Chess has its origins in India. Not many know that it was during the time of the King Ravana that chess originated. Over the years, chess spread to Europe and parts of America. Chess changed its rules, however, the main idea of the game remained the same- to checkmate the king. The game became extremely popular in the Soviet Union in most of the twentieth century. Almost three-fourths of the world champions came from the Soviet Union. It was not until the late 1980s that Indian chess saw a ray of hope.
Champions born in Indian Chess
During this time, a young tiger from Madras, Viswanathan Anand caught the world by storm. He won the world junior championship, becoming the first Indian in the history of the sport to achieve this feat. He was awarded the first ever Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. As he climbed the chess ladder, he created a huge popularity for the game. Thousands, if not hundreds, took up the game because of his success. Parents now wanted to see their children playing like the tiger and making them proud in India. They sent their children for chess coaching and it led to a growth in the chess arena in the country. When Vishy won his fifth world title in 2012, more than 500 children came to greet him at the airport. That was the result of the growing popularity of the sport.
Over the years, India has taken over from Russia as the country having the highest number of rated players in the world. India produced more world junior champions like Pentala Harikrishna, Parimarjan Negi, and Abhijeet Gupta. The country now boasts of close to 50 international Grandmasters and countless other titled players. India also secured the World Olympiad Bronze Medal in 2014 in the men’s category and the women finished fourth and sixth in 2012 and 2016 respectively. India has the likes of Grandmasters Dronavalli Harika and Koneru Humpy who have reached the semi-finals and finals of the Women’s world championship respectively. Besides, the present youngest International Master in the world also hails from India.
Chess has been on the rise since the past three decades in the country and with each passing year the game is growing in popularity. Leading trainers have established training institutes in different parts of the country to ignite the minds of the future. A large number of international tournaments and exposure events have been organised by the All India Chess Federation (AICF). In fact, the FIDE World Chess Championship Match between Magnus Carlsen and Vishwanathan Anand was held in Chennai in 2013.
Popularizing chess as a suitable growth path
So, the question that now arises is where does it go from here? Well, one can only hope to see the game to grow to greater heights in the future. With a growing number of parents from the average Indian households putting their children into the game and thinking about making them into future world champions, the future looks bright. A large number of youngsters travel for different international events like the World Youth, the Commonwealth, and the Asian Youth and come out with flying colours.
Besides, chess is a sport which does not cost anything much to start with other than a little bit of passion. It only requires funding when the trainee reaches a certain level. Even if parents put their children into the sport as a leisure activity, it will do the children a good deal. It will make their minds sharper and develop them holistically. This will lead to a larger number of children playing the game, which will further improve the game’s popularity in the country.
What can be done to make chess more popular in the country? The answer is quite simple. Make chess in schools more consistent and spread it to more areas in the country. The corporates could look to give a part of their CSR funding for the training and development of the rising stars. Moreover, one can just start playing the game on their own to get a closer feel for it.
Chess is one game which will dominate the Indian sports in the coming years and only time will tell what it has in store for the game.
Image Courtesy: Courier Press