The game of chess has existed on the fringes of the sporting fraternity for a long time while more physically demanding and visually entertaining sports have taken up all the headlines. But, fortunately for the ancient game, things took a turn for the good as the sport has been propelled to new levels of fame in recent times.
The presence and aura of legendary Vishwanathan Anand ensured that there was always going to be a market for chess in the world and more particularly in India, but the rise of a talented new generation has also aided the rise of the game in the country along with the successful Chess Olympiad that was held a couple of months ago with a lot of pomp and show.
FIFA World Cup 2022 Points Table | FIFA World Cup 2022 Schedule | FIFA World Cup 2022 Results | FIFA World Cup 2022 Golden Boot
15-year-old Raahil Mullick from Mumbai, India’s second youngest International Master (IM) and the youngest from the state of Maharashtra, is certainly a testament to the promise India holds in the game of chess going forward.
A gold medallist at the Asian Schools Chess Championship 2022 in the U15 category, the lad certainly seems and sounds like a boy-wise beyond his years. Clear in thought and respectful in behaviour, the lad ranked in the top 5 of the nation’s FIDE’s U-15 rankings, took an early shine to the game and the inspiration or push apparently came from within the confines of his home.
“It was my dad who first introduced me to the game at the age of 4. He taught me the basics and I had a spark for it. I wanted to keep playing with everyone I met”, begins the youngest coach on the newly launched Unacademy and Graphy Chess online platforms.
“My parents saw that spark and enrolled me with a chess coach, Kuldeep Vhatwar, at age 5.”
“And just like any sport, winning and losing are a part of it. When you win, you feel really good about yourself. But, more than that, I like the feeling of playing the game.”
“It isn’t that I’m particularly ecstatic when I win. Of course, I’m happy, but I’d like to learn from my mistakes.”
Managed by mum Rupali Mullick, who believes the game has made him a more rational person who approaches life with the same clarity that a top-quality game of chess at the highest level would require.
“Going abroad and playing is probably the best part about chess and sports in general. You get to see different cultures, and I enjoy that.”
“Every tournament is unique and I approach each competition with a different mindset. So, if it is an age-category tournament, I approach it in a manner different to that of an open-category tournament. I just try to play my best chess and get the better of my opponents.”
The advancement of technology has favoured training and decision-making abilities in sports and chess has benefitted from the advancements set in stone ever since the creation of ‘Deep Blue’.
“I think a few years ago, engines were getting strong and it has helped change the culture of chess as a whole. People have started preparing for tournaments with the help of such dominant engines and that has changed the face of the game.”
But, then again, tech doesn’t just give endlessly, as it always comes at a premium. The mechanicalizing of the sport does take something away from the artistic nature of the strategy-based game.
“Going forward I think this facet of the game is going to be accelerated as people might get intensely focused on engine preparation and like Magnus Carlsen has said ‘It could become a bit boring for people.’”
“Of course, I enjoy this type of preparation too personally, but I do feel it has diluted the game.”
“Chess is a great spectator sport to watch online and the pandemic scenario has shot chess viewership into the mainstream.”
Current coach IM Prathamesh Mokal had high words of praise for the youngster too as he was quoted saying, “Winning international chess medals requires a tremendous amount of talent, dedication and time and the fact that Raahil is achieving success in spite of spending a lot of time in serious academic studies (Class 10) is very creditable indeed", taking stock of the multiple facets of life the teenager has had to juggle.
It almost goes without saying that Indian genius Vishwanathan Anand has in all probability had a part in instilling a love for the board game in any budding youngster from the Indian sub-continent and even across the globe, and the statement certainly holds good in the case of Mullick.
“Vishwanath Anand is certainly someone I look up to. Gary Kasparov is another. Bobby Fischer too.”
“But apart from national hero Anand, my main inspiration has been Carlsen ever since I was a kid. I love his ability to be technical about the game and completely thrash his opponents in the end game. He also doesn’t settle either. I’ve seen players settle for draws early in the game against the opposition of their own calibre, but Carlsen is one of those players who push to the end and pushes himself to be better.”
A shameful shadow befell the game of wit recently with the Hans Niemann saga that shook the world and Mullick is one of many who feels that such instances tarnish the integrity of the sport.
“It is a double-sided knife as it has shot the popularity of the game up, but obviously, it hasn’t been very positive in this case.”
“And not all publicity is good publicity and such instances reduce the perception of the game in the eyes of the world. Chess is supposed to be an ethical game and when something like this happens, the spectators’ perspective pertaining to the game takes a hit,” concluded the 10th grader who is preparing for a different kind of test come February of 2023.
Read all the Latest Sports News here