Chess-O-Disha and Pro-Chess-Ta - two chess initiatives by Odisha Government
If you are a sports enthusiast, you would be well aware of the phenomenal support that the Odisha Government is providing its athletes. From creating world class infrastructure, to bringing top class trainers, to giving highest cash awards, Odisha is slowly but steadily becoming the sports hub of the country. The good news for chess fans is that the Government has started supporting chess initiatives in the state as well and from that perspective two initiatives have been carried out which we write about in this article - Pro-Chess-Ta, a world class training academy and Chess-O-Disha, a seminar on chess in schools initiative.
Laying the foundation of a chess boom in Odisha
Chess in schools is a project that resonates with most of the passionate chess stakeholders, but somehow its implementation is never easy. Some countries have had success in making the chess in schools program work and the first name that comes to mind is Armenia.
In essence Armenia and a few other countries have cracked the code for chess in schools initiative. But doing it in India is a more complex matter. The population of Armenia is 2.79 million. While the population of India is 1.4 billion. In fact Odisha, a state in India that is desirous of launching the chess in schools program, has a population of 43.7 million. This is 20 times that of Armenia. Clearly doing the chess in schools project in a state like Odisha is not going to be easy. But if the will of the government exists and appropriate stakeholders join in, it could well become a reality. It was with this in mind that Chess-O-Disha, a chess in schools seminar was held in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha by the Sports and Youth Services Department of Odisha on 8th of October 2023.
The seminar was held on 8th of October 2023 at the Kalinga stadium in Odisha. The Kalinga Stadium has some of the best sporting facilities in the country. With state of the art hockey fields, swimming pools, tennis courts and infrastructure that supports so many other sports, it slowly becoming the chess hub of the country with some of the best athletes visiting it quite often. A good example of how dedicated the Odisha Government is towards sport can be gauged from the fact that the state is the current sponsor of the Indian hockey team! When was the last time you saw a state government sponsoring a national team!
For a project of the magnitude of chess in schools to happen in the state of Odisha, discussions and brainstorming sessions of people with different perspectives need to happen. This is exactly the reason why this conference was held.
A successful big scale chess in schools project requires the answer of many important questions like:
1. Should Chess be made a compulsory subject in school?
2. Should existing teachers at school be taught chess or should trainers go to schools and teach there? In this case would there be enough trainers in the state?
3. Is the main aim of the chess in schools project to make chess reach more kids or find talented youngsters and then train them to become grandmasters
4. What is the curriculum to be adopted for the program?
I believe the answer to these questions lie in first doing a pilot project on a smaller scale for a year and then learning from this to implement the chess in schools project in a big way. Such seminars like the Chess-O-Disha are key for the major stakeholders to join in and brainstorm together. If there a state that is ideally placed to promote chess and implement the chess in schools project, then it is very likely that Odisha is the one.
The Sports and Youth Services Department of Odisha has setup a professional Chess Training Academy in Bhubaneshwar. It is called Pro-Chess-Ta. Turns out that an old building in Nayapalli, Bhubaneshwar of the government was shut down a few years ago and the space was not being ideally utilized. The Government decided to convert this building into a full-fledged Chess Academy! This is sure to boost the chess culture in the city.
While the infrastructure was created, it required a dedicated individual to ensure that things start moving - training camps happen, players start to come and make use of the premises and so on. For this Satya, as he is called by everyone in the chess world, has become the in charge of this initiative and hopes to spread chess in a big way in his home state.
The Pro-Chess-Ta academy is ideally positioned in the plans of the Odisha Government to promote chess in their state. Imagine if the chess in schools program gains momentum, then it is very likely that a lot of young talents would be identified from different regions of the state. And where would they be trained? Of course at Pro-Chess-Ta! Tamil Nadu has been the chess capital of India for years now and it is unlikely that it would change anytime soon. However, Odisha by making planned and measured movements is definitely going to help India produce several top players in the next few years.