Mr. Prasad Ramasubramanian, Assistant Editor with the Times of India (TOI), gave an extensive interview for Chessdom.com. He talked about the booming chess in India, the influence of Vishy Anand on the local chess community, the upcoming young Indian chess players, the current situation of chess journalism in times of covid-19, and the World Chess Championship 2021 match.
You are covering all types of sports on your pages – from cricket to table tennis. Yet chess has a prominent place and is often the king.
Times of India has always been in the forefront of promoting all sporting disciplines. The interest in chess has always been there from the readers but it went up by many notches thanks to the legendary Viswanathan Anand who has single-handedly made India’s presence felt on the domestic and international chess scene for over three decades now. Anand’s exploits have encouraged a generation of players to take up the sport.
I have been a journalist for over 16 years and been covering chess for the last half a decade now. In recent years, coverage of chess has grown manifold thanks to numerous Indian players doing well in international events. To top that, the ongoing covid19 pandemic hasn’t affected the chess scene globally – thanks to online events, players have remained busy right through.
India is experiencing a chess boom, with new Grandmasters rolling in one after the other. The most recent one is 68th Grandmaster is Tamil Nadu’s Arjun Kalyan, a feat that you covered in details in TOI. How do you manage to follow the huge wave of young chess players in India?
It is always exciting when you track young Indian talent who are looking to grow in the sport. There may be 68 Grandmasters from India at the moment, but there are many strong players who are knocking on the doors to join this elite gang. In the coming months, you would hear more players becoming GMs from India. Thanks to a strong chess culture in India, we are able to churn out strong players on a consistent basis.
You rightly say Vishy Anand sparked the passion for chess in India. Do you believe a a player of the magnitude of Anand is growing up right now?
Most certainly. The likes of R Praggnanandhaa, D Gukesh, Nihal Sarin and the other young crop of players all have the potential to be a world champion. If they have the right guidance, training methodologies and most importantly — the drive from within — I see no reason why we can’t produce another world champion from India in the coming years.
Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand match in 2013 in Chennai set the world record for chess news reach. Only in India the estimated reach of the news was over 600 million people, while in other parts of the world estimates ranged from 800 million to 1,2 billion. Now, in this digital age for chess, and with a spectacular venue location in Dubai during the Dubai Expo, does the Carlsen – Nepomniachtchi match have a chance to surpass that?
Absolutely. In the last 12 months, coverage of chess has taken a big leap. Be it online tournaments or the over-the-board events, viewers have been witness to top-notch commentary across various platforms such as FIDE, Chess24, Chessbase India and many others. The upcoming World Championship clash will be no different and I expect the viewership to set a record of sorts.
Chess has moved mostly online during the pandemic. Now we see a worldwide going back to OTB chess.
I expect a few OTB events to make their way in the coming months. The strict rules and covid-19 protocols may mean that a few players will be circumspect while featuring in these events. Also, with travelling becoming a major issue — not many players may make it to events on a regular basis. Events will definitely explore the hybrid route, as a combination of online and over the board chess. As far as chess journalism goes, not much has changed! We continue to report on matches but can’t be physically present at the venue — so the dependency on online streams has increased.