Russia was scheduled to host the Chess Olympiad but after the war broke out with Ukraine, news wafted that World Chess Federation (FIDE) President Arkady Dvorkovich was looking for a fresh host for the Olympiad. This was last month, in mid-March and All India Chess Federation (AICF) secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan, sensing a door half-open, knocked with a message to Dvorkovich “India is open to organising any chess event”. The one-word reply, more in the form of a question from Dvorkovich, ‘Olympiad?’ had the AICF secretary springing to action immediately and asking for 24 hours to confirm back. Chennai would be hosting the 44th Chess Olympiad, the biggest sports extravaganza ever in India, with about 160-190 countries in the fray at Mamallapuram, about 60kms from Chennai from 28th July to 10th August.
Working overtime, using all his experience as an Organiser of one of the biggest International events in Delhi, Chauhan did some preliminary enquiries and immediately conveyed to the FIDE President that India was ready to bid in principle. Delhi, Gujrat and Chennai were then short-listed as the possible venues. The next week was a hectic one and at Chauhan’s behest, GM Srinath was instrumental in setting up a quick and crucial meeting with Tamil Nadu CM M. K. Stalin who instantly approved, assured and endorsed his government’s support for the event. Chennai seeped in chess culture and had earlier hosted the World Chess Championship in 2013 between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen.
Once the requisite $10 million guarantees were assured, it was a whirlwind tour of all the five-star and four-star hotels with government officials. ‘Initially, I was more inclined to host the event in Delhi but the very hot weather in July and lack of chess culture, along with whole-hearted support extended by CM Stalin clinched it for Chennai said a jubilant Chauhan. 1200 rooms for the participants were booked in one day and the Convention Centre of Four Points Sheraton was decided as the venue.
We were able to answer all queries by FIDE satisfactorily, ensured the $10 million guarantee and had all the organising plans in place in less than a week and we were the only ones to bid for the Olympiad in the stipulated time span. Five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand endorsing our bid gave us another boost and FIDE granted us the rights to host the Olympiad – Bharat Singh Chauhan.
The AICF’S willingness to leave no stone unturned went in India’s favour, according to FIDE’s Director-General GM Emil Sutovsky. As for Chauhan, the glint in his eyes is obvious as he sums ‘Cannot complain about anything in life now”. The half-opened door has been opened wide!