We held a Charity Chess Match at our wedding
Shikhar Saxena is someone who has helped ChessBase India tremendously in developing the HelpChess website. His benevolence towards helping chess players in need is hardly unknown! So when Shikhar decided to get married, it was a known fact that the wedding ceremony will be connected to chess in one way or the other. And what a beautiful concept him and his friends came up with! Check out the article below to read the story of an unique chess wedding.
Why do a chess match in the middle of a wedding?
By Shikhar Saxena (the groom!)
First, obviously because of our love for Chess. I got glued to the game after following it in the pandemic and 2 years later, I had played over 10,000 games on Chess.com.
My love for Chess grew multi-fold when I realised how meritocratic of a sport it is - your strength is determined purely by your chess rating. Just the concept of having a rating makes it really easy for someone who is strong to prove to the world that they are strong without any subjectivity. All you need to improve your chess rating is a mobile phone. Someone born in a village today could reach a very high chess rating on their own, without any expensive trust markers (like a degree).
To add to my love for chess, I met 2 remarkable people last year - Sagar and Amruta who run this NGO called HelpChess Foundation. Both Sagar and Amruta are former chess players themselves, and now run one of the biggest chess companies called ChessBase India. They have over a million YouTube subscribers, and you would often find them working 18 hours a day to popularise chess. Fun fact - Their entire wedding was chess-themed and involved a chess tournament as well!
Chess is NOT one of the most celebrated sports, and hence many players struggle financially to sustain their careers. HelpChess Foundation helps such players to pay for participating in tournaments, get coaching, etc. My first contribution to HelpChess was 1 year back to a physically challenged player called Karthik who was overjoyed after having recently won an online tournament.
When we were planning the wedding, it became obvious that the joy we would get from supporting some of these players would be way higher than the joy of spending more on the wedding. With support from some of our friends, we took the leap of faith and decided to do this.
So what exactly did we do in the Chess Event?
Well, the plan was to play chess in a format which is short yet exciting - and not totally boring for the non-chess audience. We called the format ‘Open-Fire Chess’.
* Team Groom played Team Bride with 7 players each. The losing team had to do a dare - which was dancing on a Bhojpuri song right after the loss.
* Each player would play their pre-decided opponent (of similar rating) for a 5 minute chess game. All 7 games were kick-started in parallel, making the entire event last not more than 15 minutes.
* For every piece killed, we decided to donate Rs. 1000 to HelpChess. And hence the goal was to not just defeat your opponent, but also try to capture as many pieces as possible. Hence the name Open-Fire.
* Player of the Match would be the person who wins their match while capturing the maximum pieces of the opponent.
The biggest surprise for us came when ChessBase India decided to send goodie bags for everyone participating in the Open Fire Match. Each goodie bag included a signed chess-board from India No. 2 Vidit Gujrathi (who was also kind enough to send a good luck video before the event). To top it all, we had an even bigger prize for the Player of the Match. (Revealed below with reactions!)
That’s correct. We had a signed T-shirt from Vishy Anand for the Player of the Match. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined this to happen. But it happened.
So, how did it all end?
A total of 168 pieces were captured across the 7 chess matches, making it a donation of 1.68 Lac for HelpChess. Special callout to our beloved Dinesh Mamu who donated 25k, which we decided to match - making us cross 2 Lacs in donation. Our dear friend Siddharth won his game by capturing every single piece of his opponent - making him the Player of the Match and winning the ultimate prize.
Special thanks to Sagar, Amruta, Supriya, Vidit Gujrathi and all our amazing friends and relatives who made this event happen - Naman, Cherub, Arpan, Vidhaan, Abhijay, Ajinkya, Nikhil, Sai, Pallavi, Shikhar, Saurabh, Soham, Tathagat, Ayush, Amit, Manpreet and Dhruv.
If you are interested in checking out HelpChess Foundation, they regularly update their work at www.helpchess.org
Check out Shikhar's Substack profile
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About the Author
Shikhar Saxena is a very well-known figure in Tech circles, known for his great knowledge on product management and startups. Shikhar helped us tremendously with the building up on HelpChess website and also for giving us direction for the various tech related projects of the company!