Street chess in Kolkata gets a boost

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Kolkata, Aug 8 (IANS) Street chess — a popular sport in western countries — got a leg-up in the city on Wednesday, with the formal unveiling of the Gariahat Chess Club under the bustling Gariahat flyover, where the mind game’s enthusiasts have been daily slogging it out in the open from morning till past midnight over the years.

A hangout for chess lovers in south Kolkata since 1985, the Gariahat Chess Club was officially inaugurated by the Kolkata Police as part of its project to develop the area.

city-based Grandmaster Dibyendu Barua was present during the flag off ceremony, along with Commissioner of Police Rajeev Kumar.

The Gariahat Chess Club, under the 570-metre-long flyover, now has 13 tables bearing laminated boards, arched lamp posts and 26 stools.

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“We have plans to help youngsters get coaching facility from the experts. LED television screens have also been installed,” an organiser said.

“This is really heartening. This place is famous for people from all fields, who come and play a game of chess amid the chaos and hustle-bustle… From now on, they will have a proper place to sit and enjoy the game they love so much,” Barua told IANS.

“I have played the game like this as well when I was a child, and this is part of the culture here you can say. In north Kolkata also, people use the roadside rocks to place their boards and play.

“But so many enthusiasts, young and old, play here since a long time on their way from work or waiting to catch a bus. From now on they will have tables and chairs. I have seen their passion and it’s amazing to see them play this way,” added Barua, a three-time Indian Chess Champion.

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The club, which currently has over 100 members, became a registered entity in 2006. Before that, it was usually an informal gathering of chess nerds comprising a group of residents, passers-by, shopkeepers and so on.

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 cerebral game.

Street chess is very popular outside the country, especially in Russia and the US, as also in Europe, where regular tournaments are held.

In the town of Ravna Gora in Croatia, there is even a “Chess Street” because of its regular street chess events.

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Chess hustling, as street chess is known in the West, has been around for many years, with the spring being the most popular season for the game.

Street chess has even found place in Hollywood movies like “Fresh” starring Samuel Jackson and “Searching for Bobby Fischer” starring Joe Mantegna and Ben Kingsley.



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