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The Queen Bee of ChessBase India - Amruta Mokal

by Supriya Bhat - 08/08/2020

COO, Creative Head, WIM Elect, photographer, graphic designer, financial manager, and more than that, a great person. Co-founder of ChessBase India, Amruta Mokal turns 34 years old today. She has worn so many hats, and none of them were ever easy. However she has always climbed these hurdles with sheer willpower, and her creativity is what moulds the world around her. She is responsible for growth of ChessBase India. Supriya Bhat, who is Amruta's close friend and an integral part of the ChessBase India team, decided to pen down this article to tell you about the person Amruta Mokal is. Get to know some fascinating things about her and also read about the wishes that some of her closest friends in the chess world have sent.

“The orange here needs to be one shade brighter and the green a little less....The curve at the bottom needs to be a millimetre thicker and the tip of the king should be sharper.”

 

We were sitting with our Graphic designer Jeevan in his cozy office. It had been almost 2 hours since we started discussing the new logo design that was in the works. Half an hour into the discussion I had already lost interest as the design was already looking good to me; how would 0.5mm width at the base or a shade of orange make any significant difference? It was fine the way it was anyway. I protested, suggesting that maybe we should finalize this once and for all. But Amruta held on to it, and we left the office only when Amruta was satisfied with the outcome that can now be seen as the face of ChessBase India.

The logo of ChessBase India, which was the brainchild of Amruta Mokal

This was when I got the first taste of Amruta’s perfectionist style. This was back in 2017. Little did I know back then that ChessBase India would not be what it is today, had it not been for Amruta and her love for turning professionalism to perfection. You all know Amruta as the lady behind the amazing pictures, lengthy videos, carrying a camera on her shoulder (which weighs almost as much as her), always accompanied by Sagar, and can be found at the ChessBase India stall explaining softwares and books. People often consider Sagar and Amruta as one unit who are striving to accomplish the motto of powering chess in India, but I have witnessed the truth of how Amruta - from behind the scenes - is working hard for the betterment of chess.

Working quietly behind the scenes! Amruta Mokal, the co-founder and COO of ChessBase India

Amruta shows Vidit the ChessBase India t-shirt with logo!

Amruta could have become what she wanted. She puts her heart and soul into what she is doing. Hailing from a simple, humble background, Amruta is the daughter of a boxer and home-maker, sister of the highly accomplished International Master Prathamesh Mokal. Sports was always in her genes. Karate was her first choice, but decided to pursue chess seeing her brother Prathamesh. Once the journey began, she never once looked back. Nine-times state champion, U-16 national champion, six appearances at National A, all of this is not a small achievement by any means. Chess has not only given Amruta medals, trophies, honor, and identity, but also gave her the wings to fly high! The girl who never took studies seriously, barely completed her graduation, has now travelled to more than 40 countries, met the who’s-who  of chess, acknowledged as a world class chess photographer, and is the co-founder of ChessBase India. Reserved, you may call her, but people around her call her wise.

Wise beyond years! Photo: David Llada

People often talk about how unlucky they are after losing a winning game or two or missing out on prizes at an event. But look! Amruta was 2199.5 on the Elo rating scale, with 4 WIM norms, but missed her WIM title. She is now down to 2078 Elo. How cruel is fate, to deny someone’s life goal by a mere half Elo point, but Amruta was never shook by it. She coached selective students, and one of them is India’s young talent IM Raahil Mullick. She could have started an academy, but like always she decided to focus on quality over quantity. She taught only a handful of children, worked hard, made them excel, not only in chess but in life.

Amruta with her student Avathanshu Bhat, who is now an integral part of ChessBase India

You wouldn’t see Amruta interacting with many people, but you will see her with a camera, standing rock solid with the eye of an eagle, looking for moments to turn into masterpieces. You wouldn’t see her interviewing or discussing losses or wins. But next morning, you are sure to see an amazing montage of the whole action. You wouldn’t see her often explaining softwares or books but she will pick up the right book for you in no time!

Amruta at the World Chess Olympiad 2018 | Photo: David Llada

Marrying Sagar was one of the talking points, because again she went for a simple marriage. She chose Sagar, who is three and a half years younger than her, which raised many eyebrows at the time. But what a made-for-each-other pair they turned out to be! ChessBase India was born in 2016 and rest is history. Amruta took it on her shoulders and built an image and identity for what ChessBase India truly is.

Amruta and Sagar got married to each other in February 2014

Today is Amruta's birthday, and we ChessBase India wish her a very happy and prosperous and peaceful days ahead!

10 things you didn’t know about Amruta!

10. She is a Brown-Black Belt in Karate, can you believe that!

It is difficult to assume by looking at Amruta that she is skilled in Karate, and she pursued it at as young as the age of 8. The power girl of ChessBase India is deadly over the board, and deadly in real life!

Pick a fight with Amruta at your own peril!

9. Has a taste for artificial jewelry

Those beautiful earrings!

It is rumored that Amruta has never been seen once without some quirky accessories on her! Be it larger-than-life earrings or a bohemian eagle double-finger ring, inadvertently restricting hand movement, she is all about the drip, a defining and recognizable aspect as a Creative Head!

 

8. Social responsibility and activism spirit…

...which led to the birth of the ChessBase India Foundation, designed to help out the Chess players in need of finances for their career. Amruta along with Sagar were the brains behind the start, and had a clear-cut vision of how to run with the idea. She is very passionate about combating social issues and defying age old traditions which affect society negatively. Women empowerment is on top of her priority list.

 

7. Artistic eye and mind

Amruta is following her passion. Are you?

Each and every accessory, t-shirt, goodies in the ChessBase India shop have been thought over meticulously for several days. Every detail and every inch affected the aesthetic, which at one point became all the same. It was Amruta who could truly appreciate the right scheme and palette, to deliver an outstanding product.

6. Fond of Seafood, but married to a pure vegetarian

A simple egg burji (scrambled egg) and pav with hot tea will make Amruta's day! Fish fry and chicken are her favourite, but she married Sagar who is a pure vegetarian. That being said, Amruta still continues to enjoy her seafood and chicken every once in a while! They’ve kept at their own preferences and accepted the other's, which is surprisingly uncommon to witness.

5. She has travelled to 40 countries.

Germany, Russia, Malaysia, England, Australia; there are probably very few countries that host big tournaments which have gone uncovered by the duo, where a photograph through Amruta’s lens has not been taken or played a game at. During the period of 2018 where they went on a year round trip, they covered every tournament they could find, such was their commitment. It takes a lot of mental prowess to go for something like that, by compromising your own comfort and habits, but they took the leap and did it.

4. She is an avid watcher of various webseries

Most days, it’s hard work without looking up from the laptop screen monitor for Amruta, and complete silence from the focus. When she feels exhausted however, her attention turns fully to TV shows, and can go days binging entire series’ in a couple of nights. One of her favourite shows is Cosmos.

Niel De Grasse Tyson's Cosmos is the perfect series for a scientific mind like Amruta

3. Nocturnal like an Owl

Because of the drive to finish whatever she is working on without losing focus or train of thought, it’s very common that Amruta will continue to work well into the night to finish what she started, well after Sagar has already hit the hay. And because he is an early riser, their schedules conflict heavily and really only see each other for some hours a day!

A warm cup of chai to keep herself awake in the middle of the night!

2. She has the ability to handle multiple major parts of the company, despite different skill sets

Profit and loss, Graphic design, and majority of financial-related work is handled by Amruta, excellently maintained in colour-coded, categorized spreadsheets with a plethora of comments and formulae all in effect to minimize load. She still takes on it all splendidly despite others’ help. She is truly an all-rounder!

Amruta has the ability to fit into any role that the organization requires!

1. Accountability is key for Amruta exactly where it matters

One wouldn’t assume by looking at the high end laptop, and top of the line Samsung phone that she is in fact careful with spending, and is more than willing to settle for something of lower price, but of equal value, be it an electronic or a chai at a corner shop. If it is practical, then it far outweighs the luxury for Amruta. However, when your work requires all your time in front of a screen, every second of less loading counts, which is what Amruta and Sagar both prioritize in their life.

Amruta with her nephew Shaurya!

For me, Amruta is an institution where I have learnt many things which no school or courses would have taught in this short period of time. Her fine mannerisms, dedication, energy and always thinking out of the box are few qualities which I can name right now. We know each other for more than 8 years and we are there for each other professionally and personally. This pure soul can give all her heart out to you if you are true. We often have differences in our professional field, she is almost a whole generation younger to me, but that has not hindered our friendship. I really wish she goes a long way with what she pursues because she would always choose the right path and I know she can not be wrong. She is the epitome of righteousness and I have complete faith in her!

 

Here are a few wishes sent to Amruta by people close to her and who know her well.

IM Prathamesh Mokal, Brother

The light of our house... will now shine in another| From Prathamesh's FB Wall, after Amruta's marriage.

I heard a little girl calling out 'dada, dada' repeatedly in our society, nearly twenty times and I was totally reminded of my childhood days. Amruta used to follow me a lot, she was my 'param bhakt'  I am so proud of her today and we are all so connected with Amruta-Sagar and our families and yet I would still love to go back and relive those days with my cute little sister's devotional love. She's full of love and care!

Dharmen Shah, Father in Law

Amruta is a great life partner for Sagar. She is tremendously hardworking with strong determination. She is simple and holds high values in life. We wish her a great birthday and may God bless her with her with good health and happiness always!

IM Soumya Swaminathan

Amruta's best friend in the chess world - IM Soumya Swaminathan

Amruta and me spent most of our childhood together, going to the chess class, playing random games, making greeting cards & travelling for tournaments - by train! Usually the train journey would be anywhere between 14 - 36 hrs, in 2nd class. While other people would prefer reading novels or magazines, Amruta had this funny habit of buying song lyric books, so that she could byheart them! Once we were travelling to Delhi and it was really cold, and our blankets weren't enough, so Amruta said, 'lets just keep repeating to ourselves "its so hot, its so hot" instead!' Not sure if this reverse psychology worked, but we laughed a lot and forgot about our worries! We have many sentimental memories as well, but would prefer to share them in person. To be honest, she hasn't changed much, she is still as warmhearted, genuine and funny as she was when we were kids :) Happy Birthday Amruta, may you keep growing stronger, and happier with each day <3 Thank you for being there for me always, and I wish I can do the same for you; Love you!

IM Eesha Karavade

One of Amruta's favourite pics of Eesha. It's never easy to catch Eesha smiling before a game!

Well I've known Amruta literally since we were kids! The thing that stands out about Amruta is that she is always there to help everyone with their problems.

Deepti Shirke, childhood friend

That is 20 years of friendship!

My Ams, wish you a very very happy birthday. Sending you loads of love and good health. There's an endless list of stuff I want to tell you at this moment but something special for you today. You are my most precious friend, the best friend I will ever get. Though we don't meet often, our bond has grown so beautifully in all these years. TOUCHWOOD 🤗 I hope to celebrate your next birthday together. It will be awesome! Have a memorable birthday🎂.

Frederic Friedel, co-founder of ChessBase

Founders of ChessBase with Founders of ChessBase India - Frederic, Amruta, Matthias and Sagar

I first heard about Amruta Mokal in February 2014, when she married a strong Indian player named Sagar Shah – and the two treated our newspage with spectacularly beautiful pictures of the wedding. A short time later they visited us in Hamburg, and we had a wonderful time together. But more importantly we founded ChessBase India, which rapidly grew into the biggest Indian chess portals. And that was not in a small part due to Amruta’s administrative, financial and design skills. Not to mention the extraordinary photography she has brought to chess news and reporting. I am very thankful for what Amruta has done to support the ChessBase enterprise, but I also love the way she tends for me when I visit India. I truly enjoyed meeting her mother, father and brother, who together with her made me feel wonderfully at home when I was in their house in Pune. Happy Birthday Amruta, stay the cheerful, humorous person I know and have become so fond of.

WGM Swati Ghate

One of the legendary women players of India - WGM Swati Ghate

Amruta became my friend when I shifted to Pune for Chess and college studies around 1997. We had played many national age group tournaments together and when I was in Sangli it always amused me that how come this Pune girl is so enthusiastic about everything in life. When we were together at Vaidya Sir's chess class for some time, Amruta always used to be a great entertainer and fun to be with. She has always been a chatter box in good sense and has a very infectious smile.

I do remember one instance when we played together in the Biel Championship in Switzerland as a part of Indian team in 2007. We stayed together in one apartment and had so much fun that one day we were cracking some jokes about something and she started laughing. It is always catchy when she laughs and everybody around her can not restrain from joining her. But then she was laughing so uncontrollably that after some time we got worried and all of us started kind of punching her so that she will stop! That was a tournament  to remember....

I wish a very happywala  birthday to Amruta and wish she will again enjoy playing tournaments in spite of her busy schedule. Hats off to her for being a great force behind ChessBase India.

IM Alina l'Ami, author, photographer

Not just two good photographers in the frame, but also two wonderful friends!

The truth is: written words will not do justice to Amruta's presence and personality. She is lively, generous, kind, honest, polite... or maybe 'simpler' would be to say that she is a warm-hearted wonderful human being! Just drinking a chai latte and talking to her can lift your spirits.

IM Subbaraman Vijayalakshmi

India's first WGM - S. Vijayalakshmi

I remember Amruta very fondly because she always has this energy around her and a very hearty laugh that is very endearing. Whenever we had conversations it was always very frank and crisp ones. And of course, she has the boon for always looking eternally young and beautiful. A very happy Birthday dear Amruta and may you be blessed with good health and happiness and please do keep up the good work. God bless 🤗

GM Vidit Gujrathi

I have known Amruta for a long time, but in recent years I have gotten to know her personally better. We know how much Sagar has put in immense efforts to build ChessBase India and promote chess in India. I have seen personally how Amruta has supported Sagar and worked equally hard to build Chessbase India. I remember an anecdote; Amruta, Sagar and I were supposed to travel to Kolkata for Tata steel 2019 tournament. On the day of travel, she was feeling really unwell. She decided not to go. So me and Sagar took off for the Airport. As we were about to enter the airport, we got a call from Amruta saying, "I am coming!" She just stuffed few clothes and came to airport in half an hour! She came there despite such health issues to support Sagar and worked behind the scenes for ChessBase India. I am very glad to know such a warmhearted & genuine person as Amruta! Happy birthday :)

David Llada, Ace photographer, author of Thinkers

It's just rare to find a person who doesn’t have any bad traits. A person who is immune to common sins like hatred and jealousy. Someone who has never ever spoken ill of another. Someone who has not even the slightest trace of malice in her heart. Such people are unicorns, and I only have come across a handful of them in my entire life. Our dear Amruta is one of these pure souls: always kind, attentive, and compassionate. It is a pity that she and Sagar live 8000 km away because they are the kind of people who instantly make your life better whenever they are around. Happy birthday, Amruta, and I hope to meet you again very soon!

Sagar Shah, husband

It feels to me that Amruta and I were meant to be together in this journey of life where we both grow, learn and become better individuals. We both are powerful personalities and hence there are always differences between us. We argue, we fight, but we are always open to each other's opinion. That's the reason why he have been able to thrive together. One thing that amazes me about Amruta is just how genuine and truthful she is with just about any and everyone! She is my life partner, love partner, work partner, argument partner, fight partner, emotional cushion, and the list could go on and on! I am so grateful that in 2008 I decided to become her boyfriend (yes, she was the one who proposed!). It's been 12 years since we are together and just like fine wine, our love keeps getting better with time!

PS: My only complaint is that she isn't making Sicilian Kan Part IV! :) If you agree with my complaint, then do support me in the comments section!

About the author:

Supriya Bhat is ChessBase India' s Business Development Manager. She is with the organisation from more than 2 years and has been working tirelessly in powering chess in India along with the team.

Improving Chess episode 67 dedicated to Amruta Mokal on her birthday, featuring Nisha Mohota, Samay Raina and Vaibhav Sethia
Nisha Mohota covers some of the attacking gems of Amruta Mokal's chess career

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Off the Board Tales #9 - Prachi Mokal

@ 17/06/2021 by Avathanshu Bhat (en)