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We may have an Indian challenger to Ding Liren next year: Viswanathan Anand

The former World Champions that a few from the current crop of promising chess players from India will qualify for the next year's Candidates Tournament.

Praggnanandhaa Chess

R Praggnanandhaa ended the rapid programme in the third position at the Superbet Poland Rapid and Blitz event in Warsaw, Poland. (Photo Credit: Tata Steel Chess)



Updated: 5 May 2023 5:12 AM GMT

India's long wait for a world champion may not be very far as chess wizard Viswanathan Anand hopes that "some Indians" will qualify for the Candidates Tournament next year. Seven slots are available for the Candidates in Toronto that will determine the challenger to the recently-crowned Ding Liren in the next World Championship in 2024.

"There are good chances for them to qualify. It could happen in the very next cycle, hopefully," Anand told PTI in an exclusive virtual interaction on the sidelines of Global Chess League's announcement.

Barring Anand, who is the top-ranked Indian at No 9, seven others from the country are inside the FIDE top-100. The five-time world champion Anand has already announced that he's not going to fight for it again. But the likes of D Gukesh, Arjun Erigaisi, R Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin have shown a lot of promise. Anand could not agree more.

"We have many, many promising youngsters. If we are lucky, we may have an Indian challenger to Ding Liren. "But at the very least, I'm hoping some Indians will qualify for the Candidates the very next time. That will be very exciting," said the 53-year-old who mentors some of them at the WestBridge Anand Chess Academy.

A FIDE deputy president, Anand also spoke on Ding's success and hoped that will popularise the sport more in China. "Definitely, it's an interesting signpost that China have both men's and women's titles. That is quite interesting. They were also the Olympiad champions back in 2018 and didn't compete in Chennai last year.

"Hopefully Ding's victory makes the game more popular in China. As a deputy president, that's what I'm interested in seeing." Ding became the first male world champion from China after sealing the win with a 68-move win over Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi with black in the fourth and last rapid game of the tie-break phase in Astana recently. The world championship battle lasted three weeks of end-to-end slugfest featuring 14 classical games, and tie-break of four rapid games.

"Both participants went at each other very courageously. Essentially, they had the confidence that they can beat the other player. "They went and did everything they could, and the games were gripping - six decisive games, even many of the draws were exciting till the end and a fascinating tiebreaker as well. We never had such an audience, and that's very, very good for the game.

"The match was very, very good for the World Championship cycle. It has not been this exciting for a long time. There were a lot of discussions on why and how that is. But we see that the current format can produce fantastic competition as long as the players go for it like this."

Asked whether China is the new powerhouse of chess, Anand said: "For me, it's not obvious that they are necessarily going to dominate. Whether Asia is going to dominate is an interesting question.

"If you look at the top-four countries in the world in chess, it is China, India, USA and Russia. We are generally talking big countries with a lot of people playing chess. I think that will continue to be."

'Wrestlers charges need to be probed fully'

Anand further spoke about the raging wrestling controversy and termed the wrestlers' accusations, "very, very serious".

Indian champion wrestlers like Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia among others have come out on the streets, demanding the arrest of WFI chief and BJP leader Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on sexual harassment charges.

"Justice should happen. We should have a full investigation. I hope the charges they have made are investigated to the full. These are very, very serious accusations and, therefore, I hope they investigate it fully," Anand concluded.

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