‘Chaturanga’ is how chess was known as in Ancient India and it's origin can be traced to more than 10 centuries ago, for it indicates the four wings of the old Indian army which has Infantry, cavalry, Charioteers and Elephants. Incidentally when India is hosting the 44th Chess Olympiad at Chennai from July 28, for the very first time in close to a century, FIDE, the World body governing chess introduced the inaugural Torch Relay to celebrate and acknowledge India as the birthplace of chess. Henceforth, the torch Relay for every Olympiad will be flagged off in India and travel across the world before culminating at the host country.
A game tracing its origin almost 12 to 15 centuries back would have its share of fabulous legends and Chess too has its fair share of ones which have been handed down in generations, in sort of a legacy! The most fascinating one was narrated by my grandmother when I was 6 years old and was just new to chess. In the great epic Ramayana, which was once verbally transmitted sometime between 750 BC and 500 B, demon King Ravana invented chess to amuse his wife Mandodari, who promptly defeated him at it. It may appear far fetched to a few but then some of the oldest references to chess can be traced to ancient Indian texts.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s great gesture in flagging off the Olympiad flame from Delhi garnered maximum attention and support for chess, which has been witnessing a boom in recent years. Seeded in the top five in World Rankings, India has the talent and the potential to become a major player, breaking the long held Russian and Chinese supremacy. The torch relay as it passes through 75 cities could prove motivational for many to explore the mysteries of the game on the 64 squares. The ‘Khelo India’ initiative launched by the Indian government will now include ‘Khelo Chess’ and could well be the new moto of the younger generation.
Even as India moved into top gear to host the Olympiad at such short notice, a record 189 countries have registered for participating. This is the highest ever in the history of the Olympiad. India as the host nation is entitled to field an extra team in both sections which means that 10 more Indians get an opportunity to showcase their skills at the biggest platform in world chess.
Indian chess is on the rise as can be seen with the teen talent pool which has been dominating the European circuit from Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, Arjun Erigaisi, D Gukesh, Nihal Sarin, R Vaishali to name a few. All four Indian teams that would be on display at the Olympiad have the potential to rake in a medal. The organization and conduct of the Olympiad appear to be going along the intended lines and after this Olympiad, the World will recognize and acknowledge India as a splendid organizer and gracious host.