Chennai, Dec 27 : The year 2022 is the golden year of Indian chess with Indian players, winning the yellow medal in several tournaments and the icing on the cake was the successful hosting of FIDE Chess Olympiad at a very short notice, said Dr. Sanjay Kapoor, President, All India Chess Federation (AICF).
Young Indian players had scalped several top ranking players of the world. For instance, young Grandmaster (GM) R. Praggnanandhaa had defeated World Champion Magnus Carlsen.
The year 2022 also saw Praggnanandhaa and International Master Bhakti Kulkarni being awarded the prestigious Arjuna Award.
After a gap of nine years, chess players finally figured in the Arjuna Award list.
Apart from the Olympiad, the year also saw FIDE holding its Congress and the elections in which former World Champion and India's GM V. Anand became the Deputy President -- the first Indian to be elected to that post.
Kapoor also said the year 2023 will see India hosting the prestigious chess tournament FIDE Women's Grand Prix.
The FIDE Women's Grand Prix is expected to be held in Delhi. The tournament consists of four tournaments spread over two years 2022-23.
It will feature a total of 16 players, and each one of them will participate in three out of four tournaments. Each Women's Grand Prix tournament is played with twelve players in a round robin format.
The total prize fund for each one of the four events is 80,000 euros, with another 80,000 euros being distributed among the top eight finishers in the overall standings for the Grand Prix series.
An Asian calendar event will also be held in 2023 and the Indian Chess League will also be there, Kapoor told IANS.
Here are excerpts from the interview.
IANS: How will you describe the year 2022 that is coming to an end? A: It's a golden year of Indian chess and successfully hosting the FIDE Chess Olympiad in short notice is icing on the cake for the year.
Due to the Covid pandemic, we missed action for almost two years but with meticulous planning AICF conducted the national championships for the year 2021-22 and 2022-23 to select our teams for Asian and World events. Considering the number of national events, it's not short of a miracle.
The entire machinery of AICF and affiliated units worked tirelessly for the achievement. The Olympiad and Olympiad Torch Run was well received across the country and we won bronze medals in both Open and Women categories and provided awareness about the game at every nook and corner of our beloved nation. Further, our players won several medals at World and Asian events and stamped our authority at the International stage.
I take this opportunity to thank the Government of India for providing the much-needed support for the game of chess and government of Tamil Nadu for the invaluable contribution for the mammoth task of hosting the FIDE Chess Olympiad.
Overall, as the administrators, lovers and promoters of Chess, it's been a satisfying year for us and we are now working to make India the number one chess playing nation in the world.
IANS: On the number of Indian players who got their Grandmaster (GM) and International Master (IM) titles in 2022 ...
A: Based on titles approved by FIDE (International Chess Federation) in the year 2022, we added four GMs, nine IMs, one Woman GM and six WIMs to our list. At this moment, we have 76 GMs and 141 IMs.
IANS: On the number of GM level tournaments held in the country in 2022...
A: Apart from FIDE Chess Olympiad at Mahabalipuram and Asian Continental Chess Championship at Delhi, AICF hosted 10 International GM-level tournaments at Delhi, Guwahati, Ahmedabad, Bhubaneswar, Chennai, Pune, Vizag, Madurai, Raipur and Bikaner. Moreover, Kolkata hosted the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid & Blitz event.
IANS: On the major happenings in Indian chess in 2022...
A: Our players performed exceedingly well in the year 2022. In the World Youth Chess Championship, Pranav Anand and Ilamparathi A R won Gold Medal while in Cadet championship Charvi Anilkumar and Shubhi Gupta secured yellow metal and Safin Safarullah Khan bronze. India showed supremacy in the Asian Youth Chess Championship by winning 46 medals, which include 13 individual Gold and eight team Gold.
Praggnanandhaa and Woman Grandmaster (WGM) Nandhidhaa PV stamped Indian authority in Asia by winning the Asian & Asian Women titles.
IANS: On the sponsorship deals signed during 2022...
A: MPL Sports Foundation renewed their sponsorship deal with AICF as title sponsor for National Championships with an increase of 20 per cent. After a long time, the chess players were awarded the Arjuna Award.
IANS: The other awards that chess players and chess coaches got in 2022...
A: FICCI recognised All India Chess Federation as the Best National Sports Federation and GM R.B. Ramesh was adjudged the Best Coach in their Annual Sports Awards.
IANS: What are the learnings from the Chess Olympiad? And how do you plan to build on that? A: The Olympiad made sure that we are capable of holding major international events even at such short notice. The experience we had will go a long way while holding any events. AICF is ready to hold any events if we get the support of all stakeholders. We are hosting the FIDE Women Grand Prix in 2023.
IANS: What are the new initiatives taken by AICF to popularise the game in the country? And the results obtained or the result trend you see.
A: We are continuing our dream projects of Chess for Everyone and Smart Girl to popularize the game at grass root level.
These events provide the right platform for the players to get experience in FIDE-rated events without spending much, which will popularize the game. We are also increasing the number of technical personnel by conducting Arbiter and Trainer Seminars.
IANS: We have several young GMs who with sufficient coaching and facilities can progress further. Why doesn't AICF hold a selection tournament for young GMs? The winner and the runner can be sponsored by AICF for a year or two. AICF is flush with money.
A: We have substantially increased the prize fund of National events and the number of GM level events are also increased in the country. So, there is the right opportunity for the players and conducting a separate event for them is not in the cards presently due to the tight national and international calendar. However, we will look forward to holding such an event in the future.
IANS: What was the income earned by AICF from holding the 2022 Olympiad? A: If you are asking monetarily then there is no profit as our primary aim was to hold the event successfully and showcase Indian hospitality to the world.
However, the real cause for happiness is that not only FIDE but the Federations participated were happy with the arrangements made by us. Further, the event provided right awareness about the game across the country.
So, I can say that we earned a lot on the ground rather than in our bank balance.
IANS: What is the latest on the Indian Chess League? Have the sponsor(s) selected? If yes, who are they? When will the league begin? What is the format? A: As you know, the Olympiad taken the front seat when we got the opportunity and the entire AICF machinery worked for the successful conduct of the Olympiad which taken substantial time of us in the year 2022 and also, we had a packed national calendar due to the conduct of 2021-22 and 2022-23 national championships.
We have already signed the contract for holding the Indian Chess League and working out with the firm for further developments. We are hopeful to sort out everything in the immediate future and look forward to hosting the league in 2023. Further development will let you know in due course.
IANS: How many leagues are planned by the AICF? A: Our plan is to have two leagues in a year that are one over the board and another online. AICF had brought in several new regulations like single registration and others. What is the outcome? A pan-India registration made things easier for the players and provided the opportunity for us to assess the number of players at grass root level. It will provide us the yardstick for the future development plans.
IANS: On the player welfare activities and others in 2022...
A: Increasing the prize fund of national championships, increased the participation fee to the players in Olympiad, created a corpus for player welfare during the pandemic and now it's being used for emergency player welfare measures.
We look forward to providing more support to the players through welfare measures. However, the right support from corporate and Government institutions plays a vital role in this.
IANS: On the unfinished agenda for 2022...
A: We have almost completed all our agenda and only the kick start of the league has not happened in the year 2022 due to hosting of the Olympiad and a packed national calendar. But we are sure of the league in 2023.
IANS: 2022 was an eventful year. What are your plans for 2023? A: The experience of 2022 will play a crucial role in the activities for the year 2023. We are looking forward to conducting the national championship in a timely manner apart from giving thrust to winning medals at the international stage.
We are hosting the first edition of Indian Chess League and organising FIDE Women Grand Prix along with other GM level events are the other significant plans for the year 2023. We will also hold an Asian calendar event later 2023.
IANS: What is AICF's revenue now? How do you plan to increase the same? A: Currently the main revenue depends upon tournaments and the plan to have more corporate sponsors in the coming year.
IANS: Anything else you would like to add? A: India has enormous talent in chess, which is evident from how our youngsters are performing exceedingly well at the world stage. However, we require the right support of corporates and the media to make India a super power in chess.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be reached at email@example.com)
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