All India Chess Federation (AICF) president Sanjay Kapoor said Indian chess has entered the “golden era” and the country will have over a hundred Grandmasters within two years.
For years, five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand dominated the conversation on Indian chess and rightly so.
However, the dynamics have changed in the past decade with youngsters like R Praggnanandhaa, D Gukesh and Arjun Erigaisi making rapid progress in the international arena.
“There was one Vishy (Anand) before but now I believe the golden era of chess has started in India,” Kapoor told PTI.
“Anand is a stalwart of the game. He is the face of Indian chess. But now we’ll have many faces and that will be very good for Indian chess,” he said.
India produced its 83rd Grandmaster - Aditya Samant - in July this year and Kapoor said the country will get its 100th GM sooner than later.
“Many men and women players are coming up. We have 83 GMs now and in two years, we’ll have at least 100-100-plus Grandmasters,” he added.
Teenaged GM Praggnanandhaa captured the country’s imagination as he defeated world number two Hikaru Nakamura and number three Fabiano Caruna en route his silver medal at the FIDE World Cup.
He became the world’s youngest player to play in the final and the third-youngest person to qualify for the Candidates Tournament.
It was also the first time four Indians -- Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh, Erigaisi and Vidit Gujrathi -- entered the quarterfinals of the tournament.
Last year, India had successfully hosted the Olympiad and won bronze both in the men’s and women’s sections.
To keep the momentum going, Kapoor wants to spread chess across India by holding camps and tournaments all over the country.
“Tamil Nadu is the chess point of India. But players have started coming from different places. I’d like to take chess from Jammu Kashmir to the Northeast... everywhere.
“We are holding a (Asian Games) camp in Kolkata. I brought the AGM to Kanpur. Arjun became a champion in Kanpur,” he said.
Kapoor said the federation is also working on organising an Indian Chess League.
“We’re going to start a league. By the first week of January... I don’t know the tentative dates, but we are working on that,” he said.
Currently in India, chess lacks proper support structure with parents finding themselves in a tough spot having to fund their children’s dreams.
But with the recent success, Kapoor feels the funding and sponsorships for the sport will also soon flow in.
“ Jo dikhta hai woh hi bikta hai (What you see, sells). Earlier, nobody in India was interested in chess, nobody was giving us space but at least now we are getting that.
“People will now watch us and corporate clients are going to come in and start funding,” he noted.
The AICF chief feels chess can help in nation building and thus the sport should be taught in schools.
“I want people to know about chess. One child in every household should play chess because it’s a nation building game.
“We have to develop chess in India and see that it is taught in the curriculum. We have been doing that. The curriculum is almost ready now. I think we’ll be seeing chess as a subject (in future).
“When you play chess you develop good motor skills, your mind sharpens, you move forward. You think about the next moves till the last (move) and that’s how your brain sharpens. That is how we have to take India forward,” he added.
Chess will make a return to the Asian Games after a 13-year gap. Veteran Grandmaster Koneru Humpy will lead a 10-member Indian team which also includes Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh, and Harika Dronavalli.
“We are going to be favourites to win gold in both the men and women’s events. We will be on the podium for sure,” he concluded.
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