THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Vishy Anand-Boris Gelfand fight royale which began in Moscow on Friday will have something for every chess buff. For Justin Joseph, it means a set of annotated chess games at the end that will help him train students at his fledgling chess academy in Thiruvananthapuram.
"It will be almost impossible to do this while the matches are on. The moves will be too complex to follow and, anyway, the games consume a lot of time. So we will go through the games afterwards,’’ Justin, a former district champion, explains his plans for the World Chess Championships-2012 which will keep chess players across the globe busy till May-end. Justin and his academy, ‘Chaturanga’, are part of a minor chess boom happening in the capital.
If the Alekhine Chess Club at the Russian Cultural Centre (named after Alexander Alekhine, the Russian grandmaster) was the city’s lone chess hub a decade ago, today it has academies and clubs named after the Cuban Raoul Capablanca and Anand, in addition to Chaturanga. Classes are also held at the YMCA. Most of these academies have sprung over the past two years. They are not exactly overflowing with members, but show robust promise and registrations are on the rise.
Today, Internet resources have revolutionised and in a sense democratised training in this once princely game. Youngsters also have access to websites where they can match their skills with players across the globe. But if Soviet mastery of the game and the later Anand magic was what attracted most to a chess board in the past, today the reasons are so different why parents coax juniors to the chequered board. Parents see it as a tool for diverting children from the TV, for one. Two, they feel it sharpens the mind, say coaches here.
Two-time state champion Sreekumar opened the Capablanca Chess Academy at Jacob’s Junction less than two years back. "There is increased interest in the game. We have separate batches for seniors and juniors, and right now, we have more girls than boys,’’ he said.
The most recent entrant was Chess Association Kerala general secretary P Venugopalan with the Anand Chess Academy, a branch of his Kozhikode school. He has already conducted a Fide-rated tournie, which was won by 11-year-old Shiv Mahadev from Tamil Nadu.
"Classes are held on the weekends. We have some 50 youngsters registered, and 30 are active. For the game to become truly popular, you need more tournaments happening here,’’ Venugopalan said.
More than 600 youngsters have trained at the Alekhine Chess Clab of the Russian Cultural Centre, says Russia’s honorary consul Ratheesh C Nair. "We started the club in 2000, and the response has been excellent. This year, we hope to bring a Russian master for a coaching camp,’’ he said.