Chess grandmaster Harika Dronavalli (L), Cricketer Ajinkya Rahane (2R) and Billiards player Dhvaj Haria along with Indian Oil officials at an event organised by Indian Oil Corporation in Bandra
Chess grandmaster Harika Dronavalli (L), Cricketer Ajinkya Rahane (2R) and Billiards player Dhvaj Haria along with Indian Oil officials at an event organised by Indian Oil Corporation in Bandra

Mumbai: The ace chess grandmaster Harika Dronavalli on Thursday said she was confident that The World Youth Chess Championship to be held in Mumbai will unfold a new chapter for the game in India.

“I started playing chess way back in 2000 and 19 years later, I am finally seeing it happen. I have represented India in Spain, Greece and various other countries and I always wondered whether the championship can ever come to India; could we ever organise such an event with so many participants? Today, I feel thrilled about it, and I am sure more kids will get inspired by seeing such important tournaments happening here,” the 28-year-old said while recalling her journey.

Dronavalli, who was awarded Padma Shree this year, also said that these championships help to shape up the mindsets of youngsters. “World Youth Chess Championships are important for any kid. I won my first world medal (silver) at the U-10 championship and that’s where the inspiration to pursue chess as a career came in,” she said at an event organised by Indian Oil Corporation to celebrate its association with sports personalities.

Harika also highlighted the fact that out of 69 grandmasters in India, only two are women, and the current perspective needs to change for good. “When men become the grandmasters in our country, we consider it to be basic criteria to begin their career in chess, but when a girl becomes a grandmaster, people react as if she has achieved everything.”

Six world crowns will be at stake when the prestigious World Youth Chess Championship gets underway here on October 1 at Powai. As many as 66 countries and 56 title-holders, including three Grand Masters, will be seen in action over the next fortnight.

Six out of the 450+ participants, including 145 from India, are also world champions. India’s latest sensation and the world’s second youngest Grand Master Praggnanandhaa R will be the star attraction, in what is the biggest chess tournament ever held in India. Sargsyan Shant (Armenia) and Iniyan P (India) will be the other GMs in the fray.

Apart from Chennai-based Praggnanandhaa, Nagpur’s Divya Deshmukh will also be the cynosure of all eyes, especially as the latter will spearhead the girls’ challenge for the country.

“This is a great honour for India,” Pravin Jain, chairman of the organising committee, said in the presence of other top officials. “We hope to take the love for chess in India to the next level through the WYCC. I am positive that our young boys and girls will take it up in a big way after this,” he added.

Russia, USA, France, Italy and Azerbaijan will be a few chess powerhouses to watch out for in the tournament, organised under the aegis of the All-India Chess Federation by the All-Marathi Chess Association. The tournament will be held at the Renaissance Hotel in Powai. India has traditionally excelled at the youth level, bagging several gold, silver and bronze medals since the WYCC was introduced in 2004.

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