Chess Olympiad: When players old and new turn spectators

From the other side: Former players K.S. Preetha and Sasinas Haritha have enjoyed the experience as fans at the Olympiad.

From the other side: Former players K.S. Preetha and Sasinas Haritha have enjoyed the experience as fans at the Olympiad. | Photo Credit: B. JOTHI RAMALINGAM

Pallavi Shah flew in from the United States. K.S. Preetha boarded the flight from Kochi. Sasinas Haritha drove down from IIT Madras. The destination for all of them was this coastal town.

They may no longer be playing chess actively, but they didn’t wanted to miss the Chess Olympiad. “I was surprised to meet Pallavi here,” says Pravin Thipsay of his fellow-Maharashtrian, who played for the Indian women’s team at three Olympiads. “She wanted to have a look at the Olympiad, when India is hosting it for the first time.”

The journey was easier for Haritha. Unlike Pallavi, Haritha didn’t have to spend too much time or money on travel. She joined the IIT for her PhD three months ago.

She had taken a break from chess when she started doing her B Tech in Information Technology. A little before that, she had won the third place at the National junior chess championship, representing Kerala.

She came to the Olympiad venue along with Preetha, a former Tamil Nadu and Kerala State women’s champion, who now teaches at Sree Ramakrishna Gurukula Vidya Mandiram, Thrissur (Kerala).

You would run into players past and present — including Grandmasters — here at Four Points by Sheraton.

Mrunalini Kunte, who played in three Olympiads, says it was nice to watch the event from the sidelines.

The players are pleasantly surprised by the huge turnout.

“I could never have imagined that people will pay ₹2,000 to buy a ticket to watch a chess tournament – like I have – in India,” says Haritha. “I felt so happy to see Indian players getting so much appreciation from the spectators.”

She says the Tamil Nadu government deserves credit for conducting such a huge event at short notice and publicising it so well. “There are Olympiad hoardings all over Chennai,” she says. “And it is great that chess is getting a lot of media attention, too.”

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Printable version | Aug 9, 2022 10:16:57 am |