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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why Chess is so Popular in the Chennai Region?

Chess Blog for Daily Chess News and Trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2013

Hello everyone,

Here is a nice article worth reading for everyone who wants to know how Chennai has become a chess hub in the Indian subcontinent. This particular article is from the Indian newspaper, the Indian Express.

Home to defending world champion Viswanathan Anand, 12 Grandmasters and three Woman Grandmasters on the circuit, Tamil Nadu enjoys a regal status in India’s chess firmament. And it is not only Chennai that is churning out players, but also other centres like Madurai, Tirunelvelli and Salem.

It is not a recent phenomenon. The tradition has been there for long. Sivakasi hosted the Asian Juniors in 1979, Madurai held the Mapillai Vinayagar Open Chess Tournament for 30 years. Other cities like Salem, Dindigul, Tirunelvelli, Thanjavur and Coimbatore became a humdrum of chess activities. “Even in the 60s and 70s, the game was popular in these parts. There used to be inter-club or district-level tournaments every week and there was no shortage of players,” recollects R Anantharam, a former player-turned-arbiter, who hails from Sivakasi.

It’s true that the game had yeomen patronage from stalwarts like SK Narasimhan and TTK Krishnamachari. But no matter how much support a game enjoys, it cannot thrive without heroes. For chess, the impetus came from Manuel Aaron in the 60s and 70s and Anand since the 90s. “If Aaron set the tradition, Anand boosted it in coming years. This triggered more youngsters to pursue this game,” states Anantharam.

After Aaron became the first International Master from India in 1961, the floodgates gradually opened and a number of talented non-Chennaiites made an impact on the national scene. IMs TN Parameswaran (Tiruchi), K Murugan (Chidambaram), Konguvel Ponnuswamy (Salem), N Sudhakar Babu (Dharmapuri) and P Mithrakanth (Coimbatore) were amongst the notable ones.

Anand’s iconic status only sped the process.”If you ask me one reason why chess is so popular in Tamil Nadu, I can assuredly say that it is because of Anand. His contribution has been immense to the development of chess throughout Tamil Nadu,” says Aaron.

Presently, there are a handful of youngsters who have proved their mettle at the top level. From Deepan Chakkravarthy and P Mageshchandran to, S Adhibhan M Shyam Sundar, S Arun Prasad, S Poobesh Anand, the state is brimming with talent. The number of registered players, too, has swelled.

A lucrative coaching prospect is yet another reason why so many youngsters fancy chess. Even if they can’t emerge as top players, they can manage a reasonable amount through coaching. “That gives tremendous assurance to youngsters as well as parents. Many coaches earn Rs $2-10 per hour. As a result there are almost 180 coaches in Chennai and the same number from other districts combined,” says Anantharam.

Increasing government aid and sponsors are further reflective of the game’s burgeoning popularity. “Of late, the government is lending more support to the game. Also, sponsorships are not that hard to come by even for local tournaments. These are good signs, but we need more support from all fronts before we can become a really strong chess-playing nation,” opines Aaron.

India still may not match Russia or other fragmented flakes of former USSR in chess. But chess in India has shed its aura of aristocracy and is a mass game. It can only get better henceforth.

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