A few months before representing his state and country in the biggest tournament of his life, arranging the finances should be the last thing on a player's mind. But in India, funding remains a matter of concern for all non-cricket sportspersons ahead of major events.
So, as he embarks on his journey to prepare for the 2024 FIDE Candidates tournament to be held in Toronto, Canada from April 2-25, Grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi is forced to keep a wary eye on his finances as he will have to spend between Rs 1.30 crore to Rs 1.50 crore to participate in the eight-player double round-robin event, the winner of which will take on reigning World Champion Ding Liren of China.
Besides Gujrathi, two other Indians -- R. Praggnanandha and D. Gukesh -- have qualified for the 2024 FIDE Candidates in the open section. R. Vaishali and Koneru Humpy will be representing the country in the Women's Candidates tournament which will be Helsing concurrently.
"Takes a huge amount of resources to participate" - Vidit Gujrathi
Pragg and Gukesh will not have to focus their energies on raising sponsorship as the Tamil Nadu government will be taking care of the expenses of players from their state.
Gujrathi, who hails from Nashik, is hoping for similar assistance from the Maharashtra government. He is getting some support from Lakshya, his sponsor for 10 years and from the All-India Chess Federation (AICF), who have pledged Rs 2 crore assistance for preparation for all five Indian players that will be representing the country in the Candidates tournament. But there will still be a shortfall and that is giving Gujrathi sleepless nights.
"At this juncture with around three months to go for the Candidates, I want to concentrate all my energies towards preparing for the event. But it takes a huge amount of resources to participate in an event of this magnitude. So, I am hoping that the Maharashtra government will be able to help me," Vidit Gujrathi informed a press conference here on Tuesday.
"The Government of Tamil Nadu has already granted financial aid to Gukesh and Pragganandhaa. I would to appeal to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra Eknath Shinde, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Ajitdada Pawar and Sports Minister Sanjay Bansode to give me similar support for seamless training and preparation purposes," he added.
Currently ranked 14th in the World in the latest FIDE Rankings for January 2024, Gujrathi has come up from the ranks, climbing the ladder through the age-group competitions at the national and international circuits. He is quite confident about his chances in the 2024 Candidates and said he is only thinking of himself and not about other contenders.
He qualified for the 2024 Candidates tournament by winning the FIDE Grand Swiss tournament to join the likes of Gukesh, Praggnanandhaa, Ian Nepomniachtchi, runner-up of the previous World Championship cycle, Fabiano Caruana of the United States, Hikaru Nakamura of the United States and Alireza Firouzja of France while Nijat Abasov of Azerbaijan has come in as a replacement for Magnus Carlsen, who has refused to be part of the World Championship cycle and the Candidates event.
"I have to stay in Canada for over a month" - Vidit Gujrathi
Gujrathi said Carlsen's decision to pull out does not come as a surprise as the World No.1 from Norway has expressed his refusal to participate in the event.
Speaking to reporters he said, "FIDE Candidates 2024 campaign is very tough and requires a lot of resources which is mainly financial as I have to stay in Canada for over a month and will have to travel with a support team. I have been supported by Bharat Forge and Lakshya since my childhood but I would need financial backing from the Indian government and potential support from the Government of Maharashtra to achieve my goal," said Gujrathi.
He said though he has not directly approached the Maharashtra Government for support, people close to him and from Lakshya have been trying for the last few weeks to get a chance to speak to officials concerned in this regard.