(Exhausted, Dibyendu Barua still kindly agreed to an interview while multitasking on the phone)
Grandmaster Dibyendu Barua, you are now also a chess organiser and promoter with the Tata Steel Asian Team Championship, so thank you for taking time during this event when you are so busy to talk to us. We would also like, before we start, to congratulate you on a very fine event - everyone we talked to has only good things to say - and despite the intense competition, the participants are really very happy to be here and very much enjoying the warm Indian and Bengali hospitality.
Q: So, how did India, West Bengal, Kolkata, and you in particular get involved in organising this prestigious event?
A: I have in the last four years been promoting chess by organising a chess for youth program in West Bengal with competitions in two age group categories, under 16 and under 25, and in casual conversation with Mr D V Sundar, Secretary of the All India Chess Federation, I mentioned I was keen to do an international event one day. Soon after I got an email challenging me to take on the Asian Team Championship that had been awarded by the World Chess Federation through the Asian Chess Federation to India, and after getting an indication of the budget, I agreed. But I really did not know what I had signed up for! This was an official international event and not just an international open tournament, and there were things like standards to be adhered to, be it hotel, equipment, etc,, protocol to be followed, and services that needed to be provided such as transportation. The budget also just kept growing and what was provided by the central government to start began to look like a very small sum indeed. So I approached the state government and they really helped. In particular I must mention the Minister of Sport and the Minister of Finance as incredibly supportive. But even then, until after the opening ceremony, and only when my employer Tata Steel stepped in as main sponsor, I was facing a major financial ruin! So I must thank all of these parties from the bottom of my heart. Also, Mr Sundar too who gave me this opportunity has been a great support throughout with much needed guidance.
Q: In the chess world, India for sure and especially in Kolkata, you are a legend, because before World Champion Viswanathan Anand, and after the early days of Manual Aaron, you were a prodigy, in fact India's first great player, performing at the top level for more than 20 years and was seen to be proof of the high quality of India chess. How do you see yourself in 5, 10 years time, and what are your remaining aspirations for chess?
A: As I said earlier, I am well employed by Tata and while not rich, I live a comfortable life and even today if I focused on playing chess I believe I would still be among the top 10 players in the country. But I have been playing a lot less in recent years, around 2-3 tournaments a year and I have become very selective. This is because I believe that I have benefited from chess and that senior players like myself need to give back to society and while organising this event I realised too that chess players like myself bring something extra in that we understand what is needed to make a good event great, having been there ourselves! I have over the years begun to get more involved in promoting chess in Kolkata and West Bengal and I see myself continuing to do that and hopefully can make a difference. In fact I am organising this event with All Sport Management India under my newly formed academy, the Dibyendu Barua Chess Academy which I set up with my own money and with no profit motive in mind.
Q: Everyone is impressed by the high quality of the organisation of the Asian Team Championship. We have heard that you have started a Chess Academy and the students there enjoy the same high standards which seems to be identified with all that you do. Please tell us a bit about your academy and what are your hopes and plans in this direction?
A: With my academy I hope to be better able to promote chess and we have two main thrusts. The first is introduce the game to children so that they will learn to love chess and to this end we have tie-ups with many schools already. Only in this way will we grow a mass of chess literacy amongst the public and appreciation by would be sponsors we recognise this community as a valuable market for their products and services. The second is to facilitate talent development which is a little more complicated. We try and reward winners at city, state, and national levels with scholarships, and for those who qualify to represent the country we even provide special training to help prepare them for international competition. I don't know how successful we will be but I will do my best and hope that is good enough.
Thank you Grandmaster. We know you are very busy indeed even though you have an excellent team in place for this event and so will let you go now!