Overpriced Chess Olympiad Tickets A Deterrent For Aspiring Chess Players

Chess enthusiasts and local players find it difficult to watch all the matches of the 44th Chess Olympiad as tickets for men are priced extremely high at ₹3,000 and ₹2,000 for one day.

Olympiad Side Shows: The positive spin-off from the Olympiad has been that many aspiring local players can participate in the Quick Ranking Tournament as part of the venue curtain raiser. Photos: Vinoth Kumar

The ongoing 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad in Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu is garnering much appreciation and support from international players all over the world, for its stunning arrangements and state support for the sport. However, the people of Mamallapuram and neighboring areas are upset that they cannot watch the world-class matches, which they will never get to see, because of the high-priced tickets.

The games are held at the Four Points Sheraton Convention Center. Spectators are allowed inside two rooms during the tournament and can walk around the room without disturbing the players. The ticket price for Hall 1 is ₹3,000, while the price for Hall 2 is ₹2,000.

“The Hall 1 ticket price is higher because this is where most Indian players and international players like Magnus Carlsen compete,” said a volunteer at the venue.

Strangely, tickets for men are expensive, while women and children under 19 can buy tickets for just ₹300. Speaking to The Federal, a senior event official said the state had no role in deciding ticket prices.

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“Ticket prices are decided by FIDE (International Chess Federation). We have no role in it. However, we allow public school students to enter the venue for free,” the official added.

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Chess Olympiad
On the sidelines of the Olympiad: young players have the chance to play

The tournament site has a spacious hall and a changing room for the players. It also has a food court and a lawn where spectators can watch the players’ game on an LED screen.

K Seetha, a housewife, who visited the Olympiad, recounted her experience. “Visitors are permitted to enter the tournament halls, after a thorough search by security guards. We are not allowed to carry cell phones or cameras as this will inconvenience players. However, after the game is over, we can talk to the players, their coaches and can have a photo op and autographs,” she said. Due to the exorbitant ticket prices, her husband was unable to join her inside the venue.

“I know very little about the game. My husband plays chess. If he had accompanied me, he would have explained the game to me. Unfortunately, the ticket price is so high. And that too, the ticket is for a single day. Middle-class families like us cannot afford such expensive tickets,” Seetha pointed out.

Also watch: Modi inaugurates the 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai

People watch the games on big screens sitting outside on the lawns

Local players left behind’

It’s not just chess or any other sports fan who is being denied the opportunity to attend the Olympiad due to inflated ticket prices, local aspiring chess players are also being left out.

V Jothiprakasam, secretary of the Kanchipuram District Chess Association, told the Federal that they have at least a dozen chess academies under their leadership. (It should be noted that Mamallapuram used to be under Kanchipuram district but now it comes under Chengalpattu district cut out of Kanchipuram in 2019) founded in 1997.

“The state government, however, only allowed one boy and one female player to visit the Olympiad. It is also just for one visit. They could have given our players tickets at a discounted rate” , he complained.

At a time when the state government is making efforts to promote the game, local players feel ignored and even district-level chess associations do not have the opportunity to attend the events, a- he added. “We pay the All India Chess Federation registration, tournament and membership fees. But we are not allowed to watch the games, while state government employees are given tickets at a reduced rate,” Jothiprakasam said.

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G Nithyanandam, a chess coach, said that although chess is considered a royal game, the high ticket prices will make people feel that the sport is an “elite” sport. This will further alienate the middle and lower classes from the game.

“We hear that this is the first Olympiad in which a large number of female players are taking part. But, at the district level, we only have a handful of women who show an interest in playing chess. no matter if the women’s tickets are affordable, the women will not enter the hall without the men accompanying them,” he stressed.

Positive fallout

But, the positive side effect of the Olympiad has been that many aspiring local players can participate in the rapid ranking tournament held as part of the event’s curtain-raiser on July 24. This helped ranked players get grades, Nithyanandam added.

Meanwhile, traders in Mamallapuram and surrounding areas are also rejoicing due to a sharp spike in their business. “There is a 15% increase in turnover compared to normal. When players return from the tournament venue to their hotel rooms, they stop and purchase our items. They don’t haggle and love Tami food items and handcrafted items,” said KN Murthy, owner of a clothing store and member of the Kanchipuram Metropolitan Roadside Small Traders Association.

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