Highly-priced tickets at Chess Olympiad, a deterrent for budding chess players
Side-shows at the Olympiad: The positive fallout of the Olympiad has been that many local budding players are able to participate in the rapid rating tournament as part of the curtain-raiser at the venue. Pics: Vinoth Kumar

Highly-priced tickets at Chess Olympiad, a deterrent for budding chess players

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The ongoing 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad at Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu is garnering a lot of appreciation and support from international players across the globe, for its spiffy arrangements and state’s support for the sport. However, the locals in Mamallapuram and neighbouring regions are upset that they are unable to watch the world-class matches, they will never have the opportunity to see, because of the steeply priced tickets.

The games are conducted at Four Points Sheraton Convention Centre. The spectators are allowed inside two halls during the tournament and can walk around the hall without disturbing the players. The ticket price for Hall 1 is ₹3,000, while Hall 2 is priced at ₹2,000.

“The Hall 1 ticket price is higher because it is here that most of the Indian players and international players like Magnus Carlsen compete,” said one volunteer at the venue.

Strangely, the tickets for men are high, while women and the children below the age of 19 can purchase tickets costing just ₹300. Talking to The Federal, a top official in-charge of the event said that the state has no role in the decision over pricing of tickets.

“The ticket prices are decided by the FIDE (International Chess Federation). We have no role in it. However, we are allowing government school students to the enter the venue free of cost,” added the official.

Also read: Chess Olympiad: Indian teams extend unbeaten run to third day in a row

Chess Olympiad
On the sidelines of the Olympiad: Young players get a chance to play

The tournament venue has a spacious lobby and cloak room facilities for the players. It also has a food court and a lawn area where the spectators can watch the players’ game on a LED screen.

K Seetha, a homemaker, who visited the Olympiad, narrated her experience. “The visitors are allowed inside the tournament halls, after a thorough frisking by the security guards. We are not allowed to carry mobile phones or cameras because it will disturb the players. However, once the game is over, we can talk to the players, their coaches and can have a photo opportunity and autographs,” she said. Because of the exorbitant pricing of tickets, her husband was unable to join her inside the hall.

“I know very little about the game. My husband plays chess. If he had accompanied me, he would have explained the game to me. Unfortunately, the ticket price is so high. And that too, the ticket is for just one day. Middle-class families like us cannot afford such highly-priced tickets,” pointed out Seetha.

Also watch: Modi inaugurates 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai

People watch the matches on big screens sitting outside on the lawns

Local players left in lurch’

It is not only the chess or any other sports aficionados who are deprived of the opportunity to witness the Olympiad due to the inflated ticket prices, local budding chess players are also left out.

V Jothiprakasam, secretary of Kanchipuram district chess association told The Federal that they have at least a dozen chess academies under them. (It should be noted that Mamallapuram was once under Kanchipuram district, but it now falls under Chengalpattu district carved out from Kanchipuram in 2019) founded in 1997.

“The state government, however, has given permission for only one boy and girl player to visit the Olympiad. It is also just for one visit. They could have given our players tickets at a concession rate,” he complained.

At a time, when the state government is making efforts to promote this game, the local players are feeling ignored and even the district level chess associations are not given an opportunity to witness the events, he added. “We pay registration, tournament and membership fees to the All India Chess Federation. But we are not allowed to watch the games, whereas the state government employees are given tickets at a concession rate,” said Jothiprakasam.

Also watch: Interview with Manuel Aaron, India’s first International Chess Master

G Nithyanandam, a chess coach said that though chess is considered as a royal game, the expensive ticket prices will make people feel that the sport is an ‘elitist’ one. This will further alienate the middle and lower middle-class people from the game.

“We hear that this is the first Olympiad in which a large number of women players are participating. But, at district levels, we have only a handful of women who show an interest to play chess. Moreover, it doesn’t matter if the women’s tickets are affordable, the women will not enter the venue without the men accompanying them,” he pointed out.

Positive fallout

But, the positive fallout of the Olympiad has been that many local budding players are able to participate in the rapid rating tournament held as part of the curtain-raiser to the event on July 24. That helped on-rated players to get ratings, Nithyanandam added.

Meanwhile, the traders in and around Mamallapuram are also rejoicing because of a marked spike in their business. “There is a 15 per cent increase in business than usual. When the players are returning from the tournament venue to their rooms in the hotels, they stop by and purchase our items. They are not bargaining and fond of Tami food items and handmade artefacts,” said KN Murthy, proprietor of a clothing shop and a member of the Kanchipuram Metropolitan Roadside Small Traders Association.

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