For the first time in the history of the prestigious competition, India not only hosts the 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad but is also the first country that starts off a torch relay that has been instituted by FIDE for the first time in the history of the competition which started in 1927. Acknowledging India's stature as the country where Chess was born, from now on, the Olympiad Torch will travel from India to the host nation during every Chess Olympiad.
On Sunday, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich handed over the torch to the Prime Minister, who in turn handed it over to Indian chess legend, Grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand. This marked the start of a 40-day torch relay that will cover 75 cities in India across the 36 States and Union Territories. This is in commemoration with the theme of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav – celebrating 75 years of India's independence.
Addressing the gathering the Prime Minister said "Today the first torch relay for Chess Olympiad games is starting from India. For the first time, this year, India is also going to host Chess Olympiad games. We are proud that a sport, starting from its birthplace and leaving its mark all over the world, has become a passion for many countries."
He continued, "Centuries ago, the torch of this sport went to the whole world in the form of Chaturanga from India. Today the first Olympiad torch of chess is also coming out of India. Today, when India is celebrating its 75th year of independence, Amrit Mahotsav, this Chess Olympiad torch will also go to 75 cities of the country. FIDE has decided that the torch relay for each Chess Olympiad game will start from India itself. This honour is not only the honour of India, but also the honour of this glorious heritage of chess. I congratulate FIDE and all its members for this"
The Prime Minister dwelled on the India heritage in chess. He said, "Our ancestors invented games like Chaturanga or Chess for analytical and problem solving brains. Chess, via India, reached many countries of the world and became very popular. Today, chess is being used in schools as an education tool for young people, for children."
He noted that in recent years, India is consistently improving its performance in chess. This year, India's contingent in the chess Olympiad is the biggest so far. The Prime Minister expressed the hope that India will create a new record of medals this year.
The Prime Minister talked about many lessons that Chess gives us in our lives. Underlining the need for right support for everyone irrespective of their place in life, the Prime Minister said, "Just like every piece of chess has its own unique strength and a unique ability. If you make the right move with a piece and use its power properly, then it becomes the most powerful. This specialty of Chessboard gives us the big message of life. If given the right support and the right environment, no goal is impossible even for the weakest."
Highlighting another lesson from Chess, the Prime Minister said, "Another great feature of the game of chess is farsightedness. Chess tells us that real success comes from far-sighted rather than short-term success."
The Prime Minister pointed out that this lesson informs India's sports policy and schemes like Target Olympics Podium Scheme (TOPS) which have started yielding results.
Referring to India's recent successes in Tokyo Olympics, Paralympics, Thomas Cup and boxing the Prime Minister said, "There is no dearth of talent in our country. There is no dearth of courage, dedication and strength among the youth of the country. Earlier these youths of ours had to wait for the right platform. Today, under the 'Khelo India' campaign, the country is searching and shaping these talents."
Sports talent is emerging from far flung areas of the country under Khelo India and modern sporting infrastructure is being created in different towns and districts of the country. He also pointed out that sports has been treated as other academic subjects under New Education Policy. He said that many new dimensions of sports like physio, sports science are coming to the fore and many sports universities are being opened in the country.
The Prime Minister acknowledged the pressure of expectations on the player and advised them to give their hundred percent with zero percent tension or pressure. He said that the country sees your hard work and dedication. As much victory is part of the game, preparing to win again is also part of the game.
Referring to the cost of one wrong move in chess the Prime Minister said if the game can go by one mistake, one can retrieve the situation by the use of brain power, therefore staying calm is of utmost importance. He suggested that Yoga and Meditation can help in this a great deal. He appealed for making Yoga part of daily life and for enthusiastic participation in upcoming International Yoga Day.
In his welcome address, Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Shri Anurag Singh Thakur invoked the rich history of chess in India. "It is a matter of pride that the Chess Olympiad will come to India for the first time and that the inaugural Chess Olympiad Torch Relay will herald the mega event with 188 nations and more than 2000 players," he said.
"Indian sports have made rapid strides under Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi's leadership. Not only has he ensured a massive increase in budget for sports and envisioned Khelo India and Fit India movement but also ensured the elite sportspersons are well-supported and focus only on giving off good performances," he said.
FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich thanked the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi for his role in creating a new tradition for the Chess Olympiad. "FIDE is delighted to start a new tradition from the land of Chess' birth in keeping with Olympic spirit. The Chess Olympiad Torch will carry the message of excellence, respect and friendship," he said.
"This time the Flame, carrying the message of peace and friendship, will travel 23,000km and touch 75 cities in India but from the next edition of the Chess Olympiad, the Flame will always be lit in India and travel around the world before reaching the host city," he said.
The 40-day torch relay will see some of the best stars from the Indian chess community carrying the torch. The torch rally will culminate in Mahabalipuram, before heading over to the FIDE Headquarters, Switzerland.
Besides the torch rally, cultural events are planned including an interactive bus tour travelling from a city to another, a cultural parade varying from region to region featuring young chess players' community.
India, who made its debut at the event in 1956 Moscow (27th position), has a gold medal (joint winners with Russia in 2020) and two bronze medals (2021, 2014) from the chess Olympiad. While the 2020 and 2021 editions were held virtually owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2022 edition will be the first over-the-board chess Olympiad being held since 2018 in Georgia.
India is hosting the prestigious chess Olympiad for the first time and in the process, Asia gets to host the event after a gap of 30 years. Philippines last hosted it from Asia in 1992. Being the host, India is set to field 20 players – their biggest ever contingent – at the 44th FIDE chess Olympiad. India is entitled to field 2 teams each in the Open and Women's category. Over 2000 participants will be representing at the event from 188 countries.
The 44th Chess Olympiad will be held in Chennai from July 28 to August 10, 2022.