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Indian Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand talks about the future of chess during an interview with Gulf News after receiving his UAE Golden Visa. Image Credit: A.K.S. Satish/Gulf News

Dubai: Indian Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand is confident that Indian players will be a dominant force in world chess in the near future.

“The situation of Indian chess is very good and Dommaraju Gukesh and Rameshbabu Praggnandhaa are spearheading it right now. We have some very good players like Arjun Erigaisi and Nihal Sarin. We also have Vidit Gujrathi, who is playing his best chess even though he is a bit old,” five-time world champion and Fide Deputy President told Gulf News in Dubai on Thursday, after receiving his UAE Golden Visa.

Indian duo drawing global attention

“Gukesh is eighth in the world and Pragg is 20th and have drawn global attention with their rapid improvements of late. It’s a long journey, but I believe that this golden generation will keep India well represented in all competitions in the world. At least one of them will be there in every place. So that’s very exciting.”

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From left: Indian grandmasters Gukesh, Anand and Praggnanandhaa during an event in Kolkata last week. Image Credit: AFP

Gukesh brought Anand’s 37-year reign as India’s top-rated player to an end and has made giant strides in the last one year. Anand is happy, despite losing his position to Gukesh.

“I am extremely happy when Gukesh broke my record. It’s a standing record as I am semi-retired for the past 2.5 years, which means that my number is not bobbing around. The impressive thing is that in just over a year Gukesh has gained 50 points above 2700, it is difficult to do so fast at that level, which is impressive. Pragg has also gained 40 points in the last few months,” Anand added.

Candidates qualification is key

Gukesh has a ranking point of 2755.9, while his idol and mentor Anand stands at 2754.0.

Another Indian sensation Pragg, who also hails from Chennai like Anand, has been in red-hot during the recent Fide World Chess Cup in Baku, where he defeated world No 2 Hikaru Nakamura and world No 3 Fabiano Caruana before losing the final to Magnus Carlsen in a tiebreak. Talking about the young prodigy’s performance, Anand refuses to dissect Pragg’s game and feels he will come back stronger.

“You can’t always win and when you don’t win, you can always do something different. I think he’s getting stronger. The fact that he managed to beat strong players like Nakamura to make his way to the final is impressive. The important thing is the qualification to the Candidates and that he has accomplished, which opens up potentially a pathway to the World Championships,” said the 53-year-old.

“Carlsen also made some very good decisions. And I think in the white game that Pragg lost, there was a stretch that he was outplaying Carlsen, his position was improving. Then suddenly he missed a counter-attack. These things happen and I’m not going to give a long post-mortem on it.”

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Anand plays chess with Tarim Matar Muhammad Tarim, President, UAE Chess Federation, in Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

Ready to expore opportunities in UAE

Anand is looking forward to spending more time in the UAE after being accorded the Golden Visa. He joins the elite list of sportsmen like Cristiano Ronaldo, Novak Djokovic and Luis Figo to have received the Golden Visa. “The UAE has become a more global and more important country. It’s also becoming one of the sporting capitals of the world. Almost all important sports have some activity or a major event in Dubai. And I think this is the direction that chess will move in as well. Besides, the Indian connection that India and the UAE are quite close and there are many points of connection there. So I’m very happy to get the Golden Visa and I hope that both as a Fide Deputy President and as a chess player and as an individual, this facilitates coming in and interacting here,” he said, adding that he is open to developing the sport here in the UAE. “I’m very open to these things and I guess slowly I can approach these opportunities. I’d be happy to explore in that area.”

The UAE Chess Federation hosted a banquet in honour of Anand after he received the Golden Visa. Chess has a rich heritage in UAE and the recently concluded inaugural Global Chess League, where some of the best in the business competed in a franchise-based format, has given a huge confidence-boost to players like Gukesh and Erigaisi.

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UAE Chess Federation officials and fans during a banquet held in honour of Anand after he received the UAE Golden Visa. Image Credit: Supplied

Chess back in Asian Games

Talking about the league, Anand said it was an important move to bring new audience to chess. “It was a very innovative and original league, they were trying something different and it turned out to be the perfect event at the perfect venue, Dubai.”

Chess is making rapid progress and the return of the sport in the Asian Games has excited Anand. “I think it is a very big event as chess is making its appearance in Asian Games after a long time. So that is a good development for us and just hope it continues to have lots and lots of innovative formats and tournaments. I’m hoping that the next edition of the Global Chess League builds on that,” he concluded.