No separate Premiers and Challengers for chess, just the Nationals

India's apex chess body, the All India Chess Federation has decided to merge the two national championships – the Challengers and the Premiers – into the National senior championship.

The All India Chess Federation has decided to merge both the national championships - the Challengers and Premiers - into one single event, the National senior championship.   -  T. SINGARAVELOU

In a significant move, the All India Chess Federation (AICF) has decided to merge India’s two National championships – the Challengers and the Premiers.

Instead of the two events, of which one is the qualifier, there will just be the National senior championship and it will come into effect next year itself. The decision was taken by the central council of the AICF at a meeting held here.

In such a scenario, the AICF felt there was no longer the need to conduct the elite domestic championship, namely the Premiers (it used to be called National ‘A’ earlier). “Besides there has been a lot of confusion among the State Governments about the two separate National championships for chess,” the AICF secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan told Sportstar. “It is a relief for the organisers, too.”

He added the prize-money would be enhanced. “The men’s championship will have a total prize fund of Rs. 20 lakh,” he said. “The women’s championship will carry a fund of Rs. 15 lakhs.”

He said he had learnt that the move was welcomed by the top players. “We have asked the players for their views,” he said. “But I hope everyone will agree to the proposal.”

Padmini Rout, who recently won the Women’s Premiers at Surat, for the fourth year in a row, has welcomed the change. “This decision makes sense,” she said. “But, not everyone should be allowed to play at the National seniors. Certain eligibility criteria should be put in place.”

K. Ratnakaran, who has been playing at the National Challengers – earlier called National ‘B’ – for nearly two decades, nodded in agreement. “Having also played in the National Premiers on several occasions, I had always felt that there should only be one senior championship,” he said.