-money event in January 2019,” declares Bharat Singh Chauhan, the AICF secretary and President of the Delhi Chess Association, even as he keeps an eye on the logistics of the mega event beginning here on January 9.

Not many realise that the event’s prize-money has more than doubled in just two years (see table). In fact, even the collective prize-money of international events in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bhuveshwar and Bhopal does not add up to what New Delhi offers.

The challenge for organisers

Without doubt, it is monumental logistical challenge to provide free accommodation to nearly 1300 outstation players at a time when the city experiences single-digit temperatures.

Renting the sprawling Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, ensuring quality playing conditions for over 2500 entries and making arrangements for accompanying parents and coaches is part of the challenge. In addition, over 20,000 cups of free tea and coffee is served on each of the eight playing days!

What more, unlike in the previous editions, all Grandmasters will be staying at the Leela, a five-star facility. If one includes their estimated appearance money and other related expenses, the Organising Committee’s budget touches Rs. two crore. But Chauhan is confident of breaking even.

“The idea is to put more money on offer for the players. In Delhi, we have four local tournaments each offering over Rs. 17 lakh as prize-money. We intend to make Delhi International Open one among the top 10-15 Open events in the world. This time, we have also planned lounges for Grandmasters and overseas players besides a place with 50 to 70 beds where the players from ‘B’ and ‘C’ categories can relax between rounds,” reveals Chauhan.  

The well-settled Organising Committee, under Chauhan, includes Organising secretary A. K. Verma, his former Air Force colleague M. S. Gopakumar, who wears many hats besides being the Tournament Director. Venue in-charge Shivakant Mishra is the other pillar of this inspired team that is ready to deliver yet another unprecedented chess event in the country.

     2015   2016    2017   2018
Total prize-fund (in Rs.)30,00,00035,00,00051,51,00077,77,777

Category A

(2000 and above)

12,00,00012,50,00018,17,00027,77,777
First prize  3,00,000  3,00,000  4,00,000  5,00,000

Category B

(1999 and below)

10,00,00011,50,00017,17,00025,00,000
First prize  1,50,000  1,50,000  2,00,000  2,51,000

Category C

(1599 and below)

  8,00,00011,00,00016,17,00025,00,000
First prize  1,25,000  1,50,000  2,00,000  2,51,000