x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Roadside chess club wants a confab with Indian Grandmaster

Gariahat Chess Club members, who play in an open space under a busy flyover, hope for visit from India's first chess Grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand.

Members of the Gariahat Chess Club play while exposed to the elements amid the cacophonous traffic of Kolkata.
Members of the Gariahat Chess Club play while exposed to the elements amid the cacophonous traffic of Kolkata.

KOLKATA // They play chess in an open space under a flyover, braving the weather and the traffic noise, yet these chess aficionados hope to convince the chess world champion Vishwanathan Anand will visit their modest club.

Mr Anand, 42, was the first Indian to become a chess Grandmaster and has won the World Chess Championship five times, most recently last month. He has been the undisputed world champion since 2007.

Unlike Mr Anand, who has played chess across the globe, the 80-odd members of the Gariahat Chess Club play the game while exposed to the elements and amid the cacophonous traffic of a packed city.

Their dream is for Mr Anand to visit the concrete railing under a busy flyover, which is the headquarters of their club.

"I've been playing chess here since my childhood, even before the flyover was constructed. This area was our favourite meeting place. As more and more people joined us and some even ventured out to participate and win prizes in various tournaments, an idea began to take shape - that we should form a club," said Debashish Basu, the club president.

Despite attempts spread over months, no closed space could be found. Finally, love and passion for the game led the club being formed in November 2006 on an open space under the flyover.

It now boasts at least 80 members, who sit on concrete railings where the chessboards are also placed.

"For me and other members of the club, all the noise does not affect us. If you have the passion, nothing can bother you," Mr Basu said.

The chess club has one aim - to promote the game of chess - and their mission is to organise a tournament every month.

From retired pensioners to school and college goers, from bankers to professionals - all make a beeline to the Gariahat Boulevard waiting for their turn to play the game.

"We have been playing here for years and nothing - be it the weather or the noise - has ever affected us. When a game is played, we transcend to a different world where the only things visible are the 64 squares and the pieces on them," said Sandip Mazumdar, for whom a day is never complete without a game of chess.

"It would be wrong to say they do not get disturbed by the surrounding noise and cacophony. Initially it surely is difficult for them but as time passes they get habituated," said Sabyasachi Mazumdar, a clinical psychologist.

"On the contrary, those who have been playing there regularly might find it difficult to concentrate when playing at a secluded and calm place," Mr Mazumdar added.

The Gariahat Chess Club, a source of inspiration for budding chess players, is making an effort to invite Mr Anand to their club.

"It has been our dream to bring Anand to our club, especially now when he has retained the world crown.

"We are trying all out to bring him. If he comes it will be a dream come true for us," said Mr Basu.