chessbase india logo

There was a bank row!

by Frederic Friedel - 25/09/2023

Last weekend I gave our readers a puzzle which, I said, only a segment of our readers could possibly solve. But even amongst them there were very few who succeeded. One exception: super-talent Gukesh, who managed – with a little help. And he collapsed in helpless laughter when he got it. Another super-talent, Leon Mendonca, filmed it all. Here is the solution, together with a second prank I played on a young chess talent.


The puzzle was: Why did my British aunt, living in a villa in the hill station Lonavala, India, often say the line "There was a bank row"?


In my initial email and Skype chats it was only our ChessBase India CEO Sagar Shah, and Vishy Anand who solved it. Sagar wrote "in spite of the fact that it was already closed?"  Vishy's reply came after a number of milliseconds: "Old favourite", he wrote. But the other dozen or so Indian GMs remained clueless – they are too young to have experienced British post-colonial times.


Naturally no western player, no non-Indian had the slightest chance of solving the puzzle. Apologies for that – but I did warn you. Some googled Lonavala, some even found the story of my childhood there. Unfortunately it contained no hint of the solution.


The answer to the puzzle was that Aunt Rosie was using the Hindi sentence:

दरवाज़े बंद करो

which phonetically transcribes to "daravaaze band karo" (audio here). It means "close the door". She spoke it, to her servants, with a thick English accent. When I revealed the solution to Leon Mendonca, he was on the floor laughing. And the other super-talents reacted similarly with uncontrollable laughter.


Per instruction Leon filmed Gukesh during the Turkish league, while he actually solved the puzzle (with a little help). You can watch him doing it here:

Video by Leon Mendonca. The second super-talent is Nihal Sarin, who is from Kerala and speaks Malayalam, but very little Hindi. Just enough to catch the joke. 

So, even if you are from Kazakhstan or Pago Pago, you can at least enjoy the video of 2750-Guki  (and Nihal Sarin) working on the puzzle. As I said, most of the other (Indian) 2600 and 2700+ GMs reacted similarly. Pity I could not film them all.

The "don't-say-a-certain-word" prank

In any case here's a prank you will understand and appreciate. It is all about presentation, and this is a slick version that always works. You should try it.


This is how you start: choose a victim and ask her (or him) whether she thinks she can avoid saying a certain word for one minute. “I don’t understand — which word?” she replies. “Oh, any word we decide on. You must simply avoid saying that particular word for one full minute, for sixty seconds. Do you think that is possible?” This sounds preposterous, and your subject feels that it should be trivially easy. “Which word?” she asks. You look around the room, at the light, a plant, a mug, a clock, and then you say: “Okay, let’s simply take a number: thirteen. Can you avoid saying it for a whole minute?” Puzzled look. "Of course."


You look at your watch and say “We start now. Okay, how much is two plus two?” — “Four?” your victim replies. “Plus four?” you continue. “Eight.” — “Plus seven?” There is a short pause: we’ve got to be careful. “Fifteen.” — “Times two?” This time there is a slightly longer pause, and your friend says, somewhat gingerly: “Thirty?”


Now’s your moment: “See!” you say, triumphantly. “You lasted only 25 seconds! I told you, you couldn’t do it.”


What follows it inevitable: your subject yells: “No, you said thirteen! THIRTEEN! Not thirty. You clearly said thirteen!” And you reply: “Now you have said it, after just 30 seconds!!” And your subject goes to the nearest wall and starts banging her head on it. That is what Petra, a backgammon champion, did when I pulled the prank on her. And Raghavi, an international chess master, shrieked in anguish. Later that evening, she gave me an affectionate look and said: “I really hate you, Frederic.”


I have pulled this on many chess talents. Here's one that Sagar videotaped. We had the 13-year-old super-talent, reigning U-14 World Champion A.R. Ilamparthi, in the ChessBase office. Sagar calls him the boy who makes Pragg and Nihal look old! Ilamparthi is a very serious young lad, whom I could not resist pranking.

Frederic Friedel's dirty trick! | 13-year-old Ilamparthi fooled | Video: ChessBase India

After this Ilam's father came to me and said: "I've never seen him laughing like that."  Mission accomplished!

About the author

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.

Related news:
A unique opportunity for Bangalore to meet Vishy, Gukesh, Pragg and Vaishali | WACA celebrations 2024

@ 17/05/2024 by Sagar Shah (en)
Gukesh 'The Conqueror' receives a grand welcome at his homecoming

@ 26/04/2024 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
There was a bank row?

@ 17/09/2023 by Frederic Friedel (en)
Gukesh dethrones Vishy Anand's 37-year-long reign as India no.1 officially, also becomes World no.8

@ 01/09/2023 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
The most valuable chess guestbook ever

@ 17/08/2023 by Sneha Tiwari (en)
Gukesh reaches 2756 Elo, surpasses Vishy Anand as the new India no.1

@ 04/08/2023 by Sagar Shah (en)
From an IM to an unrated player - Reviews for Attack like a super GM video course with Gukesh

@ 27/07/2023 by Sagar Shah (en)
Gukesh glorious at Armageddon Championship Series: Asia and Oceania

@ 10/04/2023 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Ilamparthi tests Gukesh from Dusseldorf to Hamburg!

@ 01/03/2023 by Sagar Shah (en)
Gukesh and Vaishali in Forbes India Showstoppers 2022-23 Top 50 list

@ 08/01/2023 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Gukesh gets signed by FairPlay Sports

@ 17/12/2022 by Himank Ghosh (en)
Velammal Nexus felicitates Gukesh

@ 16/12/2022 by Himank Ghosh (en)
Your chance to meet Vishy Anand and the young super talents of Indian chess in Bangalore!

@ 06/09/2022 by Sagar Shah (en)
Gukesh continues his meteoric rise, now World no.18

@ 19/08/2022 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
मौका मिले तो मैं विश्व चैम्पियन कार्लसन से सीरीज खेलना चाहूँगा – गुकेश

@ 15/08/2022 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
Reaction of top Indian GMs after Gukesh hit 2700 Elo

@ 24/07/2022 by Sagar Shah (en)
गुकेश नें रचा इतिहास :उम्र 16 और हुए 2700 के पार

@ 17/07/2022 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
Gukesh dominates 14th Gijon City Closed, now World no.41

@ 09/07/2022 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Gukesh scores a hat-trick by winning Chessable Sunway Formentera Open, now World no.66

@ 09/05/2022 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Gukesh marvels at 1st Menorca Open, now World no.80

@ 25/04/2022 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
15-year-old Gukesh becomes the youngest Indian ever to break into World Top 100

@ 22/04/2022 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Gukesh set to star at 55th Biel Chess Festival GMT 2022

@ 12/03/2022 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Gukesh makes a Golden debut for Prilep at 36th European Chess Club Cup 2021

@ 25/09/2021 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Gukesh clinches Norway Open 2021 Masters, Iniyan finishes second

@ 18/09/2021 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Gukesh triumphs 4th Concello de Carballo Clasico

@ 12/09/2021 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Gukesh crosses 2600 at the age of 15 years 2 months and 27 days

@ 26/08/2021 by Sagar Shah (en)
Arjun Erigaisi and Gukesh dominate 2nd Terras de Trás-os-Montes Open

@ 25/08/2021 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Blitz Challenge with GM D.Gukesh

@ 07/08/2020 by Sagar Shah (en)
Lucena in Lockdown #5 : GM D.Gukesh

@ 20/04/2020 by Avathanshu Bhat (en)
Gukesh wins Cannes Open and moves to a live rating of 2565!

@ 25/02/2020 by Sagar Shah (en)
Gukesh wins the tournament held to celebrate 110th anniversary of the Hillerød Chess Club

@ 18/02/2020 by Sagar Shah (en)
Gukesh's unbelievable fortune in Denmark

@ 14/02/2020 by Sagar Shah (en)
Shanghai Haiwan 2019: When you play well and still lose

@ 09/09/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
World's youngest GM Gukesh is now a teenager

@ 29/05/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
Gukesh sizzles at the Grenke Open 2019 with a 2700+ performance

@ 25/04/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
Endgame Magic with Gukesh and Karsten Mueller is LIVE!

@ 24/04/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
What happened when Gukesh and Pragg visited Vishy Anand's home in Chennai

@ 07/02/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
Watch out for the Indian talents born in 2006! They are coming!

@ 07/02/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
Gukesh felicitated with Rs.1,00,000 from Microsense and Rs.30,000 from TNSCA

@ 20/01/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
Gukesh becomes 2nd youngest GM in the history of chess at 12 years, 7 months and 17 days

@ 15/01/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
Karjakin's youngest GM record still stands

@ 23/12/2018 by Sagar Shah (en)
Gukesh with 2 GM norms and 2490 Elo is on the verge of becoming world's youngest GM

@ 09/12/2018 by Sagar Shah (en)

Contact Us