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Chess at IITR

October 1, 2018

At the 3rd Inter-IIT Chess Meet conducted in IIT Madras during December 2017, IIT Roorkee finished as runners up, out of a total of seventeen participating teams. After years of functioning under an unorganized impoverished structure, this success has motivated the institute to form a proper group, the IITR Chess Club under the Institute Sports Council (ISC). Despite having some excellent chess players and an enthusiastic culture for the game that has been hosted by the Students Club for some time now, the recognition of its potential has come about after a bout of struggle, determination and patience. We had a chat with Viraj Tamhankar, one of the pioneers in the development of the club which opened back in March of this year. Here is a summary of our interview with him.

In the days before Inter-IIT ‘17, chess was limited to the Students Club with a tiny designated area right next to its entrance. Enthusiasts who frequented this space had to make do with sub-par equipment, including old chess-boards and pieces as well as outdated clocks which lacked important features used in professional competitions. These trivial difficulties aside, the students’ club was always crowded in the evenings, which made it hard for them to concentrate in a cauldron of music, noise and TV sound.

The competitive side of the game could be observed during the Students’ Club Open, Intra-Bhawan or Inter-Bhawan competitions, and departmental events. However, these events tended to be improperly arranged and unfairly adjudicated, because of insufficient knowledge about the methods of the game and fairness criteria about pairing of two contestants. These deficiencies also affected proceedings during Sangram, IITR’s sports fest, where the need for additional funds was acutely felt. Funding was also a core issue when the IITR chess contingent wished to participate in tournaments outside the institute, such as Udghosh at IIT Kanpur, Sportech at IIT Delhi and the Inter-IIT Chess Meets. This issue was not just hindering participation, but practice too. According to Viraj, proper preparation for Inter-IIT requires dedicated practice sessions with a professional coach for a month before the event, much like the organised sports camps that are held before Inter-IIT Sports Meets. Minimal financial support was being provided by the Students Club but it wasn’t near enough to provide for everything.

Above all, there was no official forum for chess enthusiasts to gather and meet. The Institute Sports Council had always been reluctant to take chess under its umbrella, citing fairly debatable reasons for its stance on the game in the institute. A similar rationale was resonated by the different Inter-IIT Sports Meet associations of other IITs, explaining the absence of chess from the Meet until 2014.

A group of chess aficionados, including Viraj, had actively been lobbying the institute, seeking official representation for chess. In 2015, they managed to obtain sufficient funding from the Students Club for Udghosh ‘15 with the help of Rohit Jain (GPT Batch of 2018), who was a member of the Students’ Club Council and would later lead the IITR chess contingent to a bronze medal. After the unfortunate floods in Chennai led to the untimely cancellation of the Inter-IIT meet, meetings were held with the Sangram committee, resulting in the successful inclusion of chess as a sport in the fest for the very first time. This proved to be an important breakthrough.

Following Sangram and into the new session, Chess got an independent expense column in the Students Club thanks to the then Secretary of the Students Club, Suyash Vishnoi and Additional Secretary V. Kalyan, ensuring financial support for the team to participate in Udghosh ‘16 and Inter-IIT. The lack of proper coaching and learning resources was felt by the team, as the performances at the competitions were not up to the mark. This affected the state of the discussions with the ISC, which stalled as a result.

The team worked hard for Udghosh ‘17 and was duly rewarded with the gold medal, with Viraj winning the award for Best Player. By a stroke of good luck, Prof. G.D. Ransinchung, the faculty advisor for the ISC, also became the faculty advisor for the Students Club. He was very supportive of the chess culture, and provided funds for a temporary coach for Inter-IIT Chess Meet ‘17. Viraj’s former coach from Mumbai, FIDE Master Sajandas Joshi joined the team for a 15-day training camp for the Meet, which culminated in a silver medal as already mentioned. This result proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, as soon afterwards in February 2018 Prof Ransinchung, along with the entire Sports Council unanimously took the decision to include Chess under the ISC.

Now that an official Chess Club has been set up, it is hoped that students don’t face myriad inconveniences and can instead focus on playing chess and representing IITR in different competitions. With a new core team coming in for the upcoming session, the Club plans to take up regular practice sessions, training camps, tournaments and quizzes for chess enthusiasts and promote a healthy chess culture at IITR.

With regards to future engagements as part of the club, there are plans for workshops intended for beginners as well as themed workshops covering tactics, middlegames, endgames among other strategic intricacies. There was an online event conducted in the month of September, an attempt to include more people and with the expectation of another to take place this semester. Rapid tournaments have started taking place on the weekends, with a growing focus on the upcoming fests like Udghosh and Thomso.

Viraj gives a word of advice to anyone looking to learn chess: start with basic queen and rook mates, of which there are plenty of good videos on Youtube. The club regularly conducts events, which provide a great learning experience along with a platform for interaction with really good players. For updates on the same, follow IIT Roorkee Chess on Facebook: