Chess couple embark on a nomadic journey for 365 days to promote chess
'The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.' - Rob Siltanen. Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal, co-founders of ChessBase India, have a vision. The vision is to make chess one of the most popular sports in the country. In order to fulfill this dream, the duo have given up their rented place in Mumbai, and they have embarked on a one year journey promoting chess in the country. It's a homeless and nomadic journey from one place to another and you can invite Sagar and Amruta to your city. Here's how the crazy idea came into existence.
Sagar and Amruta's 365 days of homeless, nomadic journey promoting chess in India and the world
"If not we, then who? If not now, then when?" - Hillel The Elder
Introduction to the craziness:
If there was anyone in the world for whom the maxim "Chess is Life" would be appropriate, it has to be us. Amruta and I literally eat, drink, sleep and breathe chess. Since we tied the knot with each other in February 2014, the two of us have travelled to 25 different countries (yes, we counted it!) in the last three years. We have dabbled in just about every profession related to chess. Right from being a player, we have worked as a chess coach, second, author, journalist, photographer, manager, and chess entrepreneur.
On our flight to Athens this year in June 2017 I asked Amruta, "What if we had no home? What if we were travelling throughout the year in India and the world popularizing the game of chess?" This idea which was dismissed off as just a joke began to take shape when we started discussing it with various individuals in our 75 day European trip. Finally on our flight back from Tbilisi to Mumbai in October 2017 we spoke about it seriously and took the bold decision that we would give up our rented place! The idea was to travel from one tournament to the next without coming back home (because there is no home!).
Our main aim is to travel to places unexplored, meet super talents be it in North east, or south or any part of the country, interview them, teach people about chess, try and share our experience and in general develop the chess culture in the country. We know that we are just two individuals and a period of one year is not sufficient to cover the entire country. But a start has to be made and we believe that we can make a difference.
This page is essentially developed to keep you updated with our journey. To share our ups and downs with you, to share our experiences. Even we do not know what lies ahead of us. All that we know for sure is that we have an aim and that is to popularize the game of chess in India. We want to make use of each and every day of our journey and we would like that you too embark with us on this journey. Who knows, perhaps you will learn from our mistakes and get inspired to do something like this!
Mainly our journey begins from the 4th of December as then we would be travelling continuously from Surat to Ahmedabad to Bhopal to Mumbai to Delhi to Chennai! :) But we are already homeless and spending a few days with our parents before we embark on our journey.
Here's a small log of what we have been able to achieve in the last 20 days since we left home:
Day 4, 30th November:
Amruta and I went to the National under-11 championships held in Pune. I was supposed to give a lecture for one hour about some of the most interesting functions of ChessBase softwares as well as general chess knowledge. The lecture was going to begin at 2.30 p.m. but due to some miscommunication with the organizers no projector was arranged and it was already 3 p.m.
Finally I set up my laptop in a small room in the stadium and called a few of the kids to surround me and have a look at what I was showing. Within minutes I was mobbed by around 25 kids all extremely eager to learn something new! When I was getting drowned by the children, I turned the laptop around and a lot of the youngsters readily sat on the ground not caring about whether the floor was clean or dirty.
The only thing they were interested in was chess! From 25 kids and a few parents the number soon went to nearly 100 people in the room! The interaction was so intense, the interest levels were so high! It was an amazing session where I could literally sense that chess as a sport is booming in the country!
Day 8: 4th December 2017
Braved all odds - back spasm, cold, cough, even cyclone to travel from Pune to Surat!
Travelling to Surat for the last two rounds of Women's Premier 2017 in a sleeper bus. I have quite a bit of back pain and am on meds but the tournament is just too interesting! Can't miss it! Also surprisingly cyclone ockhi just stirred up on the night we were to leave! Well what can I say, nature wants us to stop, but we keep pushing on! :) Advice: Never sleep on the berth which is on the wheels of the sleeper bus. It's like someone kicking your butt everytime theres a pothole on the road! :) - Sagar #traveldiaries2017 #adventuretime #aroundtheworldin365days #sagaramruta
Day 10: 6th December 2017
One of the most unique closing ceremonies that we have seen. All the players of women national premier draped in sarees. It was then that I realized, that to make a chess tournament popular you do need huge monetary investment, but just a great idea that catches the fancy of the audience!
Beauties with the beast! :) The experience at Surat cannot be summarized in a post. We were there for just 48 hours but what we achieved has left me satisfied! Some in-depth reporting. Amruta's beautiful photography, interviews into the mindset of the players. These players are so talented. Our aim was to bring their game to the world. I think we were able to do it. Words of praise fall short for what Padmini has achieved. Fourth consecutive title. After Humpy and Harika, Padmini is surely the next big thing from Indian chess. When the situation is crunch more often than not she delivers. She is a big match player and that is one of the most important traits of a champion. The organizers did a phenomenal job. The most innovative idea was gifting the girls a saree which they wore in the closing ceremony. Everyone looked so pretty! Next stop Ahmedabad! #surat #chess #womenchess #sareerocks #padminirout #beauty
Day 12: 8th December 2017
Early morning flights are always an issue. But when you want to extract the maximum from a day, you have to give up your sleep. IIT-M was waiting for us! Thanks to the efforts of Nitin Pai and the entire chess team of IIT-M we had a wonderful time there.
My lecture in IIT-M was on the topic of role of technology in chess. The most relevant topic at that point of time was surely AlphaZero. This lecture got quite popular on Youtube:
Day 15: 11th December 2017
For Indian chess players there could not be a more important day! Happy 48th birthday to Vishy Anand.
On this very auspicious day we launched two important things: ChessBase India logo and ChessBase India calendar. We are travelling and homeless but it doesn't stop us from rolling out new innovations.
Day 20: 16th December 2017
Doing some heavy duty reporting at the World Youth Olympiad from the 11th to 18th of December 2017. Also trying to implement the live broadcasting technology in Indian chess. Internet is an issue, but we are moving closer to the aim of making Indian events accessible to people from all over the country thanks to live broadcasting. Here's an example:
We also used this opportunity to launch ChessBase India accessories with our little stars Pragg and Vaishali.
Ways in which Sagar and Amruta can help you promote chess:
1. Tournament coverage for ChessBase India
2. How to use technology to get better at chess (ChessBase workshops)
3. Coaching camps and training
4. Simultaneous exhibitions with Q & A sessions
5. Detailed interviews and profiles on upcoming talents
Schedule of Sagar and Amruta:
4th - 6th Dec: National Women's Premier 2017
7th Dec: Ahmedabad
8th - 9th Dec: IIT Madras, Chennai
10th -19th Dec: World Youth Olympiad, Ahmedabad
20th - 28th Dec: Bhopal International, Bhopal
30th Dec - 7th Jan: IIFLW International, Mumbai
8th Jan - 16th Jan: Delhi International Open, Delhi
18th Jan - 26th Jan: Chennai Open, Chennai
Some of the events that we are looking at right now are National Team Championship, and National Premier blind.
This will be updated as and when something new is planned and is 100% fixed.
If you would like to invite Sagar and Amruta to your city or tournament for lectures, simul, ChessBase India coverage, or any other endeavour related to promotion of chess, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Follow the journey of Sagar and Amruta:
You can also keep a track of their journey through their personal instagram account