Chess is more than a sport in Kolkata and Chennai

Chess is slowly and steadily is expanding its popularity in India especially in cities like Chennai and Kolkata as the recent Tata Steel Chess tournament held at later city witnessed huge crowds gathered at National Library to support their favorite player and watch them in action in close quarters. They would greet the players with loud cheers and would applaud their efforts when the games were over. Some of them could be seen waving Indian flags, too. For someone playing in the Tata Steel Chess tournament as a player, it was a surreal experience for them which World number 12 ranked player D Harike echoed the same sentiments.

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“It was so strange that I didn’t know how to react,” says D. Harika, the World No. 12 in women’s chess. “Then I got used to it and it felt great to play a tournament in front of a crowd. It is nice to connect with the fans.”

This is completely different to what Chess players have experience of playing in close halls and where mostly fans don’t turn up to witness the contest.

However, Chennai is the other city where fans support the game by watch the matches live inside the auditorium as in 2013 when the World Championship held in the former city where the clash between Vishwanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen witnessed fans came in huge numbers to witness an epic clash.

I think the passion the people of Kolkata have for chess is something you may not find anywhere,” says Woman International Master  Saheli Dhar Bharua who is now a coach. “As someone who lives in the city, I felt so happy to see so many fans coming to the venue to watch the tournament.”

People far away from Kolkata, too, have come to the city for this elite tournament, like Ruchika Kaushik, who flew down from Delhi. “My daughter Siya is learning chess and we wanted to watch his event,” she says. “I could see the city’s love of chess. We have been to the Gariahat flyover, under which people play chess regardless of the noise all around.”

Kolkata, a city where sport like Cricket and Football is popular is certainly a pathway of celebrating Chess with the same passion which clearly indicates that this indoor sport is fast gaining popularity.