Gujrathi agrees to be brand ambassador for visually-challenged players

Vidit agreed to be brand ambassador for visually-challenged chess players while still being a pro himself.

Chess sensation Vidit Gujarathi (right) with Kishan Gangolli at the National ‘A’ Championships for Visually Challenged, in progress at the Andheri Sports Complex.   -  ChessBase India

Grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi, world number 31, is looking ahead to engrossing contests with leading names in world chess. “I am looking at getting into the top 10 at the end of this year.  Winning a tournament last month (Tata Steel Challengers 2018) gave me the opportunity to face top players.” He watched action at the 13th National ‘A’ Chess Championship for Visually Challenged, in progress at the Andheri Sports Complex, and expressed his support fellow players with vision problems.

Read: Gujrathi holds world champion Carlsen

Winning the Challengers event in Wijk aan Zee, The Netherlands last month will earn the Indian an entry into the Tata Steel Masters 2019, an elite competition featuring Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik to name a few. Carlsen won the 2018 Masters, beating Anish Giri in a tie-breaker of two blitz games. “I have drawn against Carlsen (Isle of Man Open) and hope to make a difference. Now that I have the opportunity to play at a high level ,” said the fourth Grandmaster from India to cross 2700 ELO ratings.

Vidit, from Nashik district in Maharashtra, agreed to be brand ambassador for visually challenged chess players, in the midst of a professional chess career. “This community has given me so much, I want to give back. Chess is the only sport where the visually challenged can compete with normal players, lending a sense of equality. I have not played with any such players, but interacted with them during rating tournaments.”

He met players and key officials from the All India Chess Federation for the Blind. The third highest among Indians on the latest FIDE ratings list (February 2018) after Anand and P. Harikrishna, the 23-year-old referred to road blocks ahead to be overcome. “The main issue they are facing is recognition from the government. Visually challenged chess has players in numbers who need coaching support.”

He added: “The least we can give them is opportunity, because they are talented and hard-working. It is expensive for them to play normal chess tournaments, besides challenges to overcome. Visually challenged  cannot read books, the main source of information for normal chess players, we also have coaching facility.”

Arranging coaching is priority since it will lead to rise in quality, explained Vidit, at the same time expressing disappointment at reported move of current Asian champion and four-time National ‘A” winner, Kishan Gangolli, to give up chess and seek a career outside sport. “It is sad if a national champion is forced to think about leaving chess. I don’t know how to make him change his mind, but we cannot afford to lose quality players.”

Karnataka player Kishan, top seed at the event here, is leading after 10 rounds. He won the Asian Championship last year at Manipal and has been representing India since the 2011 World Juniors in Rodas, Greece and has a FIDE rating of 1996 in standard chess, 2042 in rapid chess and 2006 in blitz chess.