The post-pandemic world is certainly one of unimagined realities and digital acceleration, and chess matches snugly into this new area. A ‘Global Chess League’ by Tech Mahindra introduced to happen this yr — an eight-team affair, a mixture of ladies, males and juniors, gamers and groups being drawn from totally different components of the world and competing via a 6-8 week window in ‘phygital’ type, a hybrid of bodily and digital if you happen to like, is the newest barrier breaker.
“If we had this conversation a year ago, I wouldn’t have even thought of it,” laughs Viswanathan Anand. He is advisor-mentor-facilitator-in-chief all rolled in one for the league being floated by Indian industrialist Anand Mahindra. The five-time world champion is drawing up doable codecs, tweaking scoring methods and sifting via the melee of chess occasions which have taken place since the lockdown and non-chess leagues which were in existence, on the lookout for ideas and improvements to borrow and adapt.
“The idea of eight teams across the world representing different geographies coming together makes it a global event,” Anand tells ESPN. “Some stages of the league will be over-the-board but we don’t have a clear breakup yet. I’ve already started work on the format, it’s going to be robin-robin and a final elimination but we’re also trying to experiment with ideas. The key is to engage all kinds of audiences without watering down the sport. We might make a provision for fans to participate with their teams, be a part in some of the decision making and maybe even qualify for one spot. It’s also important that we have a fantasy element. We’re also looking at leagues in other sports for aspects we can perhaps use. I still haven’t taken a call on whether I’ll be playing the league. It will depend on how much time it takes to set up this project.”
The concept for this league started to type round the time India, together with Russia, completed with gold medals at the Online Chess Olympiad in August final yr. It had adopted months of pandemic-induced lockdown and ennui and a stay sport-famished Indian viewers trooped in big numbers to observe the dramatic remaining, gatecrashed by a world outage of the Cloudflare internet infrastructure service, which led to joint winners being declared.
The revelation was easy but startling — the existence of an enormous, untapped viewers for chess. It bought Mahindra and Anand chatting about the chance of a league and 6 months since, it is assumed some type of concrete form.
“Chess lends itself automatically to the idea that post-COVID, the world is not just changing in terms of usage of technology for work but also usage of technology for sports,” says Jagdish Mitra, chief technique officer and head of development at Tech Mahindra. “We think no other sport offers the opportunity for physical and digital like chess and we imagine taking it forward in subsequent editions through 5G, AI and VR to an environment where you can perhaps have a floating chess board and two players on either side. Through chess, the world can be an interesting place to visualise.”
“Chess seems to be everywhere today. Not only has the sport benefitted from it but people too are getting to experience the technology that chess has been talking about for a while now.”
With sports activities leagues, there’s additionally the small matter of sustainability. “We have to look at what brings fans to the game,” provides Mitra. “It’s what drives any revenue model. In most cases, it’s broadcast. The world is moving to OTT broadcast which is right there on your phone and chess naturally then takes a unique model for revenue and can engage fans not just during a slotted period but throughout the day. Our intent is really global, and it’s a one-of-a-kind league that isn’t restricted to being staged in a region, country or continent. If run well, whether it’s getting the timing right in terms of the event window and the players we bring in and the kind of fan engagement we’re able to create, we should be able to sustain ourselves for the long term.”
Over the final yr, established practices have been debunked, and led to the mushrooming of recent types of engagement. Anand factors to the quantity, magnitude and success of chess occasions since the pandemic and the sudden enterprise fashions they’ve introduced alongside. This league, he believes, stands to realize from the windfall. “This is an interesting moment for chess,” says Anand. “It seems to be everywhere today. Not only has the sport benefitted from it but people too are getting to experience the technology that chess has been talking about for a while now. The doors are opening very fast for chess.”