India's first chess features print magazine published quarterly from Lucknow since 2004 by Aspire Welfare Society.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

CCBW felicitates Lucknow Chess Icons

The Chess Club Black & White (CCBW) felicitated chess icons of Lucknow on January 7, 2024. If not for the personal contribution of these people, Lucknow's chess would have been a desert for the last twenty years and city's children would not have got the opportunities they did. We celebrate these chess icons who have kept our beautiful game alive in the city. 


The chess icons of Lucknow who have kept alive the game in the city for the last twenty years with chief guest Agnishikha Verma at a special felicitation ceremony on the sidelines of the CCBW Open Chess Tournament.

International player, trainer & organiser: Devendra Bajpai: One of Lucknow's finest senior chess players with deep opening knowledge and a talented musician. He has both an amazing voice and god-gifted ability to play any instrument. He was long associated with Lucknow's traditional annual international open tournament for over fifteen years, the Piloo Modi Chess up to 2012. Bajpai and Hemant Sharma, along with players in Delhi, were the key players to successfully contest a case banning players and restriction upon organising of tournaments thereby benefiting the entire chess community of India.

State champion & trainer Dr Junaid Ahmad: Sports officer at the Lucknow Municipal Corporation, managing editor of India's only chess features magazine printed from 2004 to 2012 is now honorary director of children's club Chess Club Black & White. He has trained several youngsters and organises special tournaments for senior citizens and women. He has been associated with the research work for International Arbiter Naveen Karthikeyan's book "18x64: Chess Class with Bhagavad Gita shlokas*. 

International Arbiter Hemant Sharma: Not just a trainer but Lucknow's first and only International Arbiter. He has brought many chess tournaments to the state capital and has been associated with the Piloo Modi Open Chess Tournament.

Player, trainer Saeed Ahmad: retired from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has brought a professionalism to Lucknow chess with both his playing and training methods. He has set high standards for himself and his online and offline students at his Lucknow Chess Centre. 

Pawan Batham: has been coaching youngsters and playing for several years along with his employment with the Sales Tax Department. He has been playing partner for several kids playing at national level. 

Player, trainer Arif Ali: is one of the strongest senior players in the State Capital and has worked with several rated children in the city. 

Tournament organiser Devendra Nanda: has long organised open tournaments with his own funding to end the drought of tournaments in Lucknow. 

Jalaluddin: Lucknow's finest and National Awardee bone carver keeping alive the hundreds-of-years-old art of bone carving and making some of the finest high-end traditional theme sets in exquisite designs. 

Ravi Shankar: Youth coach with the Delhi Public School in Lucknow leads one of the strongest school teams in the state of Uttar Pradesh. 

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Stunning Chess Novella: Lucknow's Romantic, Historical Legacy of Chess

Chess Club Black & White's Zainab Raza Undulusi caught up with Fide International Arbiter Naveen Karthikeyan to chat about his latest part-fiction, part-historical novella, 2. Zih-e-Lucknow#. Since we last met him two years ago, the twenty-something has not changed. He is still reclusive, still extremely shy and still in love with chess. That love has, however, grown!

Q: So, this is your fourth book and you've covered pretty much four different genres through chess — philosophy, children, fiction and history. What's the strategy?
A: Actually this is my fifth book. The first never got written that I began with in 2020! So much for planning. Just like for the rest of the world, everything has been tumultuous since Covid happened. I ended up in cities I had not thought of and in empty rooms talking to myself. I'm no guru or writer. The books happened as therapy in solitude.

Q: Your latest book has a huge and fascinating canvas. What is it about? Chess, history, love, Lucknow, kids, food, youngsters, humour... Senior citizens, culture...?
A: All. It's all linked through chess people! "Zih" happened specifically because of the chess players I met in Lucknow thanks to my contact with Chess Club Black & White (CCBW). I was surprised to hear about the deep cultural connection that Lucknow has with chess. It just had to be told. I still feel more could be written.

Q: How did you build the narrative? Are the characters real?
A: No author can be totally delinked from his human experience. That said, somewhere in the book, I lost track of all the characters. The fictional, historical, and the imaginary, all became too real. I enjoyed the process. I hope my readers do too. I sought permission from the real people to put them in the book as they are. It was essential to Karthik's journey. Initially, though, I had set out to only create a kind of historical record of chess players in Lucknow. My only intention was to make a website listing the names and a little about them. I just lost control. The book happened. Then, the surprising part is, it all also connects to India's Freedom Struggle. I found that super special and felt every chess player should know about this link.

Q: Both your novellas have women protagonists. Is there a reason for that? Is this a sequel?
A: Only one. Leila is one woman protagonist. In Zih, Karthik and Nawab Wajid Ali Shah are the male protagonists in the two separate timelines. The two books are not related. The numbering is just an idea based on chess notation.

Q: The bridging of 1856 and 2020 timelines — How did that happen?
A: Chess is so much a part of the Lucknow consciousness. Mention the word "shatranj (chess)" to a random stranger on the streets, and even if they have never touched a real chess set, they will immediately remark about Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, Premchand's iconic short story and the great Satyajit Ray film based on that. For me, the quirky personal connect happened when I found out that the Nawab was exactly my age when the British took over the Kingdom of Awadh in 1856. Then, back to the present, most of the children were whom I had met online during the lockdown. By some mysterious grace the characters and the novella just came to be.

Q: And, the Urdu poetry?
A: what can I say. That's not just about Urdu. You see, it's about the Lucknow air. The thing is either Lucknow makes everything romantic for you from having tea to meeting people or, it rejects you totally. Lucknow is a living city that embraces you with its passion if you are brave enough. Urdu is part of that passion. This I really cannot explain. (Smiles) Read my book, go to Lucknow and play a CCBW tournament!

Q: Both your novellas — 1. Leila# and 2. Zih-e-Lucknow# have free-spirited characters and you examine love, marriage and relationships in the non-traditional way. You project that love and relationships are not for keeps. Is that your observation of what is happening today?
A: I wouldn't say that's the correct interpretation. (Smiles). I do agree that I have witnessed a lot of fragile relationships around me. After all, relationships and career seem to be the focus in everyone's teens and twenties. However, what I want to say is, true love and committed relationships exist rarely because everyone's confusing physical or material attraction as love. I've tried to reach some kind of a definition for what is true love. I'm not sure I've succeeded. As my mentors say, I need to explore and study more and read more and I don't have any time to waste. I'm only a student. I need to work harder.

Q: Your mentors?
A: One is surely influenced by the people one meets. These can be through books we read, movies we watch or real people. International Master Akshat Khamparia, from Indore, is my teacher on and off the chessboard. Not only did he get me started on my Fide International Arbiter title, but his clarity of vision as an organiser is truly inspiring. No one can lead a team of polar opposite people as dynamically as he does. His Indore GM Open is going to be one of the great tournaments in the years to come like Moscow, London, Havana, St Louis, Hastings etc. His chess reflects that sparkling clarity as well. Then, GM Jonathan Rowson's books have had a profound impact upon me. GM Rowson's 100-year-project, Perspectiva, which is a collective of scholars, artists and activists working on "the pickle" through insight, praxis, realisation, and emergence is mind-boggling for me. I struggle to understand it but he's my modern philosophy hero. I hope I can be somewhat like him in the years to come both in chess and in thought. But, right now, I just have to study.

Q: And, cook?

A: (Laughs) Yes, as I say, in all my books. I think I was born to be a chef. The last letter just turned from "f," to a double "s" somehow. I do want to explore every single cuisine of the world. Again, I feel, I could have written more about the food in Lucknow.

Q: So, what next?
A: Hopefully, more studying, more writing, more chess, more meditation and more cooking.

*The book is available online for purchase in hard copy at all leading book stores for Rs 500. Ebook version coming soon. (Amazon, Flipkart, Clever Fox Publishing. Author website has an additional discount.)

Previous interview of the author. 
All books by the author:
— 18x64: Chess Class with Bhagavad Gita Shlokas
— Just eight pawns: A short story book for children - of all ages
— 1. Leila#
— 2. Zih-e-Lucknow#

Vartika, Deepanjali, Daksha win 2nd edition of CCBW Chess Princess 2024

Lucknow: Vartika R Verma scored a perfect 7/7 to win the 2nd CCBW Chess Princess 2004 title at a city hotel here today in the female-players-only tournament. Deepanjali Mehrotra lost a Rook-Bishop endgame to Vartika but won all other games to stand second with six points. Daksha Singh scored a creditable 4 points to stand third on tiebreak ahead of Pooja Kashyap and Anupama Khare.

Also released on the occasion was Fide International Arbiter Naveen Karthikeyan's second chess novella "2. Zih-e-Lucknow#". The book is a unique research work — part history, part fiction — that encapsulates Lucknow's chess legacy from the 19th century on. As the young author says, "It's a book for lovers of chess, lovers of Lucknow and lovers."

Special guests on the occasion were Uzma Siddiqui-Kidwai and Rocio Perez. Ms Kidwai is principal, Karamat Girls, and has twice received the UP Government District Teacher Award in 2021 and 2023. Educationist Ms Perez, Mexico City, is a Spanish professor promoting Indo-Mexican cultural ties.

Chess Club Black & White honorary director, UP State champion, 2002, Dr Junaid Ahmad said, "As a club we want to create awareness that chess is a life skill sport and children should not be pushed into its professional aspect unless they are truly ready. Also, this all-women tournament was our smallest of efforts to help create a safe and secure environment for more girls to play a close-proximity and emotionally tough sport like chess."

Top results

1st Vartika R Verma 7 points, 2nd. Deepanjali Mehrotra 6 pts, 3-5th Daksha Singh, Pooja Kashyap, Anupama Khare, 4, Pooja Mehrotra, 2.

U10 1st Saanica Sinha, 3.5, 2nd Advika Tiwari, 2 pts (also youngest participant), Aditri S. Baiswar, 1 pt.

U13 1st Aditi Singh 4 pts, Shivangi Sharma 3.5 pt.

U15 1st Anushka Sen 3 pts.

Senior Citizen 1st S. Mahana 4 pts, Indrani Basu 3 pts.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Sumit Kumar Jha wins Charans Plaza Chess Cup 2023 in Lucknow

Lucknow: Former UP champion Sumit Kumar Jha (rated 1935) of Kanpur played a perfect 7/7 to win the Charans Plaza Chess Cup 2023 in Lucknow. Rated 1935, the Indian Bank assistant branch manager, currently posted in Bahraich, returning to professional chess after ten years said, "My best game was Arif Ali's Alekhine in the sixth round. It could have gone either way. It was very close. Ali faltered in time pressure."

Charans Plaza GM Narendra Sharma with prize winners at the Rs 10,000 Charans Plaza Chess Cup 2023 in Lucknow.

Top seed Arif Ali (2039), Lucknow's strongest senior player, was second with five points ahead of UP's top-rated junior Harshit Amarnani (1811) also scoring five. Harshit, currently studying at Asoka University, Sonepat, was playing right after winning the silver medal in the u1800 section at the Phuket Blue Chevaliers International Chess Open 2023.

Senior trainer Saeed Ahmad (5 points) won the +60 section followed by KK Kharey (4 points) and Mohd Irfan (3.5 points). Indrani Basu, grandmother of former state champion Sameer, was first in the +60 women's category.

In the +18 women's category, unrated Vartika R Verma (4 points) was first followed by Aiman Akhtar (3 points).

General Manager, Charans Plaza, Hazratganj, Lucknow, Narendra Sharma, gave away the prizes. Fide International Arbiter PN Naveen Karthikeyan presented his book "18x64 Chess with Bhagavad Gita shlokas" to young participants of the tournament.

Open top-standings: Sumit Kumar Jha 7 points, Arif Ali, Harshit Amarnani, Anchal Rastogi, Arjun Singh 5 pts, Rajendra Kumar, Ravi Shankar 4.5 pts, Anirudh Dwivedi, Aditya Tandon, Tejas Krishna T 4 pts.

Age-group winners:

U9 1st-3rd Vivaan Agarwal 4 points, Akshat Srivastava 3.5, Shahab Mural Alam, Yuvaan Grover 3 pts.

U13 1st-3rd Aarav Garv 6.5 pts, Abhinav Verma, Ujjwal Raj Srivastava, Samyak Sagar, Shubh Sahai, Tahaan Khan 5 pts, Anant Mohan, Aaryav Yogesh, Arjun Garg 4 pts.

U17 1st-3rd Anvitha Verma 6 pts, Aqrab Alam, Ariz Hussain, Aaradhy Gupta 5.5 pts, Arnav Tripathi 5 pts.



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