Tamil Nadu is the heart of the chess culture of India. The State has the most number of rated players in India. And the capital, Chennai (formerly Madras) is the birthplace of World Champion Viswanathan Anand. It is no wonder, therefore, that Tamil Nadu is at the vanguard of chess development in India. During the Chennai Open and FIDE Arbiters Seminar, we interviewed the former secretary of the AICF,
who also belongs to Chennai. In photo above at the AICF office in Chennai are, clockwise from left, Prof. R. Anantharam, D. V. Sundar, Casto Abundo and Muralimohan.
AICF President J.C.D. Prabhakar (center) with, from left, Tamil Nadu State Chess Association VP Murugavel, FIDE VP D.V. Sundar, IM Manuel Aaron, Asian Chess Federation Deputy President Casto Abundo, Prabhakar, IA Srivatsan and Prof. R. Anantharam.
Q: What is the status of your Chess in Schools program previously announced in FIDE site?
Sundar: It is now gathering momentum at the headquarters of the All India Chess Federation. The AICF is registered in Chennai and so the headquarters remains here. The government of Tamil Nadu is very supportive. Madam Chief Minister Dr. J. Jayalalithaa has been a keen supporter of sports and culture, a very successful and outstanding senior artist.
Sports is a preferred human resource which she chooses to develop here. And when she was the Chief Minister also in 1995 she hosted the South Asian Games. The South Asian Federation Games consists of the seven nations in the Indian sub continent with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal and Bhutan. It is one of the very popular Games here like the SEA Games in Southeast Asia.
There are about seven stadiums built here by her including this stadium where the AICF headquarters are. This is the third time she is elected Chief Minister and we in the sports community in Tamil Nadu are very happy because we know that she will support sports activities.
You will remember that when FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov approached her in July (see story in FIDE site), she immediately agreed to host the World Championship Match between Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand for which she granted 4.5 million dollars.
She introduced now the Chess in Schools program here. From the lower school to the higher secondary, or from 7 to 17 years old, before they go to college education. Our academic year starts from June every year. So chess will be a compulsory subject in all the government schools here from this year from June 2012 onwards.
For five months now we have been preparing the coaches and the arbiters. We are now on the job of getting all the Physical Education teachers and all other teachers who are interested in this game. They will be taught how to teach chess to children specially beginners.
The primary objective is, the Chief Minister feels, that chess will inculcate analytical abilities. We promote chess not only as a sport but as a tool to develop children’s minds.
Q: What numbers are we talking about?
Sundar: I am talking about six thousand Physical Education teachers. And they are going to have chess clubs in each school.
Q: With six thousand teachers, how many children are we talking about?
Sundar: A lot of children should be coming to chess, it’s a question of time. We will know more by June. We plan to start teaching PE teachers in five selected districts of Tamil Nadu. They are going to involve the Tamil Nadu State Association in educating these teachers. There are 32 school districts and we will begin with five districts and slowly within a matter of two years all districts will be covered.
Q: What is the incentive for the P.E. teachers?
Sundar: The government of Tamil Nadu is going to give them extra pay for extra work. The Chief Minister has allotted some money in the budget. The School Education Department was asked to prepare a budget and they proposed 200 million Rupees (around $4 million) for training and purchase of chess equipment.
Luckily our President of the AICF, Mr. J.C. D. Prabhakar, is a Member of the Legislative Assembly in the same party as the Chief Minister.
Q: After teaching them, will you have tournaments among schools?
Sundar: Chess has normally been in school games federations. The chess federation does not interfere in these. Now the Tamil Nadu Chess Association is thinking to start organizing inter-school chess tournaments. As I told you before, we have every week somewhere a children’s tournament.
Six months after we start the program we’d like to see how children fare in tournaments. So there will be tournaments among schools to popularize the game.
Q: To teach the P.E. teachers, do you have a syllabus and program?
Sundar: We have a small one to begin with which we can give to you.
Q: Who will train the P.E. teachers?
Sundar: The Tamil Nadu Chess Association has a lot of coaches here.
Q: Do you have a system of licensed coaches?
Sundar: Last week we have partnered with a Sports Promotions Company, TenVic, which is headed by a famous Cricket player who holds the world record of Ten Wickets. This is why the company is called TenVic. Together with them, we are beginning the process of licensing coaches in all of India.
The head of TenVic is India’s foremost Cricketer. He started this sports promotions company and identified four sports: Cricket, badminton, table tennis and chess. They will join with the respective sports federations and also chose chess because it is very popular. So they approached us and we agreed. Now they will promote coaching and the federation is involved. Previously I was talking only about the Tamil Nadu Chess Association.
Together with TenVic Sports we are going to have a National Chess Academy and a place where India will have a course for coaches. Currently there are private chess academies. Now the federation is going to have one and we are going to have coaching seminars.
Q: Do you mean the FIDE Trainers Seminar next week in Delhi?
Sundar: That is to get the FIDE titles. The seminar in the National Chess Academy is for local coaches. They will send coaches to the schools to train the children.
Q: What about the funding for this?
Sundar: TenVic Sports will raise the funds for this. They are involved only in the coaching program. They are a very influential group because one of them is a very famous Cricket player.
We will follow closely this unique approach of sponsorship for coaching programs. If it is successful in India, other countries may copy this business model. India regularly wins many gold medals in Continental and World Youth events. They are certain to maintain this dominant position following the institution of this impressive Chess in Schools program.