Viswanathan Happiness Decided to give a new cap. The five-time world chess champion, who is still active at the age of 52 and recently defeated the world’s top player Magnus Carlsen twice, is standing for the vice presidency in the FIDE (World Chess Organization) election. He is also the face of the first Chess Olympiad to be held in Chennai in July-August this year.
Anand appeared comfortably in a light summer coat, becoming sports minister Anurag Thakur Speaking to TOI in the capital on Saturday. The two guest sports editors talked about the way forward for chess, plans to popularize the game at the grassroots level, and to organize more international competitions to provide high-quality chess experience to aspiring youth.
Excerpts from the conversation
India is hosting such a big chess tournament for the first time since Anand’s Carlson match in 2003. The government has prepared many programs for this. Your thoughts
Anurag Thakur: This is a big moment for India. I have sat next to the five-time World Chess Champion who has made the country proud on many occasions. More than 190 countries will participate in this competition. I am sure that the renowned Indian hospitality will spread the word that India is not only a world class chess champion but also an excellent host. This Olympiad will help in creating awareness about sports among the children. Play India Chess could be the next big thing.
This is an ambitious project for Play India. How successful have they been in fulfilling their hopes of succeeding in the Olympics?
Thakur: Be it sports infrastructure or other activities, we have spent around Rs 2600 crore on Khelo India in the last four years. In the latest edition of Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG), 11 women players broke 12 national records. It clearly shows that young talent is coming forward and providing them a platform for opportunity and excellence. Play India Chess is one such campaign that will create awareness among the people about the game.
Although chess is the most played sport in the world, it has failed to qualify for the Olympics. If you were elected FIDE Vice President, would you make a serious effort to include him in the sports program?
Viswanathan Anand: Chess is awaiting application from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). FIDE is pursuing this with all seriousness. These things take time and of course if our team (election) wins and I become vice president then I will continue to work on that policy. It’s a good idea to play chess at the Olympics. But, at the same time, I am very excited about the Olympiad taking place in India.
One of the largest sports competitions in the world must be held regularly. This is one thing to show that you can do it once and we have organized events before. But, it is important to organize these events regularly to show your growth. The consequences of chess are even greater. This is the first major chess tournament in India. And, somehow, I don’t think time could have been better.
Chess has resurfaced in the last few decades, and in recent times, in times of crisis, its popularity has skyrocketed. Using the Olympiad as an anchor is a great opportunity for the nationwide movement and to get more people involved in the sport. I hope we see the benefits in the next few years.
Thakur: I am pleased that FIDE has decided to launch the Olympiad Torch Relay. The government has organized such an event because in a large country like India where more than 190 countries are represented, it is important to create awareness about the sport. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself will inaugurate the torch relay on Sunday to take this movement to every state and city in the country.
Unique perspectives: Anand (left, seen here with Thakur) hopes that his experience as a player will help him in his new role as a chess administrator. (TOI photo)
Do players naturally turn to sports administration or do they grow into jobs? Why entrust experienced administration to experts?
Happiness: The way I see it, I’m going to join a team that has been playing world chess for the last four years. And, of course, all tasks will be distributed to everyone. My focus will be on trying to expand the scope of the game by taking advantage of new technologies and opportunities opened up during the epidemic.
Chess has benefited a lot from the internet and now the game is growing with live coverage. I will try to focus on that part. She (my role) will be a bit India-centric as I will try to increase her reach here. Everything will be a little. I am a chess player, so I do not have much experience in this field.
But, at the same time, I bring with me a unique perspective, perspective and experience of chess players. So on the professional side, I think I can represent the players in a way and solve their problems by listening to them. I don’t think my work is anything special. We will all work together as a team.
Masters in Sports: Anand is playing against world number one Magnus Carlsen in the fifth round of the classical section of the Norwegian Chess Championship. (PTI photo)
With big budget events like the World Championships and the Olympiads, don’t you think that a large group of upcoming athletes should have a real focus on providing advanced training so that some of them can graduate in the ELO 2600 bracket without any major financial difficulties. . Conflict?
Happiness: I agree with Aadhaar but whether it is or not. You need to be more discriminating with the help you render toward other people. Imagine, for example, in an Olympiad, one of the Indian teams won a medal or maybe several medals. Then imagine how many people will pick up the game. Therefore, we need to constantly spread our efforts and take the game to as many people as possible. It is also important to work with young people.
This is my Westbridge Anand Chess Academy where I am working with the top seven juniors, six boys and one girl in India. By organizing big tournaments in India on a regular basis, we will create an environment where our players do not have to go abroad to play the best players. In fact, the best players for us will come to play in India.
Thakur: During the Olympiad, six athletes from each state will be selected and will have the opportunity to interact with international athletes, learn chess and learn from their experience. We, in government, will continue to build more sports academies and give our talented players a chance to play. We are very open about including chess in the Play India program.
In recent years, chess enthusiasts, especially in times of crisis, have gained a large following of YouTubers for the game. Time Raina There is such a person. How do you see this trend?
Happiness: I think any increase in the game is good, it is beyond dispute. For any development you need to change and adapt and be more flexible. As you can imagine, any spectator who comes to watch chess on a streaming service like YouTube or Twitch, who prefers to tour the tournament, is different from those who come to watch chess at different times, in different formats. Control and point scoring system is required. .
But there is no denying that there has been an increase in available resources. We should welcome changes in technology and find ways to meet the needs of each audience. It was also unexpected for a comedian to get a ball in India. We are reaching out to an audience who may find chess intimidating, but at the same time interested.
They thought it was scary, but when the comedian started mocking the game of chess with every couple of sentences, they could move on. Again, like advertising, you have to target a new audience. It also works great in chess.
How much has the use of artificial intelligence (AI) affected chess and is it a positive change?
Happiness: This is a good thing when it comes to AI. He has changed mobility and you can’t fight him. But I have a special reason for liking it. This means that the cost and effort of training is constantly decreasing, as the most advanced training methods become available on every computer and every mobile device. It was easy and simple to train and improve yourself.
But, at the same time, I would like to emphasize that the real benefit is for countries that do not have a chess tradition or a current chess event. These people no longer bite. It used to be when they wanted to meet someone to play chess. Now, they are on their phone or computer.
AI has done just that. This will only increase the reach of the game. Basically, Central World Chess has to adapt to this new order, but then the game progresses and it gets better on its own. So it’s important to adapt to the game and if chosen for the position, that’s one of the things I’ll try to focus on. This is a great time for chess and you should take advantage of this opportunity.
Does AI make a big difference in the way you design your games now? And what if a talented chess player doesn’t have access to an AI-based program?
Happiness: AI is rewriting the game. I will tell you why. We all grew up with experienced champions and some of the games they played. And that is the basis of learning chess. You study the game of experienced champions and try to get ahead in it. Well, AI is showing that there are thousands of other ways of learning that have not been tried, but they are interesting. I will not study new findings. I’m just going to work on the old ways because you have to adapt to these new ways. As far as access is concerned, there is no contradiction. Access is getting cheaper and easier, which means those who don’t have access will get it now. I think the digital divide is a real problem, but we can work on two levels. One is that technology is readily available. It is important that federations around the world strive for access for everyone. If you go to a village and they don’t have access, we’ll set it up, that’s how it should be. And we have to speed it up. It’s amazing that we’re riding that wave. We have no choice. If you do not use AI, then someone is better than you. So we can’t resist.
Without Russia, the Olympiad would be like the World Cup without Brazil. What do you think about the need for warring nations to stop participating in international competitions?
Happiness: Well, this is a fantastic situation here. Naturally, this situation will not last long and everyone hopes that there will be some kind of peace before the next Olympiad. But, there is nothing to do for this Olympiad. It’s just a matter of accepting and moving on. Your World Cup could be better without Brazil. But it is also commendable that India was able to host the Olympiad in three months. This is a miracle.
How is the government helping Anand in his campaign as FIDE vice president?
Thakur: It is a matter of pride for India to represent India at the highest level, capable of winning elections from the International Federation and other organizations. This helps because they are more aware of what is happening at the policy level and they can bring international events to India. So whenever and wherever there is a need for anyone to approach the government for any kind of election, we will help on our side. We are going to take this very seriously.