Before any major sporting events, players and coaches are typically nervous. But, RB Ramesh, undoubtedly India's prominent chess coach is relaxed and spoke ahead of the 44th Chess Olympiad.
The former chess player-turned-coach runs a Chess Gurukul Academy at T Nagar, Chennai and has brought out over eight grandmasters. "Apart from the players I have trained, I have also worked with over thirty GMs," he told BusinessLine.
Helming 'India B' in the Chess Olympiad as its coach, about five of Ramesh's students are participating, including R Praggnanandhaa, his elder sister R Vaishali, Karthikeyan Murali, B Adhiban and Raunak Sadhwan. These youngsters face their greatest challenge this week.
'Just play the game'
In 2008, Ramesh decided to quit his job at the Indian Oil Corporation to open a chess training centre along with his wife Aarthie Ramaswamy, a chess player herself.
Why does the Chess Gurukul Academy stands out among others in India?
"I think, we emphasise more on just playing the game than worrying about the end result and its consequences," said Ramesh. With this approach, Ramesh feels there's much more possibility to groom a player to become competent.
A tough ride for many
Ramesh noted that chess enthusiasts who are passionate to pursue the game as a career face a lot of challenges. "Children sacrifice a lot and so do their parents," he says. "Families spend money on training and for taking part in tournaments held abroad."
The coach feels that the entire system around chess in India needs to be changed. "It's not just the government that needs to support, but everyone else too," he says. "If the media does a regular chess reporting, the unsung players may get chances of sponsorship. When the private entities offer sponsorship, others, too may pitch in."
Back in 2020, in a series of tweets, Ramesh expressed his disappointment with the lack of cash awards to players and salaries to coaches. While many of his students won awards worldwide (including India's only Bronze medal at the 2014 Chess Olympiad), they haven't received many recognition here. And, even if they do, it has been frugal.
"Unless the Ministry of Sports starts listening to stakeholders who are working on the ground and making a real difference, instead of Officials and bureaucrats who have their own axe to grind, nothing will change for better or it will take too much time," he tweeted.
Another suggestion Ramesh had put forth was the government offering dedicated spaces for Chess to train more students. "They can even lease out buildings and work with chess federations across States," he says.
A ray of hope?
With Chess Olympiad being held this year in India, Ramesh is hopeful that it will spark some interest. "I loved the way the Tamil Nadu government has organised and marketed it," he says and adds on a lighter note. "Pragg and I went to the Napier Bridge and it was great. People recognised him and started cheering."