A unique crowd-funded rating tournament to be held in Bangalore
Due to the efforts of the state chess association (UKCA), coaches, academies and also the schools including chess in the curriculum, the number of chess players that Bangalore is creating is huge. Once you get better at the game, the next natural step is to get your FIDE rating. However, here's where the city faces its biggest challenge. There are no real rating tournaments taking place in Bangalore, and the young talents have to compulsorily travel outside the city in order to get their rating or improve it. That's when Innovator Chess Academy's Sushrutha Reddy decided to implement a unique crowd-funded FIDE Rating tournament. How did this idea come about? What was the background? And how was it executed? Get to know more about this initiative that has resulted in the 3rd Bangalore Open to be held from 17th to 21st of April 2019.
The 3rd Bangalore Open 2019 - a crowd funded event
By Sushrutha Reddy
When someone asks me, why the crowdfunding rating tournament, I can simply say that there were no FIDE Rating Chess Tournaments happening in Bangalore at the National level during the past year and hence, I took this up. People are bound to say that Bangalore is an IT hub and it is a mystery that the city doesn't have FIDE Rating Tournaments conducted. I will have to unravel the mystery first before I answer further. I am going to be giving you a picture of how chess was promoted then and now.
How do you bring in new organisers?
You do so by creating a market for them. To create such a market, you need to create talents. To create talents, you need sufficient number of coaches. I belong to a generation which had numerous chess careers ruined due to the apathy of the association in 1990s which was run with rampant corruption with local tournaments happening in Bangalore once in about six months. You can forget about chess activities in other areas of our state. Our current Secretary Hanumantha played a major role in the revival of Chess in Karnataka which started looking up only from 2006 with the formation of the United Karnataka Chess Association. Thus, if you observe, our State is only 12 years old in chess - with development taking place only during these last 12 years. Development is in itself a process. We have to pick up all those little pieces and set our house in order. Due to the corruption in 1990s, we have no Government support. We have come from times when we had one tournament in six months to one tournament in a week. In such times, you have to understand who are the organisers. We still have very, very few organisers. We have organisers who can't take in a loss. Thus, when one Sponsor steps in, many end up hounding that sponsor for sponsoring even local tournaments. Why? This is because we are still in a very nascent stage of development where most organisers come from the middle class.
It is almost two decades. Certain experiences have stayed in my mind over a period of time. It is quite probable that the experience of seeing an incident like the one mentioned below pushed me to promote Chess. The incident involved my friend Pramod who was among the best chess players ever in Karnataka during the 80s and 90s. No selection events to the Nationals were conducted. The children of the office bearers represented the state in the Nationals. My friend protested saying this is unfair. And there was nobody who stood by him. Even I was a mute spectator to this episode that took place nearly two decades ago.
I belong to a generation of Chess Players in Karnataka who hardly saw any chess promotion. Players used to be sent back home from the Nationals in the 1990s due to non payment of affiliation dues from their Association. As a result, we lost a lot of wonderful players. Furthermore, due to the lack of promotion of chess at the grassroot levels in the State, we used to have around 10 players in the under 7/8 age categories. How did the change come about?
The beginning of the chess boom in Bangalore
I entered the chess scene as a 11-year-old in 1992 with absolutely no coaching behind me. During that time, I would only see 'Uncles and Aunties' in Chess Tournaments. No youngsters. This stayed in my mind and whenever I saw a cricket tournament at my school (Bishop Cottons and St Josephs), I always wished that there would be an Inter-School Chess Tournament at the School that I studied. Sadly, that never happened. This instilled a belief in me that one day I would myself bring in children into chess. Little did I know that one day, I would end up becoming a coach and play an instrumental role in Bangalore chess for children. This was due to an accidental foray into chess coaching that was enforced upon me by Hanumantha in 2006. After that, realisation dawned on me that if I have to increase numbers, I have to initiate chess in schools. From hereon, I always wanted to push chess across the curriculum in Schools in Bangalore. GEAR was the first School that I promoted chess at and I must say that I received complete support from them.
The second school that I popularised chess at was Sri Aurobindo Memorial School (SAMS) - from the year 2010. The best feedback I received from this school was, "Sir, before you joined, most of the children would play physical games during their lunch break. But now, they are mostly into chess!". SAMS today is a major force to reckon with in Inter-School Chess Tournaments. In 2010 and 2011, two wonderful friends - Kumar Shiralagi and Bharat Vijay - helped me organize the first two Editions of Bangalore Open.
During 2012, Bangalore didn't have a venue to organise Chess Tournaments. Thus, the number of tournaments being organised started drying up. Silicon City Academy of Secondary Education (SCASE) got in touch with me one day after my marriage and requested me to help them to organise the CBSE Schools South Zone Chess Tournament. Our Team had organised the previous two Editions with GEAR. In SCASE, I saw an opportunity to bring chess as part of the curriculum. My only objective was to increase the number of children who play chess in Bangalore. The event was a huge success and became a template for future CBSE School Events in South India. It further helped that the Principal of SCASE, Sumalini Laguve, is extremely passionate about Chess.
Do you know that I cancelled my Sri Lankan trip with my newly wed wife after foreseeing a long relationship with SCASE involving the promotion of Chess? Within a year thereafter, SCASE contacted me and requested me to initiate Sunday activities. Eventually during August in 2013, we started organising Monthly Chess Tournaments at SCASE. Only after this point, the number of local tournaments started increasing in Bangalore with the entry of a couple of more organisers who also initiated Monthly Chess Tournaments. A year later, our relationship with SCASE strengthened after the School decided to include chess as part of the curriculum. Today, Chess is a subject in the Institution from classes one to eight.
When I look back, I realise that the last FIDE Rating Chess Tournament we conducted at the National level was in October 2014, just before I left to USA to participate in the Millionaire Chess (an event that I won in the Under 2000 Category). If you observe the story until here, the development of chess was in it's very nascent stages. I was now involved in promoting Chess across four Schools and found no time to talk to potential sponsors for FIDE Rating Chess Tournaments. I was content organising FIDE Rating Chess Tournaments with 1 percent of the Prize Fund as the Entry fee. However, when the rule changed with Entry Fee being 0.5% of the Prize Fund, I stopped organising FIDE Rating Tournaments at National Level. This was primarily because it required the Organiser to bring in sponsors and this was an area that I was not willing to put my hands into because it would directly affect my coaching assignments with schools. Another well known organizer came forward to organize FIDE Rating Chess tournaments and unfortunately ended up facing huge losses. For some unknown reason, he too never approached any sponsor. This was how Bangalore lost out on FIDE Rating Chess tournaments with two of it's three most well known Organisers stepping away.
Today, if you talk about a Chess Tournament venue, SCASE is the only option that comes to mind. It is a struggle for the rest of the Organisers to procure an alternative venue with huge costs involved - and added to the fact that the Organisers do not approach companies to sponsor.
Parents in the Bangalore Chess fraternity started discussing on how to look for a venue for organising FIDE Rating Chess Tournaments in the City. A parent approached me and asked, "What does it take to organize a FIDE Rating Chess Tournament in Bangalore?" This question got me to think and I reverted in half an hour asking parents how much they spend by going to FIDE Rating Chess Tournaments. The responses ranged from Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000. I proposed, "Bring in 40 Parents who can fund in Rs 5,000 each and I will be ready to organise a FIDE Rating Chess Tournament in Bangalore". I had mentioned a deadline of December 31 for this initiative which I termed as a Crowd funded venture.
Things happened so fast that within a week, we found 45 funding Parents and Players and we also got the event published on the AICF. We have decided that the whole objective of this initiative is to provide a steady stream of Classical FIDE Rating Chess Tournaments to talents in Bangalore. At the same time, I am of the strong belief that people who are part of this initiative should be benefited. Thus, if we make a profit, we will immediately announce our next Classical FIDE Rating event. Subsequently, the amount to be raised for the next event will get lesser. The profits should be utilised such that the young talents are benefited with regular FIDE Rating Tournaments being Organised. This is our objective.
What if the Event generates profits? Shouldn't it be shared among the Parents/Players who enlisted for the initiative? The whole objective of this initiative is to provide a steady stream line of Classical FIDE Rating Chess Tournaments to talents in Bangalore. At the same time, I am of the strong belief that people who are part of this initiative should be benefited. Thus, if we make a profit, we will immediately announce our next Event in the next upcoming vacations. People who were part of the initiative will get a direct free entry for our next Event. Subsequently, the amount to be raised for the next Event will get lesser.
This is the second Crowd funded Event to be organised in Bangalore after the Under 9 Nationals organised by United Karnataka Chess Association (UKCA) around ten years ago. Back then, a group of likeminded parents had galvanised financial support for UKCA by mobilising Rs 6.5 lacs.
Furthermore, I am hopeful that one day, one out of the 45 donors will eventually organise a FIDE Rating Chess Tournament themselves. During the coming days, I am going to apprise them of every step involved in organising a FIDE Rating Chess Tournament. A few of them have also agreed to be part of the core group who would be helping me in driving this Event forward. Through this model, I hope that more people will follow suit to organise FIDE Rating Chess Tournaments in the City. SCASE plays a central role to the success of this initiative.
Additionally, I must provide information that we had less than 50 FIDE Rated players in Karnataka before the United Karnataka Chess Association was formed in 2006. 12 years later, we have more than 1000 FIDE Rated players. I strongly believe that these players are going to be the driving force of Bangalore Open 3.
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About the author
Sushrutha Reddy is a well-known organiser who has been promoting chess at the grassroot level in Bangalore, Karnataka. Currently a chess coach at four schools, he has worked as the Joint Secretary of United Karnataka Chess Association and had been the chief arbiter at almost all tournaments in Bangalore held between 2000 and 2003. He is an occasional writer and had written the cover story on the Fischer-Spassky World Championship Match for The Week magazine in the past. Besides this, he owns the Innovators Chess Academy which has organised more than a hundred Chess Tournaments during the last thirteen years.