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Pune pawns need FIDE castle to win

Maharashtra in need of more players who have FIDE ratings above 2300, say Pune chess experts

pune Updated: Sep 10, 2017 23:33 IST
Ashish Phadnis
City’s top players WGM Soumya Swaminathan (L) and WIM Akanksha Hagawne clash during Maharashtra Chess League in 2015.
City’s top players WGM Soumya Swaminathan (L) and WIM Akanksha Hagawne clash during Maharashtra Chess League in 2015.(HT PHOTO)

Noted chess player Mohan Phadke brought a chess revolution in Pune in 1985, since then the city has produced several international level player. 

Abhijit Kunte was the first Grandmaster of the city in 2000 and then it took almost 13 years, when Akshayraj Kore grabbed the honours. Recently, youngest champion Abhimanyu Puranik has joined the bandwagon. Currently city has three GMs, 5 International masters, 3 WGMs and 2 WIMs. IM Eesha Karawade and former Junior World champion WGM Soumya Swaminathan, have represented the country in prestigious Chess Olympiad, while WIM Akanksha Hagawane is U-16 World Champion and U-18 Commonwealth Champion. 

However city chess experts feel that there is a long way to go and it will take time before Pune can be considered as the Chess Hub of India. 

“As everyone says there is absolutely no dearth of talented players in Pune but we don’t have any substantial measure to account for it. To attain a title of Grandmaster, a player has to reach the rating and strength of above 2500 FIDE rating and for IM it is above 2400. In Tamil Nadu, there are countless players who are in the range of achieving these rating criteria. Now-a-day, making norms isn’t a big challenge as there are many tournaments. What we need at this time is massive quantity of players who have ratings above 2300,” said Fide trainer Jayant Gokhale.

 “In Pune, in fact in entire Maharashtra it’s a pitiful condition – we have really very less players between the range of 2300 to 2400 rating. Lesser number is in the range of 2200 to 2300 and even lesser in the range of 2000 to 2200. Unless and until, we have a huge quantity in all these slabs, how can we expect that few of them would touch the milestone of 2400 and then 2500? At the moment, in Pune we have less than five players who are above 2300 rating. Quite an alarming situation, I feel,” he added. 

City’s senior chess enthusiasts Ravindra Mirashi also raised the question regarding this. 

“Currently, it is observed that instead of focusing on top notch performances, only a few of the chess players and chess coaches are increasingly inclined, day by day, towards publicity and news value oriented performance. Are we going to term the same as professional chess?,” he asked. 

“A performance while playing in an unknown country, in an unknown tournament, opposite players unknown to the whole world would be so unreal that such players would not be able to achieve any position in the list of worldwide top 100 players. It is an earnest wish that basically, players taking this path should come to terms with the reality. Presently, chess players taking this path are in limited numbers and we hope that the number do not increase in future,” added Mirashi. 

While GM Abhijit Kunte said, “The number of chess players has increased considerably in last 5-10 years. But, we need professionals. Still for most of the players and parents, chess is not a career option. Several players who perform impressively in the age group categories, concentrate on academics and lose focus on the game. We need to change this picture. Unless we show the players that there is a bright future ahead, then there no use of just popularising the sport.” 

Lack of coaches and tournaments 

There’s huge population of chess playing kids in our city and all the coaches are extremely busy and occupied. Right now Jayant Gokhale and Prathamesh Mokal are the only FIDE trainers in city. Though, the player-turned coach like Ketan Khaire, Aniruddha Deshpande, and Chinmay Kulkarni are doing a good job, city needs something more than that.

 “To create champions a sustained effort is required from those who have already been champions to pass their knowledge and expertise to youngsters through coaching. Also Parents and students should be made aware of the chess scene in detail as regards training, tournaments, effort and time needed etc. Very often talent does not reach the right hands and goes waste. Sometimes talent does not give enough time and effort and loses patience. The right attitude under the right guidance can make a lot of difference,” said IM Prathmesh Mokal. 

“Pune needs to host an International Open Chess meet every year. This will give exposure to kids and youngsters to that level of chess along with an opportunity to ambitious players to prove themselves right in their home city. The publicity will also attract more talent to the game,” he added. 

Government support 

Mokal also pointed out the recognition of efforts and achievements along with government support can help a sport flourish. 

“I think talent search and training programs undertaken by the government for example in Gujarat in the last few years are excellent. The best situation is where the government ropes in past champions in programs to create future champions. That can be useful to upcoming talent, rewarding to past champions and also add a sense of possible security to those pursuing their sport,” he said.