Ironical as it sounds, despite some consistent showings over the past 15 months, ‘Candidates’ Vidit Gujrathi and R. Vaishali have found themselves away from the spotlight.
If the younger brigade comprising D. Gukesh, Arjun Erigaisi, R. Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin have taken turns hogging the attention and left Vidit doubting his abilities, the older campaigners like K. Humpy and D. Harika continue to carry the nation’s hopes in the women’s section.
Vidit, who stunned the strongest field of the year in a Swiss league competition in the Grand Swiss at the Isle of Man to qualify to the 2024 Candidates Tournament, was candid in admitting, “Despite playing some quality chess so consistently, the desired results were not coming. Honestly, I was beginning to doubt my abilities. But this title reinforced my belief that persistence pays.”
Vaishali said “In many tournaments, I prepared and played hard but the results were not to my liking. But to win the strongest tournament of my career and get a place in the Candidates is something that I did not expect.”
R. Praggnanandhaa, already a Candidate by being the World Cup runner-up, said of his sister, “I always believed that Vaishali could make it because of her playing strength. She has been consistently performing at Grandmaster’s level so I was confident.
The day also saw the All India Chess Federation (AICF) announce an aid of Rs. 2 crore to the players’ preparation for the 2024 Candidates Tournament in Toronto from April 2 to 25.
Apart from Vidit, Praggnanandhaa and Vaishali, there is every likelihood of K. Humpy joining the fray on January 1, 2024, by being the highest-rated non-qualifier on the ranking list effective from that day.
“We are committed to our players and will go to any length to help the players,” said an elated AICF president Sanjay Kapoor and continued, “We want our players to focus entirely on their training and not worry about the funds. Our focus is on making an Indian World champion. We are thankful to the Government for their unstinted support and committed to providing an ideal situation to help bloom our talent.”
Bharat Singh Chauhan, the Chairman of the FIDE Advisory Board echoed AICF’s vision and said, “We are not going to limit the support to Rs. two crore. We will fund the expenses of a Yoga teacher, a sports psychologist, an Indian chef and two ‘seconds’ for each of our qualified players in Toronto. We shall stop at nothing in search of a World champion.”
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