‘Chess is attracting new audience during lockdown’

Praveen Thipsay hasn’t stepped out of his apartment at Khar, Mumbai, since March 18. He doesn’t intend to, for another month.

Also read: Tripura engineer’s online chess tournament gets players from around the world

He says the situation is a bit frightening in the city, which has become COVID-19’s epicentre in India. “From my flat I can watch the street, and it is empty, totally,” Thipsay tells The Hindu over phone. “It is a very busy area normally, even at night there would be lot of noise.”

Now all you could hear is silence.

Difficult

“I think it would at least be August when Mumbai can hope to return to some normalcy,” he says. “The government is doing the best it could, but when eight or 10 people are living in a room and are using a single toilet — as is the case in Mumbai’s worst-hit areas — it is not easy to contain this virus.”

Chess, though, lifts Thipsay’s spirits. India’s third Grandmaster spends many hours on teaching chess online. For the first time in his life, he has also started playing tournaments online.

“I have enjoyed playing online,” he says. “I have played five tournaments so far and it felt nice posting wins against some strong foreign Grandmasters.”

Anand of old

He has also been following a lot of online chess. “I was delighted to see Viswananthan Anand crushing Ian Nepomniachtchi in the Nations Cup,” he says. “His victory against Teimour Radjabov was brilliant too. It was like watching Anand of the old.”

With Anand, Carlsen and many other top players competing in online tournaments regularly, chess is probably the only sport that is covered regularly in the media during the lockdown.

“That, of course, helps chess reaching out to more people,” says Thipsay. “There is no doubt that chess has attracted a new audience. It is up to the officials to make use of it.”

He feels the lockdown should have been an ideal opportunity for the All India Chess Federation (AICF) to conduct online tournaments.

But, infighting has ensured that is for all the wrong reasons that it is making headlines these days.

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