Viswanathan Anand, a five-time world chess champion, is thrilled that India will host the Chess Olympiad for the first time since its beginning in 1927.
The Indian chess legend is also upbeat about contesting for the FIDE deputy president’s post, marking his foray into the sport administration. On Friday, Anand, who recently broke into the top-10 of the world chess rankings at the age of 52, spoke exclusively to TOI on the upcoming Olympiad and his FIDE candidature.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the first-ever Olympic torch relay on Sunday at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in New Delhi, kicking off the flame’s journey to 75 towns over the course of 40 days. The trek will end in Mahabalipuram, near Chennai, where the celebration will take place from July 28 to August 10.
It’s fantastic. The All India Chess Federation (AICF) enquired about the Olympiad, and then the Tamil Nadu state government basically got the bid ready in just three days. So, everyone worked together on this. The preparations are going on well, although the time is very limited. The day after, we are going to witness the history being created with the first-ever Chess Olympiad Torch Relay. The honorable PM would himself be present. That shows the commitment we are receiving from all levels.
In about a little over a month’s time, India will be hosting the Chess Olympiad in Chennai. How excited are you being part of the history at home?
Do you believe the Olympiad will be a game-changer for the popularity of chess in India?
I certainly believe so. Chess did very well during the pandemic time because everyone was at home. A lot of people had time to watch and follow the sport online. An event of this magnitude daily for two-three weeks will definitely leave its mark.
You are running for the FIDE’s deputy president’s post. What’s your vision for the game? We need to engage more countries to play chess. Also, it’s important to get more corporates involved, bring in more sponsors. I do believe that we need to make it a national sport and use all the modern opportunities and trends like more online and digital events to take the game to as many countries as possible. I would like to have more youngsters getting involved in the game.
If elected to the post, what would be your immediate priority? Well, the first and foremost thing would be to try promoting the game amongst the younger audience. I’ll look to host more events for them. We have this long tradition in the FIDE where we support the countries where chess is not that strong. I need to build on the good work done by current FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich.
When did it first cross your mind to contest for the FIDE position and get into the sports administration? Honestly, it first crossed my mind when FIDE president asked me to contest and join him in his campaign. I must admit it was quite unexpected when he offered it to me. And then, I thought, it’s an interesting position. It is something I could see myself doing. It’s a nice chance to cross to a different side of chess that I am not being involved in the past.
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