A wise move by the AICF

P. K. AJITH KUMAR

IT was only two years ago that the All India Chess Federation (AICF) started an extensive and regular coaching programme for the chess players. But the results are already staggering. The clean sweep of medals at the Asian junior championship in Sri Lanka has proved again that it was a wise move by the AICF to bring quality coaches to India.

The AICF has engaged quality coaches such as Maxim Sorokin (left) and Evgeny Vladimirov (below) who have worked wonders with the Indian players as the results show.-RAMESH KURUP

"It was when Wipro engaged Evgeny Vladimirov as Pendyala Harikrishna's personal trainer, as part of their sponsorship deal, that I started thinking of having coaches for all the Indian players," the AICF secretary P. T. Ummer Koya told The Sportstar. "Money was of course a constraint, but thanks to the support from the Sports Ministry at the Centre and the SAI, we have been able to employ the best of coaches."

For the first time ever in their careers, many of India's leading players got a taste of high class training when they worked with Vladimirov, a former coach of World No. 1 Garry Kasparov, at Kozhikode prior to the 2000 Olympiad. They had another session with Valery Salov from Spain, a former World No. 3. Months later, at the Olympiad in Istanbul, the Indian men recorded their best ever placing, finishing eighth. Quite an achievement, because the Olympiad is very, very competitive. The women also did well, with S. Vijayalakshmi coming up with an astounding performance, as she won the silver on the top board.

She was happy to be back again for another stint with Vladimirov. "This time there was more time and less number of players," she said before leaving for China for an international open tournament along with her Indian teammates. "So we had even individual sessions, which were very useful. He was able to give us some lessons in the opening as well."

The coaching has opened up a new world for the Indians. "There is nothing quite like learning straight from a master like Vladimirov," says Abhijit Kunte, one of the most talented players in the country.

The coach is very impressed with his wards. "I think both the men's and women's teams are good enough to do well at this Olympiad," says this Grandmaster from Kazakhstan. "The young players are very promising as well. And it's good to see Tania Sachdev winning the title in Sri Lanka soon after a session with me here."

S. PATRONOBISH

The boys' winner at the Asian junior championship, Deepan Chakkravarty, had attended a camp under reputed foreign coach, GM Maxim Sorokin from Argentina. Alexander Lyssenko from Russia is another trainer who is familiar with the Indian players.

Sorokin has already proved to be quite successful in working with children. He says he enjoys coaching the Indian youngsters, "because they are willing to put in hard work, and are ready to learn theory. I find it very refreshing as the young players I worked with in other countries detest hard work and just want to play blitz games."

Sorokin is currently coaching a bunch of promising players in the under-20 group in Guwahati, while Vladimirov is training a group of younger players. The AICF secretary is planning to bring another coach before the Olympiad. "But the fee allotted to the coach by SAI may not be enough - $2000 per month - to attract the more high profile coaches from Europe. The AICF is of course grateful to the SAI for all the help, but it would be nice if it could increase the coaching fee," says Koya.

The AICF secretary says the foreign coaches are here to stay. "There will be lengthy coaching camps before every major international event."

That is good news for Indian chess.