The League of Exceptional Champions: The first edition of the Global Chess League set to start in Dubai

The Global Chess League makes its grand debut: “A brand new revolution in an ancient sport”

The inaugural edition of the Global Chess League officially opened in Dubai in a ceremony which saw tech entrepreneurs, big sports names and chess fans celebrate the launching of a project which will showcase the game in a completely different light

Dubai, known for its innovative spirit, has become home to another pioneering project, this time in the world of chess. Following the match for the title of World Champion in 2021 between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi, the city has again embraced chess but this time, it seems, on a much grander scale.

The ceremony marked the beginning of an exciting new chapter for chess, as the Global Chess League aims to revolutionize the game and expand its reach globally.

India’s tech giant Tech Mahindra partneredOpening ceremony – Global Chess League with the International Chess Federation (FIDE) to launch the first chess franchise, the Global Chess League, which promises to make the game more accessible to everyone, regardless of their level of play.

Among the VIPs at the event were HE Saeed Mohammed Hareb (Secretary General of the Dubai Sports Council), Anand Mahindra (Chairman of the Mahindra Group), Arkady Dvorkovich (President of the International Chess Federation, FIDE) famous Australian cricketer Steve Waugh, Indian tennis star Sania Mirza as well as CP Gurnani (Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Tech Mahindra). They were joined by Parag Shah, Director – Global Chess League and Member of Group Executive Board, Mahindra Group,  and Jagdish Mitra, Chairperson of the Global Chess League Board.

It all started with a tweet

Speaking at the ceremony, the visionary behind the Global Chess League, Anand Mahindra (Chairman of the Mahindra Group), shared the story about how the event was born.

“In 2020 I was watching the Chess Olympiad online. I got hooked on it because of the commentary of some young chess enthusiasts who also happen to be comedians. I tweeted about this, complimenting them. One of them replied to my tweet and threw me a challenge – if you like this, why don’t you create a chess league as you did in other sports? So, I started this.

A few days later [FIDE President] Arkady Dvorkovich got in touch saying he saw my tweet and here we are today”, Anand Mahindra said.

“Some of the best ideas in the world happen from a series of happy coincidences”, the Chairman of the Mahindra Group said.

He emphasised the league’s commitment to advancing chess and fostering its growth worldwide.

We are making “a brand new revolution in an ancient sport”, Mahindra concluded.

The Champions League of Chess”

The President of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) Arkady Dvorkovich thanked Tech Mahindra and the Indian companies taking part for putting the Global Chess League together creating a partnership “built on trust”.

“We started this journey a long time ago and the story Anand Mahindra told about how this whole thing started is true. This project brings a fresh look at chess and more technology – something we sometimes forget when organising traditional events”, the President of FIDE said.

Dvorkovich highlighted the important role Global Chess League will play in expanding the game of chess and furthering its global reach.

“We want to make a Champions League of chess and I hope we succeed in it”, said Dvorkovich.

An eye on chess in every part of the world

One of the key aspects of the Global Chess League is the aim to use new technologies to provide better and more understandable access to chess to a broader (non-chess) audience.

Tech Mahindra’s MD & CEO, CP Gurnani shared his company’s plan to leverage technology and digital transformation to enhance the chess experience for fans worldwide.

“When I went to look at the venue, I had tears in my eyes. Not because of the journey we took, but how the sport will now look. I saw dozens of cameras in the playing venue and some of them belong to global sports broadcasters from all around the world. That gave me a huge confidence that at the launch of the Global Chess League we are witnessing a movement which will translate into big numbers and transform the game”.

CP Gurnani’s speech emphasized the league’s commitment to embracing innovation and placing fans at the heart of the project across the globe.

The guests were then shown a video – The Big Move – taking them on a journey through history, transition and the future of chess. The video was accompanied by an act featuring dancers whose performance symbolized the evolution of the game and its integration into contemporary society. 

Chess in every sport

Cricket is a big game in India and the Gulf area so it was no surprise that the audience erupted with applause when Australian cricket legend Steve Waugh appeared on stage. He was joined by Indian tennis star Sania Mirza.

The two took part in a discussion about the connection between chess and cricket.

“The more I think about it, the more I see that in a lot of ways cricket is very similar to chess. A lot of strategy, thinking ahead, planning”, Steve Waugh said.

“I was a team captain and the camera was most often on me. I didn’t always want my emotions to be seen. There is a lot of bluffing involved in cricket, and I guess there is some of that in chess in a way – you need to portray confidence even when you feel you’re vulnerable”, said Waugh.

Talking about the connection between chess and tennis, Sonia Mirza noted that “in tennis, we make small decisions every second and those decisions are based on what the opponent might do”.

“There is a similarity to chess in every sport – in every competition you need to think ahead and plan how to react to your opponent’s move”, Mirza noted.

She also reflected on playing the tennis doubles (where Mirza successfully competed with another tennis legend, Martina Hingis) – “in critical moments you have to take ownership.

The appearance of the Waugh and Mirza highlighted one of Global Chess League’s core messages – #ChessInEverySport, emphasizing that the principles of the black and white game have place and application in every other sports competition.

The Global Chess League Trophy

The ceremony featured the presentation of the trophy created by the Italian art & design company Pininfarina, whose CEO Silvio Angori was also present at the ceremony.

The statue is designed to resemble the embodiment of chess, human spirit and strength as the key ideas driving the league.

As the distinguished guests and speakers got up on the stage, the trophy – in silver and white – was lowered down to the stage, into the hands of two children.

The children were selected to present the trophy, marking a symbolic passing of the torch to the next generation of chess enthusiasts.

The Team presentation 

Then it was time for the teams competing in the event to come to the stage and greet the audience. Like footballers going out to the pitch ahead of a big event, the players were all accompanied by small children, with the trophy next to them.

Iconic chess players and world heavyweights, such as former world champion Viswanathan Anand, former women’s world champion Hou Yifan, two-time world champion candidate Ian Nepomniachtchi, Levon Aronian, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and others were welcomed with huge applause. Never has the world seen so many of the best chess players together in one place. 

The stage is set

The Global Chess League’s opening ceremony set the stage for an extraordinary event never before seen in the chess world.

While for the next 11 days Dubai will be the world capital of chess and it will forever be the birthplace of a project which aims to reshape the game and achieve a prominence that the sport has never had before.

Six teams, with 36 top-class world chess players will take part.

The first match of the Global Chess League will take place on June 22nd at 5:30 PM at the Le Méridien Hotel (the tournament venue) between Triveni Continental Kings and upGrad Mumba Masters.