Express News Service
CHENNAI: Sometimein February last year, Grandmaster Vishnu Prasanna took the call to open his own chess academy to facilitate the training of talented youngsters. He began searching for a space in Chennai where he could set up the coaching centre, but it was taking time for the 31-year-old to find a suitable space. A month later, of course, Covid-19 began making its presence felt in India and a nationwide lockdown duly came into force, putting Vishnus plans firmly on hold.
Eventually, Vishnu decided in August last year to open an online chess academy. The decision was logical given the Covid situation, and it has only been vindicated further with the onset of the second wave that has affected the country severely. Considering the fact that children have been largely confined to their homes and not been able to play outdoor sports, it is also no coincidence that the last 15 months have seen a rise in interest in chess with plenty of beginners taking up the board game.
We have around 40 students in the academy right now. We havent done much marketing, but quite a few beginners have got into it since last year, Vishnu tells this paper. At around the same time as Vishnu began thinking of setting up his own centre, GM Swapnil Dhopade, who lives in Amravati in Maharashtra, also started his own online coaching academy for chess players. He began with one coach training the students but had to soon increase the number of coaches to four to deal with the increased demand.
We had just one other coach for the academy when we started in February last year but now there are four coaches. It is due to the increased demand. A lot of kids have become really curious about learning chess since the onset of Covid. Chess is one of the games that has been impacted positively since the pandemic, Dhopade says.
A major reason for the spike in interest is because of the fact that chess has made a seamless transition to online coaching. Unlike outdoor sports where there are limitations to online training, chess is not bound by those restrictions. Eminent coach and GM RB Ramesh, who runs Chess Gurukul in Chennai, has been honing the skills of youngsters for many years and feels that he doesnt lose out anything while coaching students online.
There is no difference with online coaching. It doesnt affect the way we teach. I have been teaching online even before the pandemic. I am used to this kind of training. To some extent, you wont get the same experience as when you teach in person, but it doesnt take away too much, Ramesh offers his perspective.
The only drawback, according to Dhopade, is that students can tend to get distracted when they are logging in for an online class. When we are doing online training, there could be some distractions for both teachers and students with messages and other things at home going on. But when you are coaching physically, you can make sure that there is no distraction, he explains.
But these are only minor hiccups and online chess coaching seems definitely here to stay. Online coaching is definitely here to stay. It has a lot of benefits. You dont need to maintain a physical space, which has operational costs involved. So, even offline academies have started shifting to full-time online coaching, Dhopade says.
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