Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand on Wednesday requested the Sports Authority of India to provide special chess computers to budding players and also expressed concern over children as young as 12 wanting to take up the sport as a career.

Anand made the request while addressing the newly-appointed Assistant Directors of Sports Authority of India in a special online session from Germany, where the former world No 1 is currently stranded due to the Covid-19 forced travel restrictions.

“SAI already has facilities and infrastructure for training. It would be of great help to budding chess players if SAI could give them access to special Chess Computers in these facilities since most players don’t have access to these,” Anand said.

Anand, who became India’s first Grand Master as an 18-year-old, had a word of caution for young chess players and their parents. India is home to a number of chess prodigies like R Praggnanandhaa, all of 14 and the fourth youngest to become a GM.

“Children should not make a decision on a full-time career in chess till the age of 18; till you finish your studies,” the 50-year-old said. “In chess you do not have to turn professional. I get worried if 12-13 year-olds want to take up full-time chess careers,” he added.

“In all professions, uncertainty is very high, parents should give the child the flexibility to decide what they want to do.”

Anand urged aspiring players to take care of their fitness during this forced break. “Fitness is not a problem when you are young, but it becomes a factor when you start getting older. Go for a week to a SAI facility and take up fitness with athletes from other sports,” he said.

Asked by one of the participants during the session if Covid-19 has popularised online chess, Anand said, “Online chess has always been popular but we are hearing far more of it now because of the pandemic and the lockdown. However, what needs to be seen now is if we can improve the level of these online competitions.

“In a few weeks from now we will compete in the Online Nations Cup which will see teams from four countries and two continents participating. With technology, everything is possible now,” he added.