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Exclusive Interview: Insights from the New Officers of AICF

by Niklesh Jain - 16/03/2024

On March 10, Indian chess marked a significant occasion not tied to any tournament or player achievement but rather to the announcement of the newly elected working committee of the All India Chess Federation (AICF). Unlike past elections marred by controversies, this round proceeded in a remarkably peaceful manner, culminating in unopposed victories, a rarity in national associations. Moreover, in compliance with the National Sports Code, the majority of elected individuals are fresh faces. To gain insights into this pivotal moment, ChessBase India conducted an exclusive interview with the newly appointed President of the All India Chess Federation, Nitin Narang, Secretary Dev Patel, and Treasurer Dharmendra Kumar. Let's delve into their perspectives and aspirations for the future of Indian chess.

In an exclusive interview with key officials of the All India Chess Federation

On March 10th, former Allahabad High Court Justice Rang Nath Pandey and former Delhi High Court Justice SS Sistani presided over the announcement of the election results for the new executive body of the All India Chess Federation, set to lead from 2024 to 2027.

This time, as the National Sports Code was being implemented, the All India Chess Federation (AICF) caused a stir by introducing new faces alongside the familiar ones we've long known. Amidst this development, ChessBase India endeavored to connect with the newly elected key officials. We had a brief conversation with the newly appointed President, Nitin Narang, and Secretary, Dev Patel, while engaging in a detailed discussion with the esteemed international judge, now Treasurer, Dharmendra Kumar.

Nitin Narang, the newly appointed President of the All India Chess Federation (AICF), emerges as a fresh face in the realm of chess aficionados. He follows in the footsteps of notable predecessors such as N Srinivasan, Venkat Rama Raja, and Sanjay Kapoor, who have previously held this esteemed position. In an exclusive conversation with ChessBase India, President Narang shared his insights, stating:

"As I step into the role of President at the All India Chess Federation, I am deeply grateful for the trust bestowed upon me. Our players are the heart of our nation's chess community, and I am committed to their growth and success.Transparency and dialogue will guide our journey, ensuring every move we make fosters excellence and inclusivity.

Chess is more than a game; it is a symbol of intellect, strategy, and unity with the power to unite millions of minds and hearts across Bharat. I am dedicated to promoting this beautiful game and supporting each stakeholder—players, arbiters, coaches, and state associations—in achieving global excellence. My aspiration is to see Bharat emerge as a nation of grandmasters, illuminating the international stage with brilliance at global events while making chess a cherished part of every Indian household."

He further emphasizes, "My aim is 'Ghar Ghar Chess - Har Ghar Chess'. While Indian chess is ascending to new heights at the elite level, my vision is to integrate it into the fabric of every household. This intellectual sport has the power to connect families across generations, guiding every child to make informed decisions—from academic pursuits to life choices. I aspire for chess to transcend barriers and become a fixture in every home, echoing across every household. This is my mission."

At just 24 years old, Dev Patel, nominated by the Gujarat Chess Association, makes history as the youngest secretary ever appointed to the All India Chess Federation. Concurrently, he serves as the President of the Gujarat Chess Association, and is the son of former President Ajay Bhai Patel. When reached for comment, he remarked:

"We are committed to elevating chess to new heights. At this juncture, our emphasis lies on action rather than mere words. We endeavor to ensure that our efforts speak volumes, standing out conspicuously for all involved."

Treasurer Dharmendra Kumar from Bihar emerges as perhaps the most active and renowned figure in the realm of chess among the newly appointed office-bearers. ChessBase India engaged in a comprehensive discussion with him, delving into various aspects of his vision and plans for the future of chess in India.

Niklesh: First and foremost, hearty congratulations to you! How do you feel about being elected Treasurer of the All India Chess Federation?

Dharmendra Kumar: Thank you, Niklesh. Regarding my feelings, I'd like to express my gratitude to all those who supported my candidacy. For me, this isn't merely an achievement but a significant responsibility. I perceive it as a duty entrusted to me, and I'm fully committed to fulfilling it.

Niklesh: AICF elections have been mired in controversy for some time now, and after a prolonged period, unopposed elections have taken place. What are your thoughts on this? Do you see this as a fresh start for Indian chess?

Dharmendra Kumar: Regarding the controversies, I believe that during elections, there's naturally a heightened sense of competition and eagerness among all stakeholders to contribute. Tensions and disagreements are inevitable in such situations. However, what truly matters is that post-election, once the process is concluded, everyone aligns their efforts towards a common goal. It's imperative that unity and collaboration prevail for the betterment of Indian chess.

Niklesh: However, past elections have been marred by controversies. Do you believe the current committee is prepared to foster inclusivity?

Dharmendra Kumar: Absolutely. The individuals elected to the working committee this time harbor positive intentions and are committed to collective collaboration for the betterment of chess.

Niklesh: As the newly appointed Treasurer of AICF, the federation has seen significant financial growth over the past decade. Several commendable decisions were made during this period, including substantial support for major players in prominent events like the Chess Olympiad and Grand Prix. Yet, controversies, such as the non-materialization of the Indian Chess League despite announcements and allegations of financial irregularities, have persisted. Now that you hold this pivotal position, what are your thoughts moving forward?

Dharmendra Kumar: Well, assuming this responsibility is entirely new to me. It's imperative that we assess past events and understand how they unfolded. However, rather than dwelling on the past, I'm focused on charting a course forward for chess. Transparency and trust are paramount in financial matters. If stakeholders have faith and transparency is upheld, progress is inevitable. My role involves scrutinizing past initiatives, planning future endeavors, budgeting, and ensuring adequate funds. It's a collective responsibility, and the entire working committee will meticulously review and execute plans in a systematic manner. I'm confident that with proper planning and execution, we can surmount any challenges that lie ahead.

Niklesh: With your extensive experience as an organizer and Arbiter, including the recent successful National School Tournament, you understand the challenges of hosting chess events in India. Securing permissions and financing tournaments can be daunting tasks. Do you envision any improvements to this system?

Dharmendra Kumar: Organizing tournaments is undeniably crucial for nurturing talent in chess. The more competitions held, from grassroots to elite levels, the greater the opportunity for emerging talents. If the AICF Working Committee devises plans to bolster the financial stability of state associations, facilitating more tournaments, we will wholeheartedly support their implementation. Our newly elected President, Secretary, and the entire working committee are committed to enhancing the financial viability of state and district associations through collaborative discussions. We aim to devise strategies for providing financial assistance and garnering local administrative support. Moving forward, we intend to focus on strengthening sports institutions from the grassroots level.

Niklesh: Thank you, Dharmendra ji, for your insights. Hailing from Bihar, a state where chess development lags compared to more developed regions, particularly Hindi-speaking states, we hope you have plans to address this disparity.

Dharmendra Kumar: Absolutely, our aim is to integrate underdeveloped and developing states into the mainstream of chess development. We will strive to engage players from these regions in mainstream competitions.

The newly appointed working committee of the All India Chess Federation has assumed responsibility. It remains to be seen how they enhance the players' interests this year, especially with the upcoming FIDE Candidate and Chess Olympiad. This committee has the opportunity to reshape India's image as a chess superpower, both nationally and internationally.


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