For chess to flourish in Pune, we need more camps, sponsors: chairman PDCA

According to Joseph chairman, Pune District Chess Association, coaching champs will sharpen our players.(Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO)

Chess in Maharashtra was suffering a few years ago due to the irregular working of the Maharashtra Chess Association. The new body, All Marathi Chess Association (AMCA), was formed in 2017 which is now affiliated to All India Chess Federation (AICF). Since the last two years, AMCA is helping districts spread chess activities throughout the state.

In the last two years, the Pune District Chess Association (PDCA) has got many benefits from the new body and it is helping produce good chess players. While speaking to Jigar Hindocha, Joseph D’souza, chairman, Pune District Chess Association, explained how chess is making progress in the city.

What benefits did PDCA get after the formation of the new chess body?

The new body is doing a wonderful job. Under their guidance, we are able to conduct more tournaments. Now, we are able to nominate our players for the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Awards and many of our players were awarded too.

In the earlier association due to the vested interest of a few people, chess was suffering. Now, things are getting better for all the districts with AMCA supporting chess activities.

Do you think players suffered under the previous state association?

Absolutely, not only players, but the whole chess fraternity suffered. Maharashtra always produced good players and we used to give a good fight to Tamil Nadu but lately, we haven’t due to these conflicts.

What problems do you face while promoting sports like chess?

There are challenges because our sport is not a spectator-friendly sport and it is limited to one class of people, so attracting sponsors is one very big issue which we have to deal with.

There are hardly any sponsors available to conduct the tournaments. With no sponsors available, it has become compulsorily to take participating fees from players which make the game costly for players.

Talent coming from the city…

It is amazing that we have awareness about the sport in Pune and we are best when it comes to producing chess players from the state. When I started coaching, we were only 2-3 coaches, but now we have 152 coaches and 48 academies in Pune.

Out of seven women grandmasters in the country, Pune is home to four– Swati Ghate, Eesha Karavade, Krutikka Nadig and Soumya Swaminathan. It is a matter of pride for us.

Pavan Rathi. ( HT/PHOTO )

What are your views on online coaching?

Online coaching does help rural students in their coaching. Since areas like Gadchiroli, Yavatmal don’t have good coaches, players connect with coaches online.

Teaching a student face-to-face helps you more than online learning and if a player has both the options available, then, he should always opt for face-to-face teaching.

What steps is PDCA going to take in the coming days?

We are focusing on conducting more coaching camps. We have a good number of tournaments happening in the city, but coaching camps will sharpen our players. Providing scholarship to players at the grassroots level is our next target.

With no financial stability, chess arbiters struggle to survive: Rathi

Surviving only as a chess arbiter is not possible and you need to have a supporting job to manage the financial needs of your life, this is the harsh reality which Pavan Rathi accepts with a smile. The arbiters are responsible for ensuring the rules and laws of chess are adhered to in a tournament.

Starting his career as a chess arbiter in 2017, Rathi directly appeared for the Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE) arbiter exam conducted by the Delhi Chess Association and secured the 12th rank in India.

Before the FIDE exams, there are state and national arbiter exams, but Rathi focused only on the FIDE arbiter exam.

“I played my first chess tournament in 2014, at that time I was told by one of the city coaches that I am too old to learn chess at the age of 24. It was disappointing to hear, but still, I continued to play and also supported Vivek Bhagwat (chess player) conduct tournaments in Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC),” said Rathi

“Seeing my work and enthusiasm for chess, Bhagwat advised me to appear for the arbiter exam and that’s how it all started,” explains Rathi, who as a chief arbiter has conducted more than 75 tournaments so far.

For Rathi, it was the passion for chess which urged him to pursue it as a career.

“As a player, I could not have continued playing chess since it needs a lot of money so I opted for the role of arbiter. I knew I will not earn a massive amount, but staying connected to chess was important for me,” added Rathi, who got support from Joseph D’souza, chairman of Pune District Chess Association (PDCA) and Rajendra Konde, Secretary of PDCA, during his initial days.

In Maharashtra, there at 110 arbiters, but only 52 are active in the field.

“We get Rs 1,200-1,500 per day for monitoring tournaments, so it becomes hard to survive and tournaments are not held every day, so managing the monthly income is a challenge for every arbiter. Most of the arbiters also run their academies to get financial gain,” said Rathi who recently started the Pavan Rathi Chess Academy, Wagholi, where he teaches eight players.

“I did not have an option, so I had to start coaching,” added Rathi.

From FIDE arbiter, now Rathi aims to become an international arbiter.

“There is no exam to become an international arbiter, but we have to pass four norms: The person needs to be an arbiter in three international tournaments and if the chief arbiter gives you good rating, then, you can become an international arbiter,” said Rathi.

Role of an arbiter

There are three levels of arbiter: arbiter, deputy arbiter and chief arbiter

An arbiter is a person who manages the work on the field and solves the queries of players during the tournament.

Deputy arbiter handles the system which includes updating players results, entries, finalising their draws.

Chief arbiter takes decisions if players raise an objection or there is a dispute among them and also overviews work done by the arbiter and deputy arbiter.

Children playing chess at Joseph D’souza Chess academy in Pune. ( Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO )


April- June

* Halkude chess memorial tournament

* Deccan Gymkhana rapid chess tournament

* Third all India open FIDE rating chess tournament

* Fourth all India open FIDE rating below 1,500 chess tournament


* Ashok Khare memorial chess tournament

* Inter-school chess tournament

* Zilla parishad chess tournament

* YMCA chess tournament


* Maharashtra senior state selection tournament

Along with these tournaments, Pune District Chess Association (PDCA) also conducts rapid chess tournaments every week.

In the classic format, PDCA also conducts district selection tournaments for under-7, 9, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 25 in boys and girls categories respectively.

NOTE: The dates and venue of tournaments are not yet fixed and would be announced 1-3 weeks before the events.

Pune chess facts

* Coaches: 152

* Chess players: 1,500

* Academies: 48

* Arbiters: 25

* Annual tournaments: 64 plus

* Formats: Classic, rapid, blitz

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