Indian chess in 2019: Players continue to make strong moves

Indian chess players continued to make some strong moves in 2019 and contributed immensely to raising the nation’s profile as a potential global powerhouse in the sport.

With Viswanathan Anand, 50, still part of the world’s elite, the younger generation has no dearth of inspiration.   -  Special Arrangement

Indian chess players continued to make some strong moves in 2019 and contributed immensely to raising nation’s profile as a potential global powerhouse in the sport.

The year that began with D. Gukesh becoming the second-youngest Grandmaster on the all-time list, ended with K. Humpy winning the Women’s world rapid title. If Gukesh gave an indication of joyous times to come for Indian chess lovers, Humpy turned the clock back by winning two titles and finishing runner-up once, in her glorious comeback season.

Grandmasters’ count rose by seven to reach 65! The young brigade led by R. Praggnanandhaa made the world sit up and take note. As World champion Magnus Carlsen said, “India is going to be the strongest chess country in the world. There are just so many fearless young players. It just remains to be seen who will take the step up to the very highest level.”

With Viswanathan Anand, 50, still part of the world’s elite, the younger generation has no dearth of inspiration.

No wonder, India collected seven medals, including Praggnanandhaa’s gold in the under-18 section, in the World Youth championship. Worldwide, Indian players added titles or performed way above expectations.

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The young brigade led by R. Praggnanandhaa made the world sit up and take note.   -  Special Arrangement

 

Abhijeet Gupta won the Cannes Open and collected his fifth Commonwealth title. Tania Sachdev won her third Commonwealth women’s title. Surya Shekhar Ganguly, winner of the Belt and Road title, and B. Adhiban, won individual gold medals in the World Team Championship. Praggnanandhaa (Xtracon Open and London Chess Classic Open), Vidit Gujrathi (Biel Chess Festival), Sandipan Chanda (Leiden Open), K. Humpy (Skolkova Women’s Grand Prix) and S. L. Narayanan (Ellobregat Open) were among the Indian winners of the year.

At home, Aravindh Chithambaram and Bhakti Kulkarni regained their National titles. Aravindh won the National rapid and blitz titles besides being a member of the Petroleum squad in National team championship.

For the World Cup, 11 Indians including Anand qualified but the veteran chose to skip the event. Though none could get past the third round of the knockout format, the record number of Indian qualifiers was the high-point.

Away from the limelight, Abhimanyu Mishra caught the eye by becoming the world’s youngest International Master at 10 years, 9 months and three days! He broke Praggnanandhaa’s record by 17 days.

In a first, former World champion and now-retired Vladimir Kramnik trained six Indian talents – Praggnanadhaa, D. Gukesh, Prithu Gupta, P. Iniyan, Raunak Sadhwani and Leon Mendonca – in a privately sponsored camp in France.

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The year that began with D. Gukesh becoming the second-youngest Grandmaster on the all-time list, ended with K. Humpy winning the Women’s world rapid title.   -  Getty Images

 

Off the board, FIDE’s decision to restore ratings of several Indian players was a welcome one.

In July, FIDE President Arkadij Dvorkovich’s statement on FIDE website said, “Nearly a decade ago, FIDE, at the behest of the All India Chess Federation, removed the Elo ratings of dozens of players and expunged their names from the records. Today we are delighted to welcome back all those players with immediate effect.”

Sadly, AICF continued to drag its feet in implementing FIDE’s decision in toto.

As the year drew to a close, the infighting in the AICF turned ugly with its president and secretary at loggerheads before the upcoming elections.

As always, the players stayed indifferent to the struggle for power and control within AICF and continued to silently pursue their goals.