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India's First International Arbiter turns 73!

by Priyadarshan Banjan - 08/10/2016

Imagine resolving a dispute with your opponent in the middle of the game in a tournament with a hand-to-hand fight. The one who beats the other up is the winner of the conflict, and then, you can continue the game. You cannot imagine that, right? Well, that is why arbiters exist. Today, India's first international Arbiter Venkatachalam Kameswaran celebrates his 73rd Birthday! The genial man from Chennai has served chess for more than three decades in various forms — arbiter, player, organizer, and a journalist. We bring you a selection from his legendary collection.

India's First International Arbiter turns 73!

You are playing a chess tournament in the heat of Chennai and thinking vigorously about your next move. You know that you are simply winning the endgame, and now, you just need to finish it all. 69...Qxb2 — ah, that must be winning! You are about to make your move and almost touch your queen. Your opponent is waiting with abated breath. He is thinking, 'Will he play Qxb2?' You can feel him staring at the board with a serious face. And then, it hits you: wait, no! You cannot play that move because it is a blunder! You would get mated first!


You immediately pull your hand back, but it is too late. Your opponent yells at your face, 'Touch move!' You: 'What?! I did not touch it!' Opponent: 'Quit lying, you touched the queen!' You: 'How dare you call me a liar!?'


Your opponent has had enough of it. He jumps on you and hits you on your face. You reflexively hammer his jaw. The spectators and other players decide to take a time out and watch and enjoy the fight. (This is an Indian tournament. They won't stop the fight.)


This is what would happen in a chess tournament without arbiters. You cannot imagine a tournament like that, can you? No arbiters, no chess tournaments.

Chennai's legendary IA Venkatachalam Kameswaran was awarded the International Arbiter title in 1980! He was felicitated with the Arbiters' Award at the Baku Olympiad 2016.

But Kameswaran is a man of many talents. Here is a brief synopsis detailing his services to chess:

As a Player... 

Union Minister Y.B. Chavan presenting a prize to young Kameswaran in 1973.

Kameswaran has had many successes as a player himself, tying or finishing ahead of even titled players in many competitions. These tournaments include a handful of National and Asian events.

As a Coach... 

Kameswaran was the official team coach for Viswanathan Anand in the World Juniors Championship, Finland, in 1984. He also accompanied him to the Lloyds bank Tournament in 1984, where Anand made his first IM norm.

He still continues to mentor 100s of children across Chennai in various chess clubs. Some years back, one of them was B. Adhiban!

 V. Kameswaran's son K. Visweswaran is a noted chess coach from Chennai. Together, they have coached players of B. Adhiban's caliber.

As a Journalist...

12-year-old Viswanathan Anand makes his first appearance in the newspapers!

Kameswaran wrote this article titled 'A Lightning Kid' that was the first ever report on Vishy in the press. The title became so famous that he is still known around the world by that moniker'! (I even had this question in my sixth standard General Knowledge textbook!)

But that was not it. Kameswaran covered Anand's exploits regularly for newspapers in India. This one here reports his first IM norm, in London 1984.

This picture shows Kameswaran sitting beside Anand, reporting for the Anand-Karpov match at Brussels 1991.

His work made sure that Anand became a household name in the country. It was crucial for Anand's development. 

And not just write-ups, but also hundreds of newspaper cuttings, etc.! We will carry a special feature on his collections, but that is for the future.

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, V. Kameswaran! Your love for the game and service towards the development of this sport will always be remembered.

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