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MU aids International Blind Chess Tournament – The Manipal Journal
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MU aids International Blind Chess Tournament

Manipal: Playing host to participants from four nations, officials of Manipal University inaugurated the Asia Pacific Chess Championship for the Visually Challenged at the Dr TMA Pai Halls on March 22. The best of players from India, Bangladesh, Philippines and Sri Lanka face off at the event, scheduled to take place until March 31.
Organised by the All India Chess Federation for the Blind (AICFB) and the International Braille Chess Association (IBCA), the competition is a part of MIT’s diamond jubilee celebrations.

How the visually challenged play chess

The distinction in the setup of a blind chess game from a sighted one lies in two elements: the chess board and the pieces. According to the IBCA, all the black squares on the board are raised about 3-4 mm above the white squares. By feeling the squares, the player is able to determine whether the square is a black or a white one. In addition to this, each of the squares on the board has a hole in the centre so that the pieces can be fixed in these holes, and the pieces themselves can be identified as black or white based on the touch of the pin below them.

Lack of awareness highlighted at inauguration

Flags of participating nations adorned the stage at the inauguration ceremony as Dr HS Ballal, Pro-Chancellor of the University drew attention to the lack of monetary support for the game. “Financial support given to sports apart from cricket is abysmally poor. If not on the same level as cricket, at least more importance must be given to sports other than cricket. Manipal University introduced the Kadambi Scholarship (for students excelling in sports except cricket) for this reason.’’

The Pro-Chancellor addressing the gathering at the inauguration || Photo Courtesy: Adwitiya Shukla

Adding to the chorus of increased awareness, Charudatta Jadhav, General Secretary of the AICFB, stressed that the game of chess hasn’t received its due recognition. “The status of sportsmen is denied to the players. Ever since the AICFB’s inception in 1997, we’ve come a long way. India stood 5th in the 2012 Chess Olympiads. We are not asking for grants, but the Government must recognise the game.’’

Speaking about the Federation’s attempt to achieve the same, he said that India has contributed a lot to the game.  ‘The 2006 ‘Talk 64’ software, launched in India and now used by players from over 30 countries, is the best example. Sadly, we are still unable to open the eyes of the government.’’

Players speak out

Participants also expressed the desire to see changes in perception, not just in India but in their respective countries as well. Kishan Gangolli, India’s blind chess champion for four years in a row recalled his experiences in dealing with government apathy. ‘’In 2011, I represented India in the Junior Championship. There, I didn’t even get lodging. I managed with my own expenses. After 2013, the government sponsors us for world tournaments but we are still not eligible for their awards.’’

Ejaz Husain of Bangladesh, the highest FIDE Rated player in the tournament, elaborated on the scenario in his home country. “The mainstream chess society in Bangladesh was not really aware that blind persons could play chess. National tournaments did take place occasionally, but facilities like training weren’t provided. Now, there is a turning point, arbitrators are looking into rules and organising camps.’’

Here, Ejaz is seen gearing up for the first round of the tournament || Photo Courtesy: Adwitiya Shukla

MU to host one chess event per year

Manipal is no newcomer to the arena of blind chess, a fact reiterated by Charudatta Jadhav and MU Vice Chancellor Dr Vinod Bhat. “Last year, Manipal hosted a national tournament. Now, they have given us (AICFB) the guarantee of hosting one blind chess event per year’’, said Mr Jadhav.

Speaking to The Manipal Journal after flagging off the 1st round of the competition, Dr Vinod Bhat said, “This is the third or fourth time we have organised a blind chess event, including one earlier at the National level and now at the Asia Pacific level. I am extremely pleased with things’’. He added that although the game is not considered a very engaging spectator sport, India has come a long way in the past 25 years in popularising chess.

As the race to become the Asia Pacific Champion heats up, the Dr TMA Pai Hall continues to witness the clash of pawns. At the time of writing, Kishan Gangolli had defeated Ejaz Husain to take a lead in the tournament after four games.

Featured Image Courtesy: Adwitiya Shukla

Edited by Soumyajit Saha

 

Takshak Pai

takshakpai@yahoo.com

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