Sunday, February 15, 2009

The land of the King

Of course India claims the game for its own, because it has evolved from the ancient game of chaturang or shatranj, both of which even sound similar to 'chess', as the game is known now. Chaturang ('four arms' or 'four divisions') is reputedly the more ancient game, known so because it simulates the four sections of the armies of yore - elephants, chariots, cavalry and infantry. During the 6th and 7th centuries, chaturang spread to Persia, where it became more formalised. Some of the common terms used today were adapted from the Persian descriptions (e.g., 'Checkmate', being derived from 'Shah mat', meaning 'the king is dead'), as the game spread from Persia to Europe, where the rules of modern game were crafted.

Tamil Nadu, and Chennai, can lay claim to having fostered India's current high profile in the world of chess. Though chess in India is most commonly associated with Viswanathan Anand (read his piece in 'Time'), India's first Grandmaster, the game's popularity was earlier nurtured by Manuel Aaron, the first ever International Master from India, and the first chess player to be honoured with the Arjuna Award for Chess. Aaron moved to Tamil Nadu from Burma (then a British colony), where he had most probably leant his basics; Anand whetted his appetitie for chess as a seven-year old in the Philippines. Thanks to Aaron's efforts and Anand's fame, Tamil Nadu has been a force in the national chess scene - and the Tamil Nadu State Chess Association has several tournaments conducted under its banner throughout the year - almost one every fortnight, on an average.

At this tournament over the weekend - the Chennai district selection tournament - there were only 3 categories: under-7, under-11 and the senior open. There were about a 150 children taking part in the under-7 & -11 categories put together - and there were several children who were in their early teens, or even less, taking on the seniors in the open category. Talk about catching them young!


chorinchath said...

I attended a recent chess tournament & I could see a number of kids playing additioal games against each other after their "rounds" - real enthusiasm!

LVISS said...

But u develop some kind of knitted brow looks when u r into it deeply. I was looking stern when I was playing regularly.Now I am stern free and no knitted brows.

Shantaram said...

@ Narayanan: That's the enthusiasm in the air!

@ Ravindran: Ironed them out, haven't you? :)