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My state of mind is quite reasonable, perhaps a bit groggy. I am already looking forward towards my next assignment. I think India’s 6th place was quite normal. India is ranked no:6 in the world and was seeded No. 5 going into the event.
2. How was your experience at the Olympiad? Can you please elaborate a bit on it? Was it different being on the training side and not playing in such a strong event?
I’ve trained more than I’ve played in recent times. Therefore, it wasn’t all that different. It would probably feel different if I were asked to play. As for the experience in the Olympiad, it’s hard to put these things into words. It was not my first time working at this level. I am sure I got a lot of insight about both chess, chess players and team events, and I am sure it’ll help me contribute better in similar situations.
3. What was your daily schedule like?
I wouldn’t say there was a fixed schedule of sorts. I would usually work late into the night, and go to sleep for a few hours when productivity began to drop. I would get decent sleep for a few hours and start working in the morning right away. It would be intense until the lead up to the game, but I would get enough time to rest and rejuvenate during the games itself. The rest days are usually more intense as the 4-5 hour rest window isn’t there anymore.
4. How did you get chosen for this role and do you think that it helped the team to have external help apart from the coaches/captains?
I was approached by the team captain GM R.B.Ramesh, and I was too happy to be able to contribute to team India. GM Ramesh had a certain strategic vision for the Indian team, and people like our secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan and our president Venketrama Raja helped put it into reality.
5. Where do you think we faltered in the end?
The loss against Armenia was of course critical. The format of the Olympiad is such that there is a minimal margin for error. I think there are about ten decent countries fighting for three places, aside from some decent countries that can create upsets in 1-2 odd matches. I mean no disrespect for the previous winners and the present winners, but to take an objective view, the Olympiad is also not the best competition to decide the strongest teams. It is an open event with a lot of random factors – like random pairings, tie-breaks etc. In my view, we should pay more attention to how we do in World Teams. It’s a closed event with most of the top teams, and the team that wins there needs to play all the elite teams, and it’ll be a level playing field.
6. Can you talk about the All India Chess Federation’s contribution towards the side in this year’s Olympiad?
The AICF has made things more professional with the coaching camps, the introduction of support staff, and the servers. It’s a fantastic start. Everyone involved was made to feel very comfortable, and each of our needs was taken care of. The players, in particular, were pleased. This is just the seed sown – I conservatively estimate that we’ll see the fruits in about 6-10 years.
7. What do you think needs to be done for the next Olympiad(s)?
Ideally, every player should’ve at least one dedicated, full-time helper. Aside from that, I think we should continue putting the processes in place. We’re about as good as any team as far as the bench strength is concerned. For example, India no 20 and India no:30 is higher rated than the Chinese counterpart. However, at this moment, our elite top 5 can get better than what it is. There are two things that can be done here:-
- Strengthen the existing elite
- Start working on the Under 15 level with the same professional vision
I know for a fact that the AICF is working on both of the above. So, there is the intent. There is a lot of scope for improvement regarding acquiring infrastructure and then using it optimally to execute things. I am confident that these aspects will be put into place, and I look forward to exciting times ahead with the Indian chess. The creation of such an eco-system will multiply the strength of the players at all levels as well as the number of quality players itself.
8. How did you personally benefit from being amongst such a gathering? Did you find your game improving by talking to the world’s best?
It doesn’t happen that way that you talk to some people and acquire instant wisdom. Jack may have got a magic beanstalk, but it usually takes due time and process for the beans to grow.