chessbase india logo

When Mumbai met the Queen of Katwe and Daniel King!

by Sagar Shah - 26/10/2016

Chess players of Mumbai had a day filled with chess and fun on the 11th of October 2016. Firstly everyone saw the movie Queen of Katwe together. It was truly an inspirational movie. This was followed by learning the Queen's Gambit Declined from Power Play 23. The highlight of the day was surely the live Q&A session with Daniel King on Skype. The day ended with a small blitz tournament. The participants went back home with loads of newly gained knowledge and a smile on their faces!

Chess players, in general, are not very social people. The only time that they meet their fellow chess friends is during the tournaments. Hence, when I got to know that the movie "Queen of Katwe" had released, I made a plan to bring together all the chess players in the city of Mumbai. In order to make it more interesting, we also invited a strong British grandmaster. But, more on that later.


11th of October was the day of Dussehra. According to the mythology, it is a day when the good wins over evil, a day when Ram defeated the evil Ravana. More importantly it was a public holiday which meant that more people could attend the event! By the way, I already had some experience in organizing such events, as we did something similar last year, when the movie Pawn Sacrifice was released.

"Queen of Katwe" is a movie based on the real life story of the Ugandian chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi.

The place where we would watch the movie was decided as the R-city mall in Ghatkopar, Mumbai. It is one of the biggest malls in the city.

A Facebook event was created with all the details, and information was spread on various chess groups on WhatsApp. We decided to go for an early morning show at 9 a.m. so that we could have a chess session after the movie ended. The downside to this was that people would have to wake up early, but the upside was that the tickets were extremely cheap. Rs.100 (approximately 1.3) per head!

The mall was empty, but soon the chess players started pouring in

The best part about such events is that you get to meet people who have lost touch with the game of chess. For example, Heenal Ramaiya (centre) got so busy in her studies related to architecture that she couldn't find time for favourite game. Queen of Katwe was the ideal way for her to meet her chess friends again.

Young champions of the city: Raahil Mullick, Dhairya Ghelani, Piya Saxena and Avathanshu Bhat

Apart from the 40 odd chess players who had gathered, the movie theatre was pretty much empty. All of us had good amount of space to manoeuvre!

Players from almost all the corners of Mumbai came to watch the movie
(mind you, Mumbai is 603 big!)
The group selfie!
Phiona Mutesi is rated just 1628. So it is natural to ask, why is a mainstream movie made on her life? The answer to it lies in the extreme poverty and the surroundings she was brought up in.
The slums of Katwe where Phiona lived
To put it in simple terms, the fight for the people living in slums was the following: if you earn some money in the day, you get to eat food at night. Even the basic necessities like drinking water, food, clothing and shelter were fulfilled through great difficulty. In such a scenario, Phiona dreamt big. She learnt the game of chess in a local sports outreach institution from her coach Robert Katende. It is simply amazing that from such dire conditions, Phiona not only became the national champion, but went on to represent her country in four chess olympiads (Baku, Tromso, Khanty Mansisyk and Istanbul).
In the depressing slums of Katwe, her chess achievements were something that made the people rejoice
The movie focusses on the huge contribution made by trainer Robert Katende in Phiona's career. It shows how important role a coach plays in the life of an ambitious chess player. Robert left enticing opportunities to better his life, just so that he could support Phiona and her passion for chess.
Harriet Mutesi, Phiona's mother is a powerful woman. In spite of losing her husband, and having to raise her kids alone, she made sure that she supported Phiona in the best possible manner that she could.
There was one particular scene which showed the mother's sacrifices in the best possible manner: Phiona is reading a chess book late in the night. Her mother asks her to put out the light from the fear that they would run out of Paraffin. Phiona grudgingly does that. Harriet feels bad that she couldn't help her child pursue her passion. Next day, she goes to the market sells her favourite dress and buys Paraffin so that Phiona could study chess at night. That scene is enough to convince parents all over the world that real sacrifices have to be made in order to create champions.
Magnus Carlsen at the movie's premier in New York
Magnus Carlsen speaks about the Queen of Katwe
This movie shows how powerful the game of chess is. It has the capacity to not only take you to different places all over the world, but also change the quality of your life. At the end of the movie Phiona was able to buy a house for her family, her family that had always been without a roof, only through her chess skills. That's what made the movie completely special for me. A great feat by director Mira Nair.
It doesn't matter where you come from, you can always achieve great things! - Magnus Carlsen
Phiona Mutesi will always be an inspiration to chess players all over the world (photo by David Llada)
Queen of Katwe ended at around 11.30 a.m. People were given some time to have their lunch and come back to my place for the chess session. Our plan was to watch Powerplay 23, but as previously mentioned we had invited a strong British grandmaster.
Different chess players different styles!
People started filling in pretty quickly, but until everyone arrived we all watched the video of Anand thinking for 1 minute 43 seconds on his fourth move against Ilya Smirin. If you haven't watched it already, I recommend that you leave everything and invest seven minutes in this highly entertaining video!
The DVD that we had selected was Daniel King's Power Play 23 - A Repertoire for Black with the Queen's Gambit Declined
When everyone was seated in the room, I asked, "How many of you hate the Queen's Gambit Declined?" Many of the kids raised their hand, and almost all of them had the same reason. It's a boring opening. It was exactly this perception of QGD that I wanted to change. Many strong players, including Garry Kasparov, have said in the past, "Studying Ruy Lopez and QGD is a must in order to improve your chess understanding."
Queen's Gambit Declined is an opening for the World Championships. Black is not overambitious. He calmly takes the centre with his pawns, develops his knight on f6 and bishop on e7 and gets castled quickly. It's true that you do not get double edged play like the Grunfeld or the King's Indian, but it is also 100% certain that you will sleep well at night! The chances of your opponent finding an earth-shattering novelty against the Queen's Gambit Declined is much less than against Grunfeld, KID, or Benoni.
All of them added a new opening to their repertoire!
The best part about Daniel King's presentation are the interactive questions. He asks you to find moves at very normal moments during a game. Because the position is not forcing in nature, many moves are possible. And this becomes a perfect point for discussion and debate. Take for example the following position.
King asks, "If you were Black in the above position, what would you do?" 
As most of you might already be knowing, the new ChessBase Fritztrainers come in interactive format. The video is paused automatically when the author asks the question. You make a move on the board, and you get an instant video feedback saying why your move was good or bad!
So coming back to the above position. The most obvious move for me was 12...e5, but I was surprised to see the number of suggestions that came from the audience.
Some said that we must break with c5, others suggested normal development with Nf6 and b6-Bb7. There were also other whacky ideas like a5 - Ra6 followed by a rook swing to g6. I found that many of these suggestions were not bad. And when we actually made these moves on the board, Daniel would give his opinion about the moves. And he found all of these ideas to be quite acceptable. It's as close as you can get to a personal training session with a grandmaster!
But then there were some positions where only one move would be good and King would be quite strict in his choice at that point.
What should Black play?
It is clear that White threatens the move c5. With that he would get the excellent square on c4 for his bishop as well as the knight. This limits Black's choice and the answer is surely 16...c5! In this position there were suggestions like 16...a5, but then Daniel would explain as to why it would not be the best move.
This interactive format made sure that all the participants at the workshop were alert and involved, and no one dozed off to sleep! After one hour of viewing the Power Play 23, it was now time to speak to the man himself!
When I decided to hold this workshop, I mailed Daniel about the Queen of Katwe followed by the Power Play 23 plan. I asked him whether he would be able to come online on Skype for 30 minutes Q&A session with the kids. Dan replied, "This is a mad idea! I accept. See you at 9.30 a.m (London time)."
The crowd greeted Daniel with a huge roar and he returned the favour with laughter and fun!
It was a dream come true for many, who got a chance to interact with one their heros. Many of the kids had watched King's DVDs as well as his Youtube videos, but to see him in person was quite unbelievable! Dan has an amazing sense of humour. He had the entire crowd spellbound with his stories and jokes!
There were loads of light hearted questions asked like, did he remember his first game of chess, how did the name Power Play come into existence, has he won any grandmaster tournaments and so on.
There were also some serious questions like how to motivate ourselves to work harder on chess, what to do when you aren't able to make tangible progress, and how to control your nerves (you must have a look at the video below where Danny misunderstands the word nerves for nose!). And don't miss out on a 10-year-old boy trying to mimic the way Daniel speaks on his DVDs. "You speak just like my son!", was Dan's reaction!
It was a perfect balance of fun, entertainment and learning
Here's the entire 31 minutes of screen recording of the Skype session with Daniel King

Half of the Daniel King show was also broadcast live on Facebook! This video will give you an idea about the atmosphere at my place.
The 30 minute chat with King was refreshing. We watched another clip of the QGD DVD, this time it was one of the best exponent's of the Queen's Gambit Declined Nigel Short getting the better of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

[Event "38th Olympiad"] [Site "Dresden GER"] [Date "2008.11.20"] [Round "7.7"] [White "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Black "Short, Nigel D"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D55"] [WhiteElo "2731"] [BlackElo "2642"] [PlyCount "50"] [EventDate "2008.11.13"] [EventType "team-swiss"] [EventRounds "11"] [EventCountry "GER"] [SourceTitle "CT-2936"] [Source "Chess Today"] [SourceDate "2008.10.21"] 1. d4 e6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bg5 h6 (5... O-O 6. e3 h6 7. Bxf6 Bxf6 {with transposition.}) 6. Bxf6 Bxf6 7. e3 (7. e4 dxe4 8. Nxe4 Nc6 9. Nxf6+ Qxf6 10. Qd2 O-O $11) 7... O-O 8. Qb3 (8. Rc1) (8. Qd2) (8. Qc2) (8. cxd5 exd5) 8... dxc4 (8... c5 9. dxc5 (9. cxd5 cxd4 10. Nxd4 exd5 {1/2-1/2 (16) Kogan,A (2541)-L'Ami,E (2620) Bratto 2010}) 9... Nd7 (9... Na6)) (8... c6 9. O-O-O Nd7 {0-1 (46) Hernandez Onna,R (2395)-Spassky,B (2625) Tallinn 1975}) 9. Qxc4 (9. Bxc4 c5 10. dxc5 (10. d5 {0-1 (59) Krivoshey,S (2495)-Kasimdzhanov,R (2668) Germany 2003 CBM 099 (Dautov)}) 10... Nd7 11. Ne4 Nxc5 {0-1 (45) Reti, R-Tartakower,S Hastings 1926}) 9... b6 (9... Nd7) 10. O-O-O (10. Rd1 Bb7 { 0-1 (42) Kovalenko,I (2560)-Gabrielian,A (2573) Voronezh 2012}) 10... Bb7 11. Bd3 {[%tqu "En","What should Black play? Try to understand the dynamics of the position and come up with the best move.","","","c7c5","",10,"b8d7","",0]} c5 $1 {This is definitely the move in the spirit of the position. Many of us think that QGD is a boring and solid opening. That's not true. It depends on how you play it. Here, many people would go Qe7, removing the queen from the action of the d1 rook and prepare c5. But if c5 is such a good idea, why not do it immediately. It's these little difference which decide whether you will be able to score an attacking victory or not.} (11... Nd7 12. Bc2 $5 (12. Be4 c6 13. Kb1 b5 14. Qb3 Qc7 (14... Qb6)) 12... Qc8 13. Qd3 g6) 12. dxc5 (12. Be4 Nc6 13. dxc5 Qe7 $44) (12. Kb1 cxd4) 12... Qe7 13. Ne4 Nd7 (13... Bxe4 14. Qxe4 $18) (13... Rc8 14. Nxf6+ Qxf6 15. Be4 Qe7 16. Kb1 Rxc5 17. Qd4 Na6 $15) 14. Bc2 (14. c6 Bxc6) 14... Rfc8 (14... Nxc5) (14... Bd5 15. Qd3 g6 16. h4 Nxc5 $36 ) 15. Nd6 (15. Qd3 Bxe4 16. Qxe4 g6 17. Kb1 Nxc5 $36) 15... Rxc5 16. Qd3 Nf8 17. Nxb7 Qxb7 18. Kb1 Rac8 19. Rd2 a5 (19... b5) 20. Qe4 Qc7 21. Nd4 a4 22. a3 b5 23. f4 b4 24. axb4 Rc4 25. b5 a3 (25... a3 26. b3 (26. bxa3 Qa5 $19) 26... Rxd4 27. exd4 Qc3 $19) 0-1
QGD exponents are always in demand! Nigel Short at the Dresden Olympiad 2008!
Powerplay 23 deals with Queen's Gambit Declined and 24 deals with black replies to the Catalan
At the end of the day we had a small informal tournament where players had to compulsorily play 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6.
It's always good to have an arbiter around!
Raahil Mullick won the tournament and went back home with my Learn from the Classics DVD

The final game between Raahil Mullick and Shreyam Mishra. Chess can be really tough at times. Hard luck to Shreyam (black) who played very well but was checkmated all of a sudden.
The day ended at around 5.30 p.m. Watching the Queen of Katwe, learning the Queen's Gambit Declined, interacting with Daniel King, and playing a blitz tournament, it was a day filled with chess to the brim. 

What the participants felt about the event

Thanks Sagar for the invitation. The movie was interesting. After listening to the Power Play DVD on QGD I learnt to play pawn to c5 at right moment (or even sac b6 or a7 pawns for rapid development and attack). All the best for you and best wishes for promoting and popularizing chess.

- Chanukya Krishna Chama


It was indeed a pleasure to be a part of the session today. Getting back to the game feels so good. Initially I was feeling a little behind all present there, however I managed to settle down in a while. I'm hoping to catch up for a few more sessions like these to get my game more stronger and better. Thanks again for having me over and also giving me the opportunity to meet so many people with similar interests.

-Karishma Daftary


Thank you Sagar for arranging this. The movie was very inspirational and provides motivation. Mr King was very informal and humurous. He answered all questions very well. Looking for next similar event.
I learnt a lot from this. In all, the event was very well organised.
Last but not least - your smiling face and hospitality of your family (mother, father and Amruta) are imprinted into my mind forever!

-Dilip Raval


I really enjoyed it. Thank you for inviting me into your enthusiastic chess community!

-Daniel King


Great thought on an auspicious day and beautifully executed!

-Raghavan Iyer


Thank you for organizing and hosting such an enjoyable session. It was fun filled and educational.

-Vaishali Bhuta


This event was organized by ChessBase India and its co-founders Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal. Apart from paying for the movie ticket, everything else was free of charge.

Contact Us