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India’s medal drop in age-group chess causes concern

India’s medal tally in the World Youth Chess Championship which ended in Khanty-Mansiysk (Russia) on Tuesday is of serious concern. Just one gold medal for Pune girl Aakansha Hagawane is the silver lining but apart from that there was nothing to cheer from the three categories (under-18, under-16 and under-14).

India’s medal drop in age-group chess causes concern
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Aakansha Hagawane

Chennai

India has been consistently churning out medals in this championship over the years and this one comes as a surprise to chess fraternity back home.

Aakansha, who competed in the Under-16 girls category, logged nine points and cantered home, has been a consistent performer in India’s age-group championships. Surprisingly, Chennai girl R Vaishali could have also played in the same group but she preferred the Under-18 open (boys) and finished 38th. 

Aakansha, coached by Jayant Gokhale, had finished ahead of Vaishali in the National sub-junior championship and she went to Russia without any expectations. 

“First of all, I didn’t expect the championships would be so successful for me. This is my first title of a world champion. And I am very glad the tournament ended like this., I just tried to do my best in every round,” said Aakansha after the championship. 

Chennai’s Priyanka, P Iniyan and Mahalakshmi came up with disappointing performances in different categories. Mahalakshmi came 11th in the Under-18 girls section, P Iniyan was seventh in the Under-14 boys section and Priyanka was eighth in the category (U-18) in which Aakansha won the gold. 

Dronacharya Raghunandan Gokhale attributes the drop in India’s collection to the lack of interest on the part of strong players. “Many players have not gone there,” says Gokhale. “Noadays, these children don’t want to spend money and play in these events if there is no chance for a norm. The other reason is that Government awards now don’t come for achievements in the Under-14 and Under-18 categories.”

Gokhale pointed out strong Indian players such as Harsha Bharatkoti and Abhimanyu Puranik opted out of the championship probably because they thought their money is better spent in strong rating tournaments. 

Changing times but they too have a point in the final analysis. And the biggest concern is the young talents are losing interest in official tournaments.

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