Eccentric Indian billionaire brings world’s best chess players together

By Hugo Barcia

New Delhi, Jun 16 (EFE).- Half a dozen world chess champions, young prodigies and other superstars will compete in teams over the next few weeks in Dubai in the first edition of the Global Chess League (GCL), the latest endeavor by eccentric Indian billionaire Anand Mahindra.

The competition is driven by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) and Tech Mahindra, a subsidiary of the multinational Mahindra, which had profits in excess of $19 billion in 2022, and is behind numerous competitions and sports teams both in India and abroad.

“He’s a big believer in team sports. Sports plays in a lot of culture, of working together, collaborating, succeeding as a team, so he is a supporter of that,” Jagdish Mitra, Global Chess League chairperson and Chief Strategy Officer of Tech Mahindra, tells EFE.

That philosophy is at the heart of the creation of this new league, which will bring together chess heavyweights, such as the world number one, the Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, the current men’s world champion, China’s Ding Liren, and the former women’s world champions, Hou Yifan and TanZhongyi, from China, among other celebrities.

The 36 players will represent six different franchises that will compete in a two-round playoff from June 21 to July 2, when the grand final will be played.

Although the event unites players from more than a dozen different nationalities, India is the most represented, demonstrating the wave of young talent at the country’s disposal.

“He saw big alliances between what we do in our business and what we see as an opportunity with chess. Chess is also about knowledge. It’s about thinking ahead to what you want our businesses to do, for our customers to do, so that they can think a few moves ahead to stay ahead in their business,” Mitra said.

This venture into chess is the latest in a long series by the Mahindra Group in sports.

The multinational, chaired by Anand Mahindra, has concerns in multiple sectors, such as agriculture, vehicles – where it stands out as the largest tractor manufacturer in the world – and technology services, among other fields.

Mitra points out that the symbiosis with technology and competitive sports has also been seen in other industries the group is involved in and several sports for some years.

That is the case of the Mahindra Racing team, which has been competing in Formula E since the championship’s inaugural season in 2014.

In addition, the business group, which operates in 22 sectors in more than 100 countries and employs more than 250,000 people, signed an agreement in 2020 to become an official partner of NBA franchise the Washington Wizards and NHL team the Washington Capitals.

Its initial foray into the four major US sports leagues had come years earlier, however, when Tech Mahindra signed a digital strategy partnership agreement with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018.

Meanwhile, the group has in recent years concluded other deals with several other sports teams, such as the Mexican national cricket team, the Australian swimming team, and New Delhi’s top cricket outfit, the Delhi Capitals.

Although none of them, Mitra points out, come close to Mahindra’s endeavor to professionalize kabaddi, a sport that is highly popular in India and South Asia, but which lacked infrastructure until the billionaire drove the creation of the first league in 2018.

Mahindra played the sport, which bears similarities to the children’s game of ‘catch’, when he was young, as he states on his Twitter profile, where he is very active and sometimes issues challenges to his followers in exchange for gifts.

Forbes magazine has highlighted this social facet of Anand Mahindra, who with a fortune of $2.2 billion is on its list of the 100 wealthiest people in India.EFE


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