The air pollution that New Delhi experiences annually in the final months of the year could be one of the factors in deciding whether India’s capital hosts the upcoming World Chess Championship this year, FIDE CEO Emil Sutovsky told The Indian Express. India’s 18-year-old challenger Gukesh will take on reigning world champion Ding Liren in the World Chess Championship for a chance to become the youngest world champion ever in history.

Besides New Delhi, Chennai and Singapore are also in a three-city race to host the most prestigious event in chess. The world championship is scheduled to be held in November and December 2024 with the exact dates yet to be revealed.

“The pollution factor we do consider especially. Because that’s not going to be different this year. As good as the organization of the event could be, you cannot change the pollution and cannot predict if something happens. We are considering it as a factor,” Sutovsky told this daily on the sidelines of the Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger.

Air quality in the capital was alarmingly poor in those two months in 2023. According to data published by the Press Information Bureau, the month-wise daily average AQI (Air Quality Index) for Delhi in November was 373 while for December it was 348. On November 6, 2023, the city’s AQI had touched 421. AQI in the range of 401-500 is categorized as ‘severe’, while anything in the 301-400 range is deemed very poor. The PIB data showed that 2023 witnessed the second worst November air in the capital since 2018 (with only 2021 being worse), while December 2023 saw the monthly average AQI be at its lowest in five years since 2019.

New Delhi was also in the middle of a storm last year when it was hosting the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix, which had to be postponed by a day because Kazakh GM Zhansaya Abdumalik withdrew from the 12-player event due to poor facilities given to the players. . Some of the players had also written to FIDE to postpone the event. In response to this, FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich had issued an apology to the players and had vowed to “improve and sharpen the mechanism of selecting the host cities and venues for the tournaments.”

Festive offer

By contrast, Chennai’s credentials are burnished by the fact that they successfully hosted the Olympiad in 2022 which hosted about 2000 players from over 180 countries. They also successfully organized an elite tournament called Chennai Grand Masters in December last year.

Sutovsky added that before the 15-member FIDE Council decides which city gets to host the World Championship, he will issue his recommendations since he is in charge of the World Championship. He pointed out that there are a multitude of factors that will help the FIDE Council eventually decide who gets to host the World Championship, including “neutrality”.

This might give a slight advantage to Singapore since Gukesh will be home favorite at Chennai or New Delhi. But Sutovsky added an important rider.

“If the bids are the same, it gives a serious advantage to Singapore. If one or two other bids are much, much higher in all other senses (in terms of guaranteed revenue that FIDE would get from broadcast and commercial rights) then it compensates for neutrality.

“We look at a multitude of factors, among those that are important is distribution of rights, neutrality, the level of venue, broadcast and other similar things that would allow the match to not only be important by itself, but also allow the chess world. to leverage on it to promote the game in terms of chess fans that would start following the game during the world championship,” he said, adding he was pleased with the way that India sees this event and decision is likely by the end of June.

Before the venue is decided, the focus will be on the two players. There has been plenty of chatter about the form of Ding Liren since he became the world champion last year. He himself had spoken out about battling depression to a German newspaper after being crowned winner. Sutovsky says that there is a deadline for both players to sign player contracts in 10 days. In case one of the players refuses to sign the player’s contract by that date, they would approach the next player in line — Hikaru Nakamura — from the Candidates tournament which Gukesh had won earlier this year.

“But I have to say I do not expect that to happen. At present only Ding’s results were creating the narrative that he may decide not to play. But we haven’t heard that from Ding himself. And we don’t expect that to happen,” Sutovsky added.