Friday, 24 August 2012

Life in 64 squares - Chess playing village near Thrissur

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at war:People playing chess at a shed outside Unnikrishnan’s house at Marottichal, near Thrissur. —K.C. Sowmish
at war:People playing chess at a shed outside Unnikrishnan’s house at Marottichal, near Thrissur. —K.C. Sowmish
Here it is war all day. Kings, queens, knights and soldiers jump and joust to cries of checkmate.
The people of Marottichal, a sleepy village near here, eat, breathe and live chess. When they are not playing, they animatedly discuss their last game threadbare.
The story of these chess-crazy people is soon becoming a movie. August Club , directed by K.B. Venu, is inspired by the village and its chess players. Ananthapadmanabhan, son of the legendary film-maker Padmarajan, has written the script for the movie.
Thilakan, Rima Kallingal, Murali Gopi, Mala Aravindan, KPAC Lalitha and Sukumari act in it, along with the chess-crazy villagers.
It all began when one man named C. Unnikrishnan decided to teach almost everybody in his village how to play the game.
He was inspired by a report he read in a newspaper about the American legend Bobby Fischer, who became the youngest Grandmaster when he was just short of 16.
Soon, Mr. Unnikrishnan, then a 10th standard student, started attending chess coaching classes by “Narayanan Master” at Thalore, his neighbouring village. Equipped with expertise, he went on a mission to popularise the game in his village.
“I started giving free coaching classes in my house. I wanted everybody in my village to learn the game. I have been training young and old chess aspirants for the past 40 years,” he says.
Mr. Unnikrishnan was so good a teacher that it did not take long for the village to not just grasp the nuances but also develop an obsession for the game.
“Chess is my passion. Once I start playing, I forget everything. It’s kind of an addiction,” he says.
Mr. Unnikrishnan runs a restaurant and the people are free to gather there anytime and play chess. Also, in a makeshift shed built outside his house, participants ranging from eight-year-old Aljo to 75-year-old “Dasettan” are seen bent over the chessboard furiously making their moves.
“The players who trained here have won many tournaments. I have trained more than 600 people,” Mr. Unnikrishnan says.
Every waking hour at Marottichal sees scores of people playing chess with passion.

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