Chess has thrived during the Covid-19 pandemic by going online but top FIDE official Emil Sutovsky felt it will not remain an online sport and normal over the board events will start once the situation improves worldwide. He said on Sunday that “once the situation gets better, we will think of having over the board tournaments by following all the necessary precautions.”
“The coronavirus crisis has brought a setback to all activities. Most events have stopped. The biggest mistake will be to just sit and wait, chess could go online and it should capitalise. We should get more and more people to join chess,” Grandmaster Sutovsky, Director General of FIDE (world chess body) said.
“Online chess is booming. We also have to balance it properly, so that it doesn’t remain an online game, Need to strategize how to resume after the crisis. Once the situation gets better, we will start thinking of over the board tournaments as well by following all the necessary precautions,” he said at a webinar-’Chess in times of COVID-19-Challenges and opportunities’ organised by Maharashtra Chess Association and AICF.
The webinar was also attended by former world champ Viswanathan Anand among others. Sutovsky also said India was a key partner in the growth of chess and added that there was a need to popularise the sport at the school level. He hailed Anand’s role in the growth of chess in the country.
“It was Anand, who put India on the (global) chess map. Before that, we couldn’t understand India would be a great chess country. Now India is one of the powerhouses in chess,” he said. “India should be proud of its chess fraternity…We have to encourage more people to play chess, through a strategic partnership.”
Hailing the concept of online chess, Anand stressed on the need to experiment. “The most significant thing to happen in 2020 is that we are overcoming the psychological barrier of making things online. Chess has been playable online for decades, but we are better prepared now. People are open to the idea of doing things online, we should be open to utilise it fully,” he said.
“We should be open to hybrid options. We should be flexible and experiment a lot. We are open to more possibilities. We have to see how that can help organise more tournaments.”
Indian No.2 Vidit Gujrathi and woman Grandmaster Soumya Swaminathan, who also participated, highlighted the need to popularise the sport by having more online events. Swaminathan also said it was time to give importance to the mental health of players as they could get affected during a long break.
“I have interacted with several players and have come to know that some are having withdrawal symptoms as they are not going to tournaments. I feel it is a good time to start mental health programmes for chess players by roping in specialists, mental health professionals and motivational speakers. It will be beneficial not only now but also in the long run,” she said.