Top guns stay away from premier event
Rakesh Rao

NEW DELHI: Chess may be one of the growing sports in the country, but its National premier championship has lost the status it once enjoyed among players and organisers alike.

The field for the 48th edition of the event that opens at the Mangalam World School here on Thursday clearly reflects how the event has become insignificant for many big names.

Mercifully, the presence of local favourite Parimarjan Negi, and late confirmations from top-seeded Kochi lad G.N. Gopal and defending champion B. Adhiban of Chennai have provided some much-needed sheen to the event.

In all, 42 players, dotted with 12 Grandmasters and 19 International Masters — including S. P. Sethuraman who is awaiting confirmation of the GM title — form the field.

The champion will be decided over 13 rounds of Swiss League.

Increasingly, the status and profile of the National championship has taken a beating. Strangely, the All India Chess Federation (AICF), in spite of its good intentions, has lacked the flexibility to consider favourably the suggestions of the players.

Leading Grandmasters like K. Sasikiran, P. Hari Krishna, Surya Shekhar Ganguly, Abhijeet Gupta — all rated over 2600 points — along with P. Magesh Chandran, R.B. Ramesh, Dibyendu Barua and Sriram Jha are among those who have stayed away.

Due to their ratings in excess of 2650, Sasikiran and Hari enjoy exemption from playing the National championship while K. Humpy and D. Harika are away at the World women’s championship.

Not enough

Leading players privately say that inadequate prize-money and low profile of the event had hurt the National championship.

At present, the event offers a paltry Rs. four lakh in prize-money, far less than what is offered in any of the domestic zonal-ranking events in badminton and table tennis.

Most organisers, too, are not keen to host the National championship since it is a losing proposition financially.

With no monetary assistance coming from the AICF and the entry fee from the players not amounting to much, only the pro-active organisers hope to find sponsorship support.

Special thanks to Jagdish Dube for sending us this article.


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