State with no GM, Punjab increase to chess

Jupinderjit Singh

Today News Online Service

Chandigarh, May 26

Chess must no longer be considered an idle man’s pursuit in Punjab. You can land a government job based on your achievements in the game.

Four players of the game of wits have so far bagged a Punjab government job, making it a life-changing turn for them.

Gurjeet Singh of Ropar, a prominent player and coach, was appointed as an Assistant Jail Superintendent earlier this month. “I used to work for seven-eight hours in a private school for a few thousand rupees. At 3pm, I would ride my bike to Chandigarh, teaching chess to upcoming players. I used to visit four houses to make another few thousand rupees, driving around 200km to and fro. This was five days a week. On weekends I taught chess to kids in Ropar and made some more money,” said Gurjeet, recalling his struggle to make a living from chess, which left him no time to work on his own game.

Ropar chess player Gurjeet Singh has been appointed an Assistant Jail Superintendent.

He now has fixed working hours, which allows him to focus on improving his own game. “The best part is that I can participate in tournaments at the national and international levels as I now can afford the expenses. It was just a dream earlier,” Gurjeet said.

He has qualified for the World Amateur Chess Championship, to be held later this year. Gurjeet, a silver medallist in the Punjab State Team Chess Championship in 2017, has several other awards to his credit, and he hopes to add more.

The story of Pankaj Sharma from Bathinda, a silver medallist in the World Amateur Chess Championship, is similar to Gurjeet’s. His struggles ended when he got a clerical grade job with the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) under the sports quota. Harmanjot Singh is another chess player who got a job in the clerical grade with the PSPCL under the sports quota.

Sharma had faced a lot of resistance in playing chess, with people advising him not to waste his time in a board game. “They would say: ‘It won’t take you anywhere.’ Well, it has given me a career now,” said an elated Sharma.

“The recognition and encouragement by the Punjab government will go a long way in removing negative perceptions about the game,” said Gurjeet. “Many in the teaching fraternity used to discourage me when I prepared students for chess competitions — they thought it is a game of gambling!”

Dreaming of GM

Gurjeet, Sharma and Harmanjot got government jobs in the last one year or so, while another player, Bipin Dhingra, had got a job back in 2016. Though chess was considered for government jobs earlier as well, it was upgraded as a high potential game under the revised Punjab Sports Policy of 2018.

Rakesh Gupta, who heads the Sangrur district chess association, said the revised policy put chess at par with other prominent sports. “We hope Punjab will have a Grandmaster in chess in the coming years… It would depend on encouragement from the government,” he said.

He also appealed to the government that players who do reach the international level should be given direct recruitment, as is the case with cricketers.

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