Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand on Tuesday hoped for more women's chess players to break through the ranks in the country.

Anand was in conversation with RB Ramesh at Sportstar's first-ever South Sports Conclave in Chennai. "It is very easy to feel very optimistic about India's youngsters on the boys side but not on the girls side," Anand said during a panel discussion titled - Chess and Chennai. "Women like Harika Dronavalli, Koneru Humpy, Bhakti Kulkarni, Tanya Sachdeva are still doing well even though they have been around for a while. The new ones aren't really breaking through. I hope this Olympiad will spark something off.

"Globally we need more women taking part in the game. It is a global problem. The India-specific thing is that Humpy and Harika are still very dominant. I wish them well but it would be good if they had more competition from youngsters."

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In 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic brought sporting activities to a screeching halt, chess has found a way to beat the dreaded virus. Online games featuring players of all standards, from beginners to grandmasters, were being played across time zones. In late August of 2020, India was crowned the joint winner, along with Russia, at the online Chess Olympiad. This was the first time the prestigious event was held virtually. Anand weighed in on the ease of playing chess online. "As long as you use it for learning purposes where you train specific skills it is very healthy. But when you get into an addiction, you want to play one more game because you want to swindle in one time. You are not trying to improve anymore but just trying to score, that is unhealthy. It has to be done more consciously."

The 44th Chess Olympiad will be held in Chennai from July 28 to August 10, the game's world governing body FIDE has confirmed. The Olympiad, which was moved out of Russia after it invaded Ukraine, was awarded to Chennai recently, making it the second major global event of the sport to be held in India after the 2013 World Championship between Anand and Magnus Carlsen.