An 8-month long power tussle has paralysed the All India Chess Federation and taken a toll on players. Is the upcoming election going to end it?
Since March, the All India Chess Federation (AICF), the Indian chess administrator, has been split into two factions. One is led by Bharat Singh Chauhan, secretary of AICF, and the other by PR Venkatarama Raja, its President. The division, and the subsequent legal battle, started after a controversial election in February that saw Chauhan re-elected into the AICF and Raja and his panel of 15 nominees disqualified on technical grounds. But now, there seems to be a resolution in sight.
On Monday, the Madras High Court appointed J Kannan, a retired judge from Punjab & Haryana High Court, as returning officer to conduct elections at the All India Chess Federation (AICF). Advocate Sanjay K Chadha, who represents Chauhan at the Madras High Court, told Lounge that J Kannan is expected to announce the election dates soon. “The polls will be conducted in accordance with the National Sports Code,” he added.
An end to struggle at the AICF has been long awaited. But to many, most of it has been an ego-battle that’s come at the cost of Indian chess players and the initiatives to develop the game online during the pandemic.
Varugeese Koshy, founder of Chess Players Forum, a body representing chess professionals in India, says that one of the biggest casualties of this tussle has been the AICF’s inability to capitalise on the surge of interest in online chess.
“Online chess boomed during the lockdown,” says Koshy. “Websites like chessbase.in and chess.com, and bodies like the FIDE (International Chess Federation) and the Asian Chess Federation, tapped into it by organising multiple online tournaments. But AICF’s focus has only been the elections. There were no competitions held by any of its affiliates.”