Indian sibling duo makes waves at Toronto chess tournament opening

As a major international chess tournament opened in Toronto on Wednesday evening, it also marked a historic occasion, featuring siblings for the first time, with teen Grandmaster Praggnanandhaa R in the Open section and his sister Vaishali Rameshbabu competing for the Women’s honours.

Grandmaster Vaishali Rameshbabu, next to FIDE CEO Emil Sutovsky as the Candidates tournament opened in Toronto on Wednesday. (Credit: Michal Walusza/FIDE)

The 2024 Candidates Tournament, held by the International Chess Federation or Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE), was formally declared open by former world champion and FIDE deputy president Vishwanathan Anand, at the venue, a hotel in downtown Toronto. Described as the “most prestigious tournament in the chess world”, the FIDE Candidates will determine the challengers for the World Champion title in both the Open and Women’s Categories.

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Praggnanandhaa and Vaishali Rameshbabu were accompanied, as has been the case for their tournaments, by their mother R Nagalakshmi. Vaishali Rameshbabu was glad of the support, as she told the Hindustan Times, “It’s nice to have like someone from your family, like who know you better, in such a stressful tournament. For me, I have two people, so it’s great.”

She said she discusses the game with her brother and they also play each other “for fun sometimes.”

The tournament came close to being moved to Spain as there were issued with visas being issued in time by Canadian immigration authorities for all the players, including the Indian contingent, as well those accompanying them and officials.

Anand was happy that the problem was resolved and the tournament was being held in Canada for the first time. He was also thrilled to see the participation of Indian players. Praggnanandhaa R, Vidit Santosh Gujrathi and Gukesh D are in the Open category while Vaishali Rameshbabu and Koneru Humpy will compete in the Women’s section.

Anand told the Hindustan Times, “It’s a matter of immense pride. Everyone in India is very excited as well and eagerly looking forward to the tournament.”

The opening ceremony for the tournament featured FIDE CEO Emil Sutovsky, President of the Chess Federation of Canada Vladimir Drkulec, among other luminaries of the chess world.

Drkulec pointed out that it took contacting as many as 14 MPs and four Federal Ministers for the resolution of the visa impasse. But he was pleased things finally feel in place, as he said, “Everyone is quite excited.”

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