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The Westbridge Anand Chess Academy will train 5 of India's biggest chess talents

by Sagar Shah - 22/12/2020

Vishy Anand has ruled the no.1 spot in Indian chess for over 3 decades now. The five-time World Champion is now 51 years old and is still very much one of the best in the world with a classical Elo of 2753. But Anand also wants to ensure that there are youngsters in Indian chess who rise quickly to the top of the world rankings in the years to come. It is with this objective in mind that the Westbridge Anand Chess Academy has been created. Nihal Sarin, Praggnanandhaa, Raunak Sadhwani, Gukesh and Vaishali are the five youngsters who receive a fellowship and will be personally mentored by Vishy Anand.  

What is Vishy Anand up to these days? Well, a lot of things, really! After the recent announcement of a biopic being made on him in Bollywood, the news came out that he has teamed up with Westbridge Capital to start a Chess Academy which will train the most talented youngsters in Indian chess!

Learning from Vishy Anand is a dream come true for any youngster | Photo: Sagar Shah

Who are involved in this?

Vishy Anand will be the chief mentor of the entire Westbridge Anand Chess Academy. He will be training five of the young talents of Indian chess - Nihal Sarin, R. Praggnanandhaa, Raunak Sadhwani, Gukesh and R.Vaishali. All these five youngsters will receive a fellowing from the Academy. The program is supported by Westbridge Capital, a highly experienced Investment Firm.

Vishy Anand has been working with these youngsters in the past in an informal way. Through WACA, this relationship will be more formal and long term in nature

The picture shows all the people who will be involved in this project. From top left Sanjay Singhal (Co-founder and MD at Westbridge Capital, Vishy Anand five-time World Champion, three trainers who will help Anand - Artur Yusupov, Sandipan Chanda, Grzegorz Gajewski. Bottom Row (L-R) are the five talents - Nihal Sarin, R. Vaishali, D. Gukesh, Raunak Sadhwani and R. Praggnanandhaa

The background

Vishy Anand speaking to ChessBase India tells us as to how this idea came about, "I went to Bangalore to give a talk held by Westbridge. This was under 2 years ago. After the event as I was leaving for the airport, Sandeep (Singhal) asked me if I would like to work with him in some way. After I came back to Chennai, we began communicating. If Westbridge wanted to support chess, this was an excellent way to start."

Sandeep Singhal, the Co-founder and Managing Director of Westbridge, has similar ideologies like Vishy Anand and together they decided to form the Westbridge Anand Chess Academy 

What was Anand's inspiration? "I had three inspirations for such a plan," says Vishy.

"1 Olympic Gold Quest, which has a very similar concept.

2. Botvinnik Chess Academy

3. Samford Fellowship"

 

Each year the players will be assessed based on their performances and improvement and new players will be awarded fellowships. Anand will be supported in this training academy by three of the seconds who have helped him in the past - Artur Yusupov, Sandipan Chanda and Grzegorz Gajewski. Speaking to ChessBase India Sandipan Chanda said, "I was pleasantly surprised when Anand told me that he was going to start his academy and that he wanted me to join as a trainer. To me this means to get to know and work with our super talents closely as well as receiving continuous guidance from Anand himself. Looking forward to an enjoyable experience with our lovely juniors, Anand and the other trainers. And a big appreciation to the sponsors for supporting the project."

Vishy Anand with his second Sandipan Chanda. The fact that Anand has worked with Yusupov, Sandipan and Gajewski in the past means that he is comfortable working with them and feels they would be the right people to work with the youngsters | Photo: Saravanan

The aim of the Westbridge Anand Academy

Nihal Sarin and Praggnanandhaa have already broken into the 2600 zone. They will be looking forward to making their way into the 2700 zone. Raunak Sadhwani and Gukesh are close to 2550 and breaking into 2600 would be their first aim. R. Vaishali is clearly not just the best junior in the country, but as on today is ranked no.3 in Indian women's chess behind Humpy and Harika. She clearly has huge potential and very likely could become the third Indian female player to be a full-fledged GM.

 

Vishy Anand is very clear about the aim of this academy, "The aim of the Westbridge Anand Academy is to support our young players. What I want to see from this is to make sure some of them will break into top 10. I want our juniors to climb the world rankings. I want to support them in the next few years and I feel that is a very important step for our youngsters."

What do the youngsters feel?

Some of these youngsters have already played against Anand in the past and given him a tought fight.

Raunak Sadhwani very nearly beat Vishy Anand at the Isle of Man 2018
One of the most popular videos on the internet with over 36 million views! Vishy Anand vs Praggnanandhaa
Entire hour long footage of Nihal Sarin playing against Vishy Anand at the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid 2018

We spoke to each of the youngsters about being chosen for this initiative and this is what they had to say:

Raunak Sadhwani: "It's a Golden opportunity to learn from my all time favourite Legend Vishy Anand sir. I am very excited for this coaching program. Big Thank you to Vishy sir for choosing me & I will try to give my Best. This support means a lot lot for me. Thank you Westbridge Anand Chess Academy."

 

Praggnanandhaa: "It's a wonderful initiative, We had few sessions in Anand Sir's home and it has always been very useful for me and my sister. I am really thrilled to work with Anand Sir. I would like to thank Westbridge Capital and Anand Sir for this initiative."

 

Gukesh: "Really blessed and thrilled to work with my idol and feel motivated to work harder to justify the faith shown on me. Heartfelt thanks to Westbridge and Anand sir."

 

Vaishali: "I would like to thank Sandeep Sir, the Managing director of WestBridge Capital and of course Anand sir for this great initiative! I am very happy to be part of this and I hope I'll make good use of this training sessions."

 

In mid-2019 and early-2020 two training camps were sponsored by Microsense Technologies and they had roped in 14th World Champion Vladimir Kramnik and former World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand. This training camp proved to extremely useful to the youngsters. Working with these world class players gives them an idea as to what they should be aiming for in order to become the best in their art.

Vladimir Kramnik teaching the art of opening preparation to the youngsters in Chens-Sur-Leman in August 2019 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

14 of the top talents of Indian chess worked with Kramnik and Gelfand in Chennai in January 2020 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

More about Westbridge Capital

WestBridge Capital is a highly experienced investment firm, managing over US$3 billion of capital*, which focuses primarily on investments in India. WestBridge seeks to partner with some of India's most promising mid-sized companies run by outstanding entrepreneurs and management teams for the long-term, whether they are public or private. Check out their official website.