P.R.Venketrama Raja.. Image Source: IANS News

Chennai, Feb 17 : Many Indian chess masters said the players would miss former President of All India Chess Association (AICF) P.R. Venketrama Raja as he had set a benchmark for facilities to be provided for players which his successor has to maintain or surpass.

The players also felt sad that Raja's election nomination papers were rejected for violating the provisions of National Sports Development Code 2011. The Madras High Court is expected to decide on the nomination paper rejection on Tuesday.

Five contestants elected unopposed are now at the helm of AICF.

"Raja was one of the few presidents of AICF who genuinely loves and plays the game. He has also helped many players in his personal as well as in the capacity of AICF President," a chess master told IANS not wanting to be quoted.

Players did not want to go on record talking about Raja fearing punitive action by his opponents.

Raja, heading the $1 billion industrial conglomerate Ramco Group, was not new to the chess world when he became the AICF President in 2014. The group had sponsored former World Champion chess Grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand and several other chess players.

Later, Raja became the President of the Tamil Nadu State Chess Association (TNSCA).

"It was Raja as AICF President who saved the National Chess Championship 2016 from a disaster with several players deciding to boycott as the playing conditions were bad. On hearing the issue, Raja shifted the venue to a five-star hotel and the tournament went on," recalled a player.

Similarly, when members of Indian chess Olympiad team voiced the need of having a secure high capacity server housing the "chess engine" for quick analysis, Raja agreed to that proposal.

"The chess engine or the analytical software was loaded in the servers facilitated by Raja and round-the-clock access was given to the four Seconds-two each for Indian men and women's team- who went to Batumi (in Georgia) for Olympiad," said a player.

The chess engine was very useful for the players and the Seconds in analysing a game position and others, another chess master told IANS.

The access to the chess engine was given to members of Indian team while playing in major global events.

Players said had Raja continued at AICF, he would have surely agreed to have the most advanced chess engine for the benefit of Indian team playing in the upcoming Moscow Chess Olympiad.

"Chess engines and servers are not something new. Ideally, AICF should have had it much earlier for the benefit of the players," a chess master said.

The players also said Raja should have re-admitted into AICF fold the players who were banned soon after the order of the Competition Commission of India's (CCI) in 2018.

Several players were banned for playing in an independent tournament and their Elo rating were withdrawn by FIDE at AICF's instance earlier.

Interestingly, FIDE restored the ratings of the players while AICF insisted on apology letters for readmitting the banned players.

"Perhaps Raja listened to wrong advice of some persons in AICF," players said.

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