Chess News

Viswanathan Anand says that ban on G.N. Gopal is much too harsh

Grandmasters Barua and Thipsay also joined Anand in standing by Gopal

Mr.Rakesh Rao, Special Correspondent of The Hindu (India’s National Newspaper), continues with coverage of the ongoing controversy involving the young Grandmaster G. N. Gopal. The player was banned by the All India Chess Federation (AICF) afer the Kerala-based GM took part in a tournament in Mexico skipping the National A in Mangalore late last year. The news about the official ban came a few months later, and triggered a wave of protest.

The Hindu article from April 7th reminds that an earlier decision of the AICF had “devalued” the importance of the India Chess Championship:

Many leading players feel the two-part National championship stands “devalued” since the AICF decided, in December 2007, that the Indian team would be formed on the basis of their ratings and not rankings achieved in the National ‘A’.
It also means that should a player, not ranked in the top five in the country, become the National champion, he/she still cannot be in the Indian team.
“We have formed a committee comprising Grandmasters Dibyendu Barua, Abhijit Kunte and AICF office-bearers Bharat Singh Chauhan and Ravindra Dongre to review the National championship format at all levels,” said the AICF secretary D.V. Sundar.

On the following day, Mr.Rakesh Rao provided opinions of the World champion Viswanathan Anand and Grandmasters Dibyendu Barua and Pravin Thipsay:

Anand said: “I feel this is very harsh for something that doesn’t really hurt the sport. Ban should be for that. Skipping the Nationals isn’t usually met with a ban. If a player gets an attractive opportunity to play abroad, I guess the federation can be flexible. At his age, a year is pretty crucial.”
When asked for a possible solution, Anand said during an internet chat: “this time, I would suggest they let him off with a warning. I hope they feel they made their point and drop it now because it will really hurt his career. Chess players are really concerned and there is lot sympathy for him.”
Anand was also not in favour of the AICF making it mandatory for the players to participate in the National championship. “In fact, in most countries, it is optional. As long as the people are allowed not to play if they don’t want to, it’s fine by me. Changing the criteria for playing in National ‘A’ is okay but if they (the players) don’t want to play, that should be their choice. Surely it is in the interest of the players to play the Nationals, why force them?”
Barua, the country’s second GM, made a point by saying, “if our players are stopped from honouring their commitments to overseas organisers, it will seriously curtail the invitations that come to the Indian players. In Europe, organisers are very particular about the players keeping their word. It can have a cascading effect on all Indian players.”

Related: AICF may reconsider chess ban on Gopal

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