Meet Thambi, the mascot of Chess Olympiad 2022

The mascot of 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad 2022 is being projected on the Rippon Building during its launch in Chennai. ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images

Picture this: You're driving down a busy road on a Monday evening in Chennai. You're caught in a traffic snarl and as you fiddle with your car's music player, you feel a glaring presence in front of you. And there you have it - a cutout of a horse, some 20 feet tall, strapped secure in a pick-up truck, greeting you with a salutation. If you see him again, don't be alarmed, he's just Chennai's Thambi.

"Thambi" is an expression you'll commonly hear when in the city. The literal translation is: "Hey (little) brother." It's a phrase used to address someone. However, Chennaites are hearing more of a "Thambi!" of late. Notice an exclamation mark? That's because this Thambi - a burly horse draped in a fresh white veshti and sattai (dhoti/sarong and shirt) - has suddenly cropped up all over the city.

Thambi is the official mascot of the 44th Chess Olympiad, which will begin in Chennai on July 28. He resembles BoJack, the fictional title character of the Netflix animated television series BoJack Horseman. No exaggeration. He pretty much looks the part, but what sets him apart is his crisp desi attire.

Why a horse, you ask? The most obvious explanation could be that the horse is the only piece on a chessboard that has a face. And why Thambi? Perhaps because it is relatable, but only to the people of the state.

Standing tall with folded hands, Thambi's attracting a lot of attention. Stickers of him are plastered on 50+ buses in Chennai, his hoardings are all over the city and there's even a mural of him on Marina Beach.

The Chess Olympiad's Twitter handle has been going all out to create a fanbase for Thambi - from a wishlist he has for the Olympiad to dubbing him a ridiculously funny scene that features Tamil comedian Vadivelu. While the video is a riot, it caters solely to the Tamil-speaking audience.

There's also word that there's a whole Whatsapp sticker pack of the different avatars of Thambi. Move aside BoJack, this knight in a shining veshti-sattai is here to stay.