Any Time Chess - A brand new concept for chess education
When Tarun and Trisha Kanyamarala started playing chess, they faced a problem - chess coaching was too expensive and even if they went for it the coaches were not able to give them dedicated attention. In such a scenario, how should they improve? The kids came up with a novel concept of ATC (Any time Chess). They invited players to come at one place and practice chess together. For this they even created their own ATC ratings and kept it as affordable as Rs.10 per game! As players started pouring in Tarun and Trisha got great practice at their home with a wide range of players which helped them to become stronger chess players.
The success of Any Time Chess (ATC) has, no doubt, resulted in we being asked to comment on the reasons for its success and how it all started. I have, therefore, reflected on how we started up ATC, and tried to see if we could distil reasons why ATC is just becoming a household name for chess players - both in India and in other countries.
It will be wrong to say that ATC is like any other conventional chess coaching academy. We are not. We wanted to be different. Why? Because we have noticed that most chess academies were merely transferring the knowledge to chess players (at an exorbitant cost). We are of the opinion that chess players need more than ‘knowledge’. They need ‘intelligence’. We believe that intelligence cannot be told in coaching format. Intelligence can be developed only by practice and playing real games.
Yes, ‘practice’ or sadhana was the keyword that I strongly believed in since I started playing chess in Ireland six years ago. When I came to India, I saw many coaching academies and several independent coaches. They were trying to coach theory which is fine but they were not playing real games with the players on a large scale. I did not quite like their format of coaching.
I then asked myself this question: “Why don’t we create a platform for chess players to practice, at an affordable cost?” Thus, ATC was born. ATC has two branches now - one at Ram Nagar and the other near Hi-Tech Railway Station, both in Hyderabad. Players from all over the city and also from outstation come there to practice chess. Perfect conditions are created with tables, chairs, chess sets and clocks so that people can focus on their games. And, I didn’t stop there.
I have transformed ATC into a platform that not only allows players to practice but also allows them to measure their performance through an exact simulation of Elo Rating Model (extensively used by FIDE). I achieved this through a bit of coding on a cloud-based server where our automated weekly ratings called ATC ratings is programmed. I have learnt a bit of coding in PHP and MySQL exclusively for this.
How does this rating work? Each player gets a starting rating of 1000 every Monday. After every game, the winner is added few points based on the K-Factor of the player. The player can check his/her rating on our online leaderboard on real-time basis. ATC rating has become very popular in quick time because it was all automated, producing results exactly similar to FIDE rating. This allowed players to experiment their games with ATC Rating without the need to experiment with their real FIDE rating. This was the biggest bonus for ATC players.
Affordability was another reason why ATC is so popular. We believe that peer-to-peer learning models should be affordable to one and all. This is so because a player can learn as much as his/her opponent can learn from that player while they play a real game. When such mutual learning happens, why should we charge more money? So we decided that ATC should charge only Rs. 10 per game. This was our biggest impact to revolutionize chess affordability in India.
In fact, we ask this question to every parent who spends thousands and lakhs of rupees towards chess coaching for their kids - why do they spend so much money and get so little in return? Practically speaking, one chess coach will not be able to give enough quality time to all the players that he/she handles. Even if parents choose a dedicated chess coach, it is not worth it because the kids tend to get only one perspective.
ATC intends to break all these barriers and provide an opportunity for parents to rethink on how to put their hard-earned money to best use. And we reiterate to all parents - “intelligence” cannot be taught. It has to be developed by way of practice only. ATC provides the best platform to play ‘Any Time’ with a wide range of players and with a performance measurement that is of international class - all of this at an affordable price of just Rs. 10 per game.
From concept to rollout, ATC has always believed in innovation. ATC’s formula for success is: “Innovation = Creativity + Delivery”. We are not only creative in starting up ATC as a platform for peer-to-peer learning but also ensured that we provide a better experience at an affordable cost.
1. We created ATC Rating, probably the first of its kind in India by any Chess Academy.
2. We have also started online platform with anti-cheating systems in place.
3. We provide player dashboard so players can go back in time to check games, ratings, opponents, and see their performance analytics.
4. We have two physical branches in Hyderabad and soon expanding to other cities.
5. We are bringing international players from US, UK, Australia, Indonesia - both Indians and foreigners through our online system.
6. We allow players to choose their opponent, send challenges and build rating.
7. We sponsor financial assistance to deserving players with low-income to play in FIDE tournaments.
Many players send their testimonials to ATC. They all are happy because they all have improved their performance dramatically, thanks to the ATC model. Through ATC, I hope to bring about transformation in entire India in the field of chess coaching.
Sincere thanks to ChessBase India and Sagar Shah, the man behind the successful website for chess in India, for inviting me to write about ATC in Chess Base India. I congratulate Sagar Shah for being at the forefront and helping the chess players in India to catch-up with chess-related news, views and some great analysis of games.
Some cute videos made by Tarun and Trisha:
About the author:
Tarun is an Irish-born chess player who has a FIDE rating of 1975. He earned Arena International Master (AIM) and Arena Grand Master (AGM) Title at the age of 12 years. Tarun is the Co-founder of Any Time Chess (ATC).