The Royal Game: The History of Chess in India and Today

The Royal Game: The History of Chess in India and Today

By Sujata Muguda, Shreyas WebMedia Solutions

22/4/2024: Chess, a strategic board game with a rich history, has seen a significant rise in popularity in India over the past few decades. This surge can be attributed to the achievements of Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand, who became India’s first Grandmaster in 1988 and later went on to win the World Chess Championship five times. Anand’s success has inspired a new generation of chess players in India, leading to a substantial increase in the number of professional players and enthusiasts alike.

The ancient game, believed to have originated from ‘Chaturanga’ in ancient India, has evolved into a modern sport with a structured competitive framework governed by the All India Chess Federation (AICF). The AICF oversees the organization of national tournaments and the participation of Indian players in international events. As of 2023, India boasts 84 Grandmasters (GMs), 136 International Masters (IMs), 18 Woman Grandmasters (WGMs), and 43 Woman International Masters (WIMs), with a total of 33,028 rated players.

The current landscape of Indian chess is vibrant, with players like GM Erigaisi Arjun, GM Praggnanandhaa R, and GM Gukesh D making their mark on the world stage. In 2024, the young prodigy GM Gukesh D became the youngest Indian to win the Candidates Chess Tournament, setting the stage for the ‘After Anand’ era in Indian chess. This victory not only signifies a shift in generational talent but also highlights the depth of skill present in the country.

India’s presence in the global chess scene is formidable, with nine players in the top 100 FIDE Open rating list as of 2023. This includes stalwarts like Anand, who continues to be a force to reckon with, and emerging talents like Gukesh, who at the age of 17, is already making headlines. The country’s female players are not far behind, with GM Koneru Humpy ranked 3rd in the world among women as of November 2021, showcasing the gender diversity in Indian chess prowess.

The nurturing of young talent is evident from the number of Indian players in the world’s top junior rankings. As of December 2023, 20 Indian juniors are in the top 100 worldwide, with players like Praggnanandhaa and Gukesh featuring prominently. The support from the AICF and the chess community has been instrumental in providing these young minds with the platforms to excel.

The proliferation of chess in India is not limited to the professional sphere. Initiatives like ‘Khelo Chess India’ aim to popularize the game at the grassroots level by organizing rapid and blitz tournaments across the country. These efforts are crucial in creating a sustainable ecosystem for chess, ensuring that the game continues to thrive and produce world-class players.

In conclusion, the state of chess in India is a testament to the country’s rich cultural heritage and its ability to produce world-class talent. With the support of the AICF, the dedication of players, and the enthusiasm of the chess community, India is poised to continue its legacy as a powerhouse in the world of chess. The journey from the ancient game of Chaturanga to the modern chessboard reflects India’s enduring love for the game and its commitment to nurturing future generations of chess champions.

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