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We just have to live with it: GM RB Ramesh on chess players not being awarded Arjuna, Khel Ratna

Since 2013, none of the chess players from India has been awarded the Khel Ratna or Arjuna. Grandmaster RB Ramesh laments that it has become normal.

We just have to live with it: GM RB Ramesh on chess players not being awarded Arjuna, Khel Ratna

Md Imtiaz

Updated: 28 Oct 2021 10:33 AM GMT

India's inspiring show at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics reflected in an unprecedented 11 recommendations for the Khel Ratna award, including that of champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, as the selection committee also named 35 athletes for the Arjuna honour on Wednesday.

This is the first time so many names have been recommended for a single edition of the awards ceremony. Last year, the government had honoured a total of 74 sportspersons with the national sports and adventure awards in different segments. The awardees included five in the Khel Ratna category and 27 for Arjuna.
However, repeating the trend once again, no Indian chess players would be given Khel Ratna or Arjuna Awards. Abhijeet Kunte remains the only chess player, who will be awarded the Dhyanchand Award. In fact, he is the only chess player to win the national award since 2013. In the last eight years, India produced several exceptional chess players who have shone on multiple occasions and brought laurels for the nation, however, the Indian government has overlooked them for even the Arjuna Award.
World Rapid Chess Champion Koneru Humpy was nominated for the Khel Ratna award by the All India Chess Federation (AICF). While Vidit Gujrathi, MR Lalith Babu, Adhiban Baskaran, SP Sethuraman, Padmini Rout and Bhakti Kulkarni have been recommended for the Arjuna Award.
As per the MYAS, Arjuna award is given to sportspersons for their outstanding achievements. Every National Sports Federation (NSF) nominates the names of three players whom they deem fit for the Arjuna Award. The panel looks through all the nominations and the awardees are selected.
A person eligible for Arjuna should fall under the following categories:-
1. Olympic Games/Asian Games/Commonwealth Games/World Cup/World Championship disciplines and cricket or any equivalent recognized international Tournament.
2. Indigenous Games.
3. Sports for physically challenged.
Chess is not part Olympics, Asian Games or Commonwealth Games but has its own Olympiad, Asian and Commonwealth games. Throughout the history of Arjuna awards, 18 chess players have received the honour since 1961. Besides, Viswanathan Anand was the first person to be awarded the Khel Ratna. Despite the successes in recent years, Indian chess players have been neglected.
"We just have to live with it. I would have been surprised if a chess player was given the Arjuna award," says Chess Grandmaster Ramachandran Ramesh, who won the 2002 British Championship and the 2007 Commonwealth Championship.
Ramesh started Chess Gurukul Chess Academy in Chennai to train young players in 2008. Ramesh has honed the young prodigy R Praggnanandhaa, his sister Vaishali, national champion Aravindh Chithambaram and Karthikeyan Murali, among others.
Speaking to The Bridge, he adds, "In every phase, someone is a deserving candidate to win the award Arjuna award. There are many players who have been on the circuit for a long time, but haven't got the recognition. So the list would be pretty long."
Earlier this year, Ramesh, resigned as chief selector of the All India Chess Federation, lamenting the lack of recognition of domestic coaches from the government, saying they have been ignored for national awards despite producing medal-winning players.
Humpy now has a global rating of 2,577, behind the Chinese duo of Huo Yifan and Ju Wenjun with 2.659 points and 2,586 points respectively. She made a comeback after a two-year interlude to win the FIA Women's Grand Prix held in Skolkovo, Russia. She had taken a break to spend quality time with her newly-born daughter, Ahana.
India's has a vast pool of chess talent which has been reflected in tournaments like the Olympiad, World Rapid Chess Championships, yet every time the government has not considered them eligible for Arjuna or the Khel Ratna Awards.

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