Two-time World Chess Champ to Promote Poker Skill in India10 months ago
The often-drawn parallels between the games of poker and chess took an Indian turn this week as the Poker Sports League announced they had joined forces with former World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand to promote poker as a game of skill in his home country.
Despite the massive and rapid growth of the game in India, poker in the sub-continent suffered a blow recently when the High Court in Gujarat dismissed a petition to have poker defined as a game of skill, leading those at the forefront of the game to find new avenues to convince the authorities that it is not simply gambling.
Enter chess Grandmaster Viswanathan ‘Vishy’ Anand, the two-time world champion who still remains in the elite group of players at the age of 47, and who has recently taken to poker and understands its similarities to his 64-square passion.
Last month he stated: “I have played chess all my life and when I was introduced to poker, I could instantly draw the parallels, which made me connect better with the game,” and the newly-created Poker Sports League are hoping he can add his weight as a national sporting hero behind their claims to poker being a game of skill.
Backed by 12 business leaders in a franchise-style competition, the PSL described itself as a ‘unified poker league which will offer Indian poker players the chance to be a part of 12 teams who fight it out for the ultimate glory in poker’, recently completing their first season and looking forward to the next.
Amit Burman, co-founder of the PSL explained Anand’s ambassadorial involvement, stating:
“Chess and poker are frequently compared as both games are based on strategic thinking and decision-making. A chess game is broken up into an opening phase, the middle game and the endgame, often with blurred lines between each phase. Depending on your overall strength as a player, each part has varying levels of importance as to what is best to improve next. Similarly, the whole theory behind poker brings to light facts like, how to figure what the best plays would be in different sorts of situations.”
Anand himself is enthusiastic about the co-operation, saying:
"In the last couple of years, we have been observing a paradigm shift in people's mindset for poker as a sport. The zeal displayed by poker lovers has given rise to a lot of platforms which are not only encouraging the sport in India but also opening doors for youngsters who are keen to explore a career in the game."
“My association with PSL is an attempt to establish the fact that poker, like the game of chess, is indeed a game of skill, which involves a lot of strategy and a defined skill set. Like many other international universities, poker is now being taught as a course in IIM (Kozhikode) to establish that it’s a game that’s played with skill.”
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