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From left: Parag Shah, Director - GCL and Member of Group Executive Board, Mahindra Group; Jagdish Mitra, Chairperson, GCL Board; Anand Mahindra, Chairman, Mahindra Group; CP Gurnani, MD & CEO, Tech Mahindra; Akash Premsen, Triveni Continental Kings; Ronnie Screwvala, upGrad Mumba Masters; Punit Balan, Balan Alaskan Knights and Anubhav Gupta, SG Alpine Warriors, at the Tech Mahindra Global Chess League launch in Dubai on Wednesday. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: The futuristic stage is set for the inaugural Global Chess League to enter the unscripted territory with all the six teams ready to match wits in Dubai from Wednesday. The glamour and glitzy opening ceremony has as many as 36 nervous faces waiting for the opening move of the first team event.

“We are all excited to participate in the new and exciting chess experiment, while at the same time we are conscious that there is something new happening here. So there is a lot to get used to,” five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand told Gulf News on the eve of the $1 million chess league. “I’ve met all my team members, we’ve spent the last two days together. I think the mood is very good.”

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Viswanathan Anand speaks at the GCL launch on Wednesday. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

36-top-ranked players

The Global Chess League, a joint venture between Tech Mahindra and Fide — the sport’s governing body, is the second most important chess event to be held in Dubai, following the title match for the World Chess Champion in 2021. This unparalleled gathering will showcase 36 top-ranked players categorised as Chess Icons, Superstars, and Prodigies (those born in 2002 and later), vying for the ultimate glory.

The very best in the chess world today will take part in this event as members of six different teams. Leading them will be the former world champion in classical chess, and reigning world champion in rapid and blitz, Magnus Carlsen.

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Artists perform during the launching ceremony of the Tech Mahindra Global Chess League on Wednesday. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Liren pulls out

Current world champion Ding Liren pulled out in the last minute and has been replaced by Armenian Grand Master Levon Aronian, World Rapid and Blitz champion from 2009-2014 and the fourth-highest rated player in history from 2014-2019.

The next 12 day are going to be hectic for the players and talking about the demands of the sport for the Prodigies, Anand felt that it would be a rather great experience and felt there is not much difference in terms of preparations.

Fantastic opportunity

“Mostly we will be preparing individually, because it’s highly focused. It’s about you how you are trying to maximise your repertoire and your strengths. So I don’t think there’ll be a lot of team preparation. The team exchange ideas support each other, but a lot of the work will be individual.” Anand clarified.

“I don’t think it’s going to be demanding. This is a fantastic opportunity for all of them as they are here with the best players in the world. It’s the best situation to be in.”

The pool of Superstars includes Nodirbek Abdusattorov (2021 world rapid champion), Alexander Grischuk (three-time world blitz champion) and Daniil Dubov (2018 world rapid champion), as well as a score of top-Indian players such as Vidit Gujrathi, Arjun Erigaisi and Gukesh D.

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Australian cricketer legend Steve Waugh and Indian tennis star Sania Mirza speak to the audience. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Leading women players

The world’s leading women players are also taking part, including Grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk (who held titles of world champion in classical and rapid chess), Kateryna Lagno (two times world blitz champion and once a world rapid champion), and world-leading players Koneru Humpy and Harika Dronavalli. The event in Dubai will also feature a surprising return to the board of Hou Yifan, a four-time world champion who has in recent years dedicated herself to a career in academics.

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A dance group entertains the crowd during the Global Chess League launch yesterday. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

The team owners are happy with the combination of players and Ronnie Screwala, the owner of upgrad Mumba Masters, said he is happy with the composition, which has players from France, Uzbekistan and Russia. “There are three Indian players and two real Queens in Koneru Humpy and Harika Dronavalli. They will be making their own moves, pun intended,” Screwalla, the Bollywood producer, said.

Now the fans are waiting for the players to make their moves and take their teams to the final on July 2.