World Chess Championship: India seriously exploring possibility of hosting Gukesh vs Ding Liren, says AICF chief

All India Chess Federation’s chief Nitin Narang has confirmed there is a serious consideration to hold the World Chess Championship final between China’s Ding Liren and contender D Gukesh

The newly-elected office bearers of the AICF have lost no time in unveiling a host of measures to popularise the sport, which is currently in a state of boom in India. At last month’s Candidates Chess Tournament, India was represented by five grandmasters — with Gukesh, Praggnanandhaa and Vidit Gujrathi competing in the Open section while Humpy Koneru and Vaishali Rameshbabu competed in the women’s event. India’s progress in the last couple of years in the sport of 64 squares was highlighted by 17-year-old Gukesh winning the title and becoming the youngest-ever World Chess Championship contender in history.

The question that everyone is now asking is whether India will be bidding to host the World Chess Championship, which was last held in India in 2013 when Chennai witnessed Magnus Carlsen defeating Viswanathan Anand to become the world champion for the first time.

“We do have an intent (to host the World Championship in India) and that’s why we have been exploring the possibility of bidding for it. We understand what it means for our nation and what it means for Gukesh. We’re very seriously exploring the possibility,” Narang, newly-elected president of AICF told The Indian Express earlier this week.

“After having access to all the documents, we’ve started assessing the bid now that we have a form in front of us. There are a lot of components that go into it, be it the commercial angle, the logistics and managing the entire thing. We’re very, very seriously having a detailed deliberation on each and every component. We’ll have clarity on this (the possibility of submitting a bid) soon. Once we have that, we can announce officially if we’re going ahead with the bid or are there any challenges. Once we have a detailed understanding of every aspect then we’ll be able to take a call on this.”

Besides India, Singapore also has thrown its hat into the ring to host the World Championship, which was hosted by Astana in Kazakhstan last year when Liren beat Ian Nepomniachtchi.

FIDE, the global governing body of chess, has stated that it will cost about $8.5 million (approximately Rs 70 crore) to host the World Championship.

Talking about the costs that a hosting nation will incur for hosting the World Chess Championship, Narang said: “FIDE has given a figure of about $8.5 million. But it also depends on a federation’s ability to negotiate. A lot of costs will centre on what we can do. Maybe I can get a partner to take care of accommodations, that takes care of one aspect. So it would not be right to say that $8.5 million is the exact cost of hosting a World Chess Championship. What FIDE has said is that $8.5 million is the cost that sponsors, and the organisers would incur as an expenditure.”

He also revealed that one of the plans that the AICF has is to host elite tournaments in India. Presently there is only the Tata Steel India Kolkata event, which is a regular feature. The Chennai Grand Masters, which boasted of being the strongest ever classical super tournament on Indian soil, was held for the first time last year, which helped Gukesh seal qualification to the Candidates.

AICF’s plans to popularise chess

The AICF also unveiled its plans for the coming years to popularise the sport. For about 400 players who are already in the system, there are two-year contracts and cash rewards on offer.

“Players in seven age categories from the U7 to U19 age groups will be given two-year contracts with monthly payments (U7 players will get Rs 20,000 while U19 players will get Rs 50,000 per month). The top 20 FIDE-ranked players will also be given cash rewards up to Rs 25 lakh a year. And the condition we’ll have for players to be eligible for that is for them to play at the Nationals,” Narang said.

Since getting quality coaching from grandmasters or elite trainers can come at a steep price, Narang also said that they wanted to support 20 online chess academies in various parts of India via grants. In this model, Narang said, grandmasters who have switched over to coaching or elite trainers will also be aided to become entrepreneurs.

“The idea is not to employ these GMs or trainers, but to make entrepreneurs out of them. They will own their academies, but we will give them funding so that they can also coach players we pick as part of this initiative. We’ll identify 20 players from each category right from U7 to the senior category, in men’s and women’s categories. So we’ll have 320 such players getting training for free. These 320 players will be assigned to these 20 academies. Since AICF will fund these 320 players getting coaching, the players will not have to spend to get training under GMs,” said Narang.



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