National C'ship: AICF showcases its usual inadequacies

On Wednesday, another chapter of ignominy was added when the national championship had to be deferred by a day due to lack of a proper venue. A discerning follower of the sport said though the All India Chess Federation (AICF) bears the prize-fund, it lacks the seriousness required to manage the biggest championship on its annual calendar.

Chess has taken rapid strides in India in the past quarter of a century, thanks mainly to Anand and his exploits.   -  AP

Viswanathan Anand was once asked about the role played by the All India Chess Federation in developing him as a world-class player. As is his wont, Anand smiled and said, “AICF has never interfered with my chess!”

The five-time world champion aptly summed up what he thought of the governing body.

No doubt, chess has taken rapid strides in the past quarter of a century, thanks mainly to Anand and his exploits. The AICF takes credit for providing opportunities to thousands of players to play in more than a hundred rated events annually.

>Read: Logistical error forces opening round delay

However, with a good number of podium-finishers in the international arena helping AICF’s image, the Federation has sadly ignored the importance of focussing on the organisational aspect.

No wonder, when it comes to conducting its national championship well, leave alone raising its profile, the AICF has fallen short on several occasions.

Latest chapter

On Wednesday, another chapter of ignominy was added when the >national championship had to be deferred by a day due to lack of a proper venue. A discerning follower of the sport said though the AICF bears the prize-fund, it lacks the seriousness required to manage the biggest championship on its annual calendar.

There have been instances when players have complained of improper or inadequate accommodation during the national championship. Puducherry (1991), Chennai (December 2007) and Aurangabad (2011) come to mind when reflecting on the logistical issues that have plagued the flagship event.

Puducherry provided good but inadequate accommodation, given the number of qualifiers. Even after a restart, some of the leading players boycotted the event. Chennai, the headquarters of Indian chess, witnessed a case of rare unity among the players who refused the poor hostel facility and later failed to find suitable hotel accommodation. As a result, the event was put off by two months, leaving the players with no option but to go back.

Instead of addressing the core issue, a peeved AICF decided to thereafter pay meagre but fixed amounts towards accommodation to those representing the States, and nothing to those from institutions.

Aurangabad hosted the event in a playing hall which did not meet the expectations of the players. Worse, the participants found the adjoining wash rooms “appalling.” However, the event was held as per schedule.

Today, in spite of not missing an opportunity to mention that it has a few crores in fixed deposits, the AICF has not won the confidence of its true assets — the top players.

Limited vision

“What use are these crores if the AICF cannot ensure the proper conduct of its national championship?” asked a Grandmaster who felt that the Federation had a “limited vision.”

A State secretary pointed out, “The frugal approach continues in Indian chess. The AICF gets 50 per cent of the entry fee from the organisers and also charges a tidy Earnest Money Deposit (EMD) which is non-refundable. Have you ever heard of a deposit that is non-refundable? Even after paying all these to the AICF, what does it offer in return to the host association?”

The AICF secretary, V. Hariharan, was candid in admitting that “it was upsetting” to learn about the circumstances that led to the postponement of the first round of the nationals.

“For now, we want the organiser (A.K. Raizada) to host the event well. Since Uttar Pradesh did a good job of the national Challengers, we thought the national championship would be easier to handle. But, this was very unfortunate,” said the mild-mannered Hariharan, himself a player of immense experience.

Now that the championship has started in a room appropriate enough to hold it, the focus will be on performances. The organisational aspect will once again get pushed to the background till the next muddle.

Liftout

When it comes to conducting its National championship, the AICF has fallen short on several occasions