A few administrators of the All India Chess Federation (AICF) are more concerned about power rather than the development of the game, slammed International Chess Federation (FIDE) vice-president and British Grandmaster (GM) Nigel Short. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), on the other hand, is heading in the right direction with the appointment of Sourav Ganguly as its chief, Short told Onmanorama during a visit to Kerala. Short also opined that Kerala, as an advanced state in India, should pioneer in the promotion of chess by including it in the school curriculum. Here are the excerpts:
Being a GM how easy it for you to manage the issues faced by players, especially with the administrators?
It is a great privilege to be the vice-president of FIDE. The sport of chess could not have been run in a better manner than how it is being conducted for the past 25 years. So I am delighted to be in a position where I can influence things and improve matches in a game which I love.
Your memories of the World Championship battle with Garry Kasparov...
It was two months of excruciating agony! The World Chess Championship final of 1993 was a traumatic experience for me. It is painful that it took 19 long years for me to examine and overcome it. It was not a great joy for me.
Is Magnus Carlsen way ahead of the rest of the competitors?
At the moment, yes. I don't know whether he would stay the same tomorrow but as of now, he is way ahead of his competitors. He is a well-grounded player that he can play all the different positions in the game. Carlsen is a universal player. He is equally atoned in strategic positions and non strategic sharp tactical variations. He is a natural player. He likes outplaying his opponents with superior understanding of the positions but his tactics are phenomenally strong. I think these two skills compliment each other. It is not possible to be a strong strategic player unless you can also calculate very well.
How do you rate teen Kerala GM Nihal Sarin?
He is a very talented young player and he needs all the support of Kerala.
You have been a vocal critic of the policies of the AICF. What are your suggestions to improve the body?
I think there are people in the AICF who are more concerned about their individual power than the furtherment of chess. There are people without a chess background in its administration. It is not a terrible thing but it would be much better if there are people who are more knowledgeable and passionate about the sport in the administration.
The placement of Sourav Ganguly as the head of BCCI, is a very positive development as far as the Indian cricket is concerned. Somebody who knows absolutely everything about the game is apt to decorate that position.
Will including chess in the school syllabus benefit the children?
Since 1973, there have been several scientific researches proving the benefits of chess in academics. Hundreds of studies have been conducted in this regard. I attended a major conference in Armenia on the topic 'Chess in education' earlier this year. The value of chess in education is increasingly recognised. Kerala, as an advanced, innovative state in India, would be ideal to be a pioneer in this field.
Is the sport struggling for a new face in England?
It is a strange fact that chess in England has been in a state of stagnation for quite a while. In 1980, we were the No.2 chess nation behind the Soviet Union. Then there was a period of steady decline. We did not have enough tournaments.
Surprisingly, 2019 had been a good year for English chess. England secured third position in the European team championships and second in the world team championships. It is our best year for decades although the players are not getting any young (laughs.) So I think we need more support and more tournaments.
One thing I would say, in order to be the top player, you need to invest more time in the sport, which means you should be a professional. If you are not able to make money out of sports, you would inevitably be drifting to other works like an office job that offers money. We need a structure in all countries where by people can entirely devote themselves to the discipline that they love.
Your advice to budding chess players...
Do play a lot in order to study a lot. Enjoy the sport. Unless you enjoy it there is no point in practicing it. Life is full of interesting things to do. If you are not passionate about the game, then try something else. We have only one life. Make the most out of it.
Is there another sport you are equally passionate about, than chess?
Well, I am a huge fan of cricket. I am in a good country to say this! I don't like football at all. I always love to watch international cricket. I don't play cricket. I don't do a lot of physical exercise though I love swimming.
My major physical exercise these days is changing gates at airports as I travel a lot to propagate the game!