Bathinda resident Pankaj Kumar has won the Punjab State Under-25 Chess Championship which concluded here on Sunday.
Besides Kumar, Gursher Kumar from Ludhiana, Varun Kumar from Jalandhar and Jaspreet Singh from Patiala have qualified to represent the state at the national edition of the tournament, to be held at Calicut in Kerala in October this year.
Players from 15 districts participated in the event.
Distributing prizes to the winners, state finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa said that playing chess required an alert and sharp mind, and one could learn values like quick decision-making and firm endurance.
Saying that the state government could not provide coaches for the game as it was not included in the Olympics or Asian Games, the minister announced a Rs-51,000 grant for the Punjab State Chess Association.
'Government apathy making chess suffer'
Players have alleged that the state government has an apathetic and indifferent attitude towards the sport, alleging that while circle-style kabaddi is also not included in either tournament, crores of rupees were spent, including an alleged Rs-1.5 crore payment to actor Akshay Kumar for a 20-minute performance, on organising the Kabaddi World Cup last year.
Chess was brought within the ambit of the Sports Gradation Policy in 2009, but no other benefit has been granted to the game so far though it enjoys global popularity and can be played by everyone, including the disabled, the players say.
International arbiter and Punjab State Chess Association secretary Rajinder Sharma said, "The state government does not provide any financial assistance for promotion of the game or its players. Even the provision of small rooms would provide a platform for players to assemble and practice so they can shine."
"Chess players can win laurels for Punjab on national and international levels if the state sports department evinces interest in the game," said Neelkant Sharma, president of the Barnala District Chess Association.