Fair and square: On the Chennai Chess Olympiad  

Uzbekistan and Ukraine won the team events, but India showcased its talent to the fullest 

Updated - August 15, 2022 03:07 pm IST

Published - August 11, 2022 12:10 am IST

The 44th edition of the Chess Olympiad, which concluded at the historical town of Mamallapuram near Chennai on Tuesday, will be talked about for a long time, for all the right reasons. It was originally slated to be held in Russia in 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic forced a postponement. Then, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted the world chess governing body, FIDE, to look for a new venue for what is the game’s most prestigious and largest team event. Chennai was chosen as the host in March but the visitors to the Olympiad — there were thousands of them every day — would have been surprised to learn that the event, featuring more than 1,700 participants from 186 countries, was being staged at such a short notice. FIDE’s managing director Dana Reizniece-Ozola, who is a former Minister of Economics and Finance in the government of Latvia, besides being a champion chess player, praised India for completing what she called a mission impossible. The ball got rolling when the All India Chess Federation’s proposal was accepted by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M.K. Stalin. To its credit, the Tamil Nadu government was willing to spend more than ₹100 crore on a sport that is not anywhere nearly as glamorous as cricket or football. In 2013, the Tamil Nadu government had conducted at Chennai the World chess championship match between local boy Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen, but the size and logistics of that event cannot be compared with that of the Olympiad.

Nine years later, when big-time chess returned to his home town, Anand had become less busy as a player and was more of a mentor, columnist and, before the Olympiad was over, FIDE’s new deputy president. But the five-time world champion had single-handedly revolutionised Indian chess so much so that it could afford to field three teams at the Olympiad. Two of them — India 2 in the open section and India 1 in the women’s — went on to win the bronze medals, living up to India’s growing reputation as a powerhouse in world chess. India won another seven individual medals to cap off its greatest Olympiad campaign ever. Many of those medals were won by teenagers. Youngsters such as D. Gukesh, Nihal Sarin, R. Praggnanandhaa, Arjun Erigaisi and Raunak Sadhwani promise even greater things for Indian chess. There was unprecedented interest in chess from the public and the media, which will do a world of good to the game. Uzbekistan won the men’s team event but perhaps the greatest story of the Chess Olympiad was not authored by either Uzbekistan or India, but by a group of five women from war-torn Ukraine. The gold they won should brighten up the sombre mood back home; it also reflects sport’s indomitable spirit.

To read this editorial in Tamil, click here.

To read this editorial in Hindi, click here.

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