India offers to host chess Olympiad after Russia stripped of showpiece event

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India has offered to host the chess Olympiad, after Russia was stripped of the event on Friday, following its invasion of Ukraine. The team competition, which involves close to 200 countries, was supposed to take place in Moscow from July 26-August 8. India has conveyed its readiness to host the event on the scheduled dates at a budget of $10 million.

If it goes through, this will be the first major international chess event to take place in the country since the 2013 World Championship between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen. According to Fide, two more countries have confirmed their interest in hosting the event.

"Soon after we heard that Russia was not hosting the Olympiad anymore, I got in touch with the Fide president (Arkady Dvorkovich) and host," AICF secretary general Bharat Singh Chauhan told ESPN, "We have private sponsors and a few state governments who are keen to put in the money. We are ready for any dates that the Fide wants us to host. It's a huge opportunity to bring a major chess event to the country."

Held every two years, the Olympiad sees the fiercely individual sport of chess morph into a team event where countries compete for a national title. Each team comprises five players and India's best showing in an over-the-board Olympiad was a bronze in the 2014 edition. After the pandemic broke out, the 1st Online Olympiad was held in 2020 and India jointly won it with Russia. In its second edition, India tied for third place with China.

Fide has come under some fire following the unfolding conflict scenario in Ukraine, given the organisation's close links with Russia. President Dvorkovich is a former Russian deputy prime minister and Russian companies form an important part of Fide's roster of sponsors.

In its statement on Friday following an extraordinary meeting, the international chess federation said that its council had decided that the Olympiad, including the competition for players with disabilities and the Fide Congress, will not take place in Russia. The move came after mounting pressure from players and commentators to not hold any chess events in Russia in the near future, following the military action in Ukraine.