Maharashtra has taking a pioneering step in Indian chess. It is organising its own league called Maharashtra Chess League (MCL) from April 24-29 at Pune. It will feature six teams representing six cities. The cities are Mumbai, Pune, Sangli/Kolhapur, Jalgaon, Nagpur and Aurangabad.
The team allotment ceremony took place in Pune on April 4, 2013 in which the world champion Vishy Anand participated. The player auction took place on April 12, 2013 and six time former Indian champion Surya S Ganguly of Kolkata went for Rs.115,000.
The league is a brainchild of GM Abhijit Kunte and Anirudha Deshpande. Vishy Anand who himself plays for Baden Baden in the German league has lauded this league idea. Any chess activity bringing money from sponsors into the chess fold (chess players, chess associations, chess teams) should be appreciated and it is being done by all and sundry.
But, others states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal would be watching this activity closely and possibly start a similar league based on the success of this maiden venture. The AICF regime in November 2004 wanted to start a league on its own based on the Bundesliga system of Germany. It may be coming late like the BCCI did in cricket. But when they do, it will be the most popular like the Indian Premier League in cricket!
The top women players, Eesha Karavade and Soumya Swaminathan fetched Rs.60,000 each in the auction. Eesha went to Jalgaon and Soumya was picked by Nagpur Royals. The names of the six teams: Pune Attackers, Ahmednagar Checkers, Mumbai Movers, Nagpur Royals, Jalgaon Battlers and Thane Combatants.
The event will be a all-play all on six boards. Each team has to buy (purse of Rs.3 lakhs) one Grand Master, one Woman Grand Master and one woman rated player and one International Master. The top four teams will play the semifinals (two game match) and final (two game match). Most players will get to play nine games. The prize money will be Rs.5 lakhs.
MCA will earn about Rs.39 lakhs per year. The team owners have to pay Rs.2 lakhs to buy a team and pay Rs.2 lakhs per year and will be owners for three years. This works to 12 lakhs. The title sponsor provides Rs.15 lakh and the co-sponsors offer Rs.6 lakh each totalling Rs.12 lakhs.
Dr Nitin Karir, former President, MCA, launched the official website www.mcl.chess.me in the presence of R.M. Dongre of Mumbai and GM Abhijit Kunte of Pune. Teams have to field atleast three Maharashtra players for each game. The remaining slots will go to Indian and in future overseas players. Maharashtra players will be in demand.