After the super show put up by India ‘B’ men’s team on Saturday (July 30) during the second round of the Chennai Chess Olympiad 2022, expectations have soared high among chess aficionados. There’s a lot of hope that Indian players will get one gold medal in this Olympiad.
But, there’s a hitch: the spectators surrounding the players during the game are putting a lot of pressure on Indian players, felt grandmaster and India ‘B’ team coach RB Ramesh.
The India ‘B’ team he is coaching consists of talents like Nihal Sarin, D Gukesh, R Praggnanandhaa, B Adhiban and Raunak Sadhwani. The team has, in fact, won Estonia by 4-0.
Having coached chess champ Praggnanandha and his sister R Vaishali, who is in India ‘A’ women’s team, Ramesh believes there’s a strong possibility of a podium finish for the Indian team in this Olympiad. This was echoed by Nandhidhaa PV, India ‘C’ women team player, who beat Singapore player Mei-En Emmanuelle.
In a free-wheeling chat exclusively with The Federal, both Ramesh and Nandhidhaa shared how the Chennai Chess Olympiad is going to be a game-changer for Indian players. Here are excerpts from the interview:
How different is this Chess Olympiad in the absence of Russia and China?
Ramesh: Yes. Both countries are capable of winning medals. But they didn’t participate in this Olympiad. That gives an edge to our players. Also, since we have an additional number of players this time, the chances of winning the medals are high.
Nandhidhaa: It doesn’t matter. Even if both countries participate in the event, we would still beat them, because we are in good form.
What are the other countries which can give tough competition to our players in the place of Russia and China?
Ramesh: The India ‘B’ men’s team is seeded 11 and so they can expect to compete with players from the USA. I believe that our players will be able to achieve, at least, one gold medal.
Do our players feel the pressure playing at home?
Ramesh: Yes. Because in most of the tournaments, there would be no spectators. But in this Olympiad, spectators are directly seeing the game played by our players. They suddenly surround them for photographs and autographs. That makes them uncomfortable, and puts pressure on them.
Nandhidhaa: Pressure is there. But, I feel happy because I am participating in my first Olympiad in my homeland. My spirits are up.
What does this mega event mean to India and the growth of chess in the country?
Ramesh: It is a well-known fact that our country has a culture of chess. Besides, it is one of the fastest growing economies. So conducting this event in Tamil Nadu, has brought a lot of attention not only to our players but chess culture as a whole. This kind of support from the government for such a sport is lacking in other countries. Already, India is one of the countries which has more number of grandmasters and particularly, there are many young grandmasters in Tamil Nadu. This Olympiad will attract even more children to this sport.
Nandhidhaa: It is because of the government support, we have been able to come this far. In many other countries, that support system is lacking, especially for women. Here, we have many women players.
Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand is the mentor of the Indian teams. It must be a huge confidence-booster for the players to have a legend like him, isn’t it?
Ramesh: Definitely. He is bringing all his experience to the table and our players are learning from his past mistakes.
Nandhidhaa: Legends like him help us to understand the opponent’s game by studying and analysing their moves. That helps in our play, largely.
In Tamil Nadu, many of the schools started to teach chess as part of their curriculum. It’s no more an extra-curricular activity. What do you feel about that?
I would say that though this is a welcoming trend but schools cannot ‘teach’ chess. Also, we don’t have a sufficient number of trainers. Also, coaching chess in a school set up is not lucrative so students must enroll in private chess academies. That is the best way to learn and train.