AICF earmarks ₹2 crore for Candidates preparation

The All India Chess Federation (AICF) will aid Vidit Gujrathi, R Praggnanandhaa and R Vaishali’s preparations for the Candidates tournament next year by allocating a budget of 2 crore. The winner of the Candidates, scheduled to be held in Canada from April 2 to 24, will challenge Ding Liren for the world championship title next year.

AICF president Sanjay Kapoor is flanked by GMs R Praggnanandhaa (from left), R Vaishali and Vidit Gujrathi.(AICF)

This is the first time that any Indian other than Viswanathan Anand will be competing in the prestigious tournament. While Gujrathi and Praggnanandhaa will take part in the open section, Vaishali sealed her place in the women’s category by winning the FIDE Grand Swiss meet recently. She is likely to be joined by Koneru Humpy, which will take Indian representation at the event to four.

“We will give 30 lakh to each player for their training and preparation. We have a total budget of 2 crore to train our players for the event. We will not leave any deficiency in their preparation. That’s the atmosphere we want to create,” AICF president Sanjay Kapoor told reporters here on Tuesday.

For Gujrathi, who won the FIDE Grand Swiss meet, the entry into the Candidates is much-needed affirmation that he is on the right track. The 29-year-old conceded he was crippled by self-doubts until recently, with teenagers Praggnanandhaa and D Gukesh among others hogging all the limelight of late.

“I did feel it (left out) for sure, to be very honest. It’s obvious that this thought would come. But it’s out of my control. Nothing speaks like success. I was coming close to winning tournaments or achieving the goal of qualification for tournaments and stuff. But at the last minute, things were going wrong and that was bothering me a lot,” Gujrathi said.

To his credit though, Gujrathi did not go into his shell, instead playing more competitive games this year than ever before. The turning point was the FIDE World Cup in July-August, where victory over two-time World Championship runner-up Ian Nepomniachtchi helped him reach the quarters. That, in turn, bolstered his confidence to win the Grand Swiss meet.

“It is going to be a very strong field,” Gujrathi said of the competition in the Candidates. “Winning a tournament requires extraordinary capability. You may have a good tournament, but that many people can have. But here, you don’t need just good but your best performance. You have to play like a champion. I will be gearing towards it. I won the Grand Swiss, which is the world’s strongest tournament, so why can’t I do that in Candidates? There is no reason I see why I can’t do it. Of course, I have to up my game. but I have belief in myself. Of course, I have to up my game. but I have belief in myself,” he added.

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