64 squares charm aficionados on Kolkata streets

64 squares charm aficionados on Kolkata streets

64 squares charm aficionados on Kolkata streets

When Siegbert Tarrasch, one of the strongest chess players and most influential chess teachers, said “chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy,” he never had the idea about the band of buffs under the Gariahat flyover in South Kolkata or at Rajballav Para in North Kolkata for whom these 64 squares are the universe.

Rain or shine, every day 80-odd members of the Gariahat Chess Club concentrate on games under a busy 570-metre-long flyover at Gariahat, ignoring the din of high-decibel honking and cacophony of hawkers and pedestrians.

For the chess enthusiasts, love for the game transcends everything else-- weather withers away, the dissonant traffic and the unremitting clamour beguiles by and the religious, social and age differences melt into their chequered world.

The club is an open patch under the Gariahat flyover where the players sit on the railings and the boards and pieces balan­ced between them. There's a metallic box under the bridge where all the chessboards and pieces are kept. People take out time from their busy schedule and come here to play.

In 2007, the club set a record of playing the game on all 365 days undeterred by vagaries of the weather. The players change but the game continues.

“They start playing at 11am and continue till late into the night. The game needs a lot of concentration, but these people never get disturbed. We opened a tea-stall  here because of them,” Raju Dey, tea stall-owner under the Gariahat flyover, said.

“I’ve been playing chess here since my childhood, even before the flyover was constructed. This area was our favourite meeting place. After the construction of the flyover we got a roof by default and this inspired us to give our passion a name and a shape and this initiated us to form a club and Gariahat Chess Club was born in November 2006,” Club President Deba­shish Basu told Deccan Herald.

“Today it is not only a favourite past time and many have taken the game seriously. Many members of the club, particularly the young ones, have won prizes in various tournaments,” Basu proudly said.

If Gariahat Chess Club promotes this cerebral game in southern part of the city then at the other end of the city in north Kolkata’s Rajballavpara, on the ramsha­ckle benches, which serves the purpose of both the table and the chair, 50-odd chess aficionados continue with this game with undeterred enthusiasm.

The footpath was the favourite adda (street chat) particularly for the young people of the locality and they, to spend time, started playing chess. Slowly, in the last 25 years, their pass-time translated into the battle ground for the kings, the queens, the knights and the rooks-- and Rajballav Para Daba (Chess) Parishad came into being.

Like their counterparts in south Kolkata the 50 odd members of Rajballav Para Daba (Chess) Parishad, shielded against the external provocations and challenges, continue with their passion for this game.

“I have been playing here for the past 40 years. I was a state-level champion as a young lad. This is where I learnt the game,” 68-year-old Nimai Chakraborty, who played chess all his life on the footpath, told Deccan Herald.

“We have four chess boards in our club and all day someone or the other is playing. The players continue to change but the game continues. We have some members who are so dedicated and passionate about the game that they forget everything when they sit to play,” Chakraborty said. Chess grandmasters like Dibyendu Barua and Surya Shekhar Ganguly are regulars at both the places and they even train the budding players.

“This has helped in nurturing the young talent and as a result of which
several state-level champions have come out of these clubs,” said a member of
Gariahat Chess Club. Sumil Ghosh has a rating of 1704 and has been playing on the Rajballavpara address since he was 10. He now trains young kids for junior tournaments. Sourav Mondol, 14, is one of the many young talents from this club with a rating of 1640.

When asked about the objective, Debashish Basu said: “The objective of Gariahat Chess Club is very simple. We want to promote game among chess enthusiasts. We are keen to take this simple game which needs very little money to the grassroots level especially to schoolchildren”.

“Gariahat boulevard is where every evening we meet. Apart from playing chess we aspire to make some useful contribution to the cause of the cerebral game” Basu added.

“Our mission is to hold a tournament every month at Gariahat boulevard and make the GCC a prestigious organisation in chess fraternity.  The GCC plans to hold grand tournaments in style with a generous amount in prize money. Our mission is to spread the religion of chess amongst all,” a member said.

“Our club is a non-profit organisation where every chess lover will have the
opportunity to express themselves. We ger small amounts from various sponsoring agencies and use them for the development of the game,” said a member of Rajballav Para Daba (Chess) Parishad.

Chess, as you know, has three phases-- the opening game, the middle game and the end game, but for the street chess lovers of Kolkata where two unknown people become very good friends in no time and where people discuss the
varieties of Sicilian Defence or Alekhine’s Defence after the battle is over and sit down fresh for their next move, there is no end game perhaps.

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