Chennai: The International Chess Federation (FIDE) will fly down over 1,000 electronic chess boards to be used during the 44th Chess Olympiad to be held in Mahabalipuram in India, said a senior official of All India Chess Federation (AICF).
Nevertheless, the chess board makers are happy with the Olympiad being held in India and are hoping to better their business this year after two years of sales slump.
“The FIDE will send the digital chess boards and the chess clocks to be used during the Olympiad. The chess boards are digital chess boards,” Bharat Singh Chauhan, secretary, AICF told IANS.
Simply put, digital/electronic chess boards are the ones where the moves made by the players are automatically transferred to computers and also enables live transmission.
Be that as it may, Indian chess board makers are expecting increased sales due to reopening of schools and also owing to Chess Olympiad being held in India for the first time.
Chess board makers told IANS that their business — domestic sales and exports — is picking up now.
“Owing to Covid, sales of chess boards went down. People were in lockdown due to the pandemic and the sale of chess boards went down. But now it is picking up,” AL Muthukaruppan, the owner of 8×8 that makes rexine chess boards and plastic chess pieces, told IANS.
“We expect chess board sales to pick up as a rub off effect of the Chess Olympiad being held in Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu,” he added.
Looking back, Muthukaruppan said chess board sales picked up after former world chess champion Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand started making waves.
“Even the police did not disturb players who played chess on the roads after Anand hit the global stage. Prior to that, police would chase chess players away as if it was gambling. Workers in Chennai Port, after their duty, would play a five-minute game on the streets in Mannady,” Muthukaruppan said.
He said sales are good in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
“We sell in bulk to chess coaches who, in turn, retail them to chess players. We also rent chess boards to tournament organisers,” he added.
It is interesting to note that India ships out chess boards to several countries.
According to the Department of Commerce figures, India shipped out USD3.27 million worth of chess boards during April 2021 to January 2023 as against USD2.49 million worth of exports during FY21.
India exports chess boards and pieces made of wood, rexine and plastic.
“We export rexine boards and plastic pieces to Europe, Sri Lanka, UAE, Canada and the US. In the domestic market we sell across the country,” Rajendra Sagar, owner of Sagar Sports told IANS.
Interestingly, his wife and two daughters are strong chess players — elder daughter Tejaswani Sagar is a Woman International Master with an ELO rating of 2,166, while his younger daughter Siya Sagar has an ELO rating of 1,831 and wife Anjali R Sagar has a rating of 1,836.
According to Rajendra Sagar, sales of chess boards were down during the last two years and are now picking up.
Both Sagar and Muthukaruppan do not see online chess affecting the sale of chess boards.