Praggnanandhaa and his visa issues
If someone were to put down a list of youngsters in the chess world who would go on to become world class players in the next decade or so, a prominent name that would feature in the list is R. Praggnanandhaa. Praggnanadhaa crossed the Elo barrier of 2600 at the tender age of 14 years 3 months and 24 days, second youngest in the world after Wei Yi. The last 15 months have been hard for the lad, as he couldn't travel for over the board events due to the pandemic. Now that things are opening up, he has a chance to take part in three excellent events in Europe and has been invited for the same by the organizers. However, the technicality of getting a Schengen visa is creating a big problem. We tell you what the exact issue is.
Praggnanandhaa in zugzwang due to visa issues
One of the biggest hurdles for Indian chess players when they travel is their issues related to visas. Because there are different embassies and each one have their own set of rules, a professional chess player spends a lot of time trying to get his visas in order before he/she can set out to represent the country. Currently the young Indian talent R. Praggnanandhaa is in a difficult situation.
Praggnanandhaa reached a FIDE rating of 2608 in March 2020. Since 15 months he hasn't played an over the board event. It is quite possible that if things were normal in the world and if there were no issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic, he would have been knocking on the doors of 2700 Elo. However, Pragg made sure that he worked hard on his chess and managed to show his class by winning the Polgar Challenge of the Challengers Chess Tour, which was an event of 20 most talented youngsters in the world of chess organized by Chess24. Pragg was also part of the Indian team that won the Gold medal at the Online Olympiad 2020. Now that things have started to open up and players are able to travel, Praggnanandhaa has decided to play in four tournaments:
1. FIDE World Cup 2021, Sochi, Russia (begins 10th of July)
2. Biel GM Invitational 2021, Switzerland (24th of July to 4th of August)
3. Riga Technical University Open 2021, Latvia (6th to 16th of August)
4. Ciutat de Barcelona Open 2021, Spain (18th to 26th of August)
Praggnanandhaa received the Wild Card for the World Cup 2021 from the FIDE President and immediately applied for his Russian visa. He received it quickly and everything was set for the World Cup 2021. However, as he had not played for nearly 15 months, a few more connecting tournaments were planned in Europe. The idea was that Pragg would fly from India to Russia and then from Russia to Europe directly. Although the World Cup would go on until August, Pragg made the decision of accepting the invitation to the Biel GM tournament in Switzerland from the 24th of July.
This is Praggnanandhaa's pairing at the World Cup 2021. If he manages to win his first two rounds, he would most likely meet the 7th seed of the tournament Maxime Vachier Lagrave. The third round ends on 20th of July. If Pragg beats MVL he would continue playing at the world cup, but if he loses, he would go to Switzerland to play in the Biel GM Invitational.
On 23rd of June, Pragg had sent his papers to the travel agent in Mumbai for the Schengen visa for three tournaments. On 30th of June, the documents were submitted to the Swiss embassy and the embassy asked for Biometrics to be done. The agent from Mumbai immediately sent the papers back to Chennai for the biometrics. On 5th of July 2021, Pragg went for the biometrics. The Chennai VFS, on the same day, informed Pragg that his visa would be ready in 10 days. That would mean 15th of July. However, if he waits until the 15th of July, he would not be able to participate in the World Cup 2021. Due to this reason, the lad has decided to take back his passport from the VFS center.
If Pragg doesn't get his schengen visa, he would not be able to play in three strong tournaments in Europe - Biel, Riga and Barcelona. For this to happen after a 15-month hiatus is heartbreaking for the youngster. Rameshbabu, Pragg's father, has already written to the Sports Minister. Speaking to his trainer GM R.B.Ramesh said, "I will be travelling with Praggnanandhaa to three events in Europe. Pragg is looking forward to playing at these events and has prepared hard for them. It would be quite sad if not getting the visa is the reason for him not to play. The Sports Authority of India (SAI) needs to recommend Pragg's case to the sports minister."
During the pandemic, Pragg has worked hard on his game and it would be the right time for him to showcase his preparation. It would be quite unfortunate if technical issues related to visa would prevent one of the best talents in our country from playing three important events. We hope that this issue is resolved, and when the boy boards his flight to Moscow from Delhi on 10th of July early morning, he would have nothing to worry about his Schengen visa.