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A chess game with Aamir Khan!

by Sahil Batra - 11/02/2016

Aamir Khan is one of the most popular actors in Bollywood. A chance of just meeting him is a dream for just about every chess player. The reason? - Aamir loves the game of chess and doesn't pass over an opportunity to match his wits against a strong opponent. Sahil Batra, a 21-year-old, 1732 rated player from Ludhiana got a chance to play a game of chess against Aamir Khan. Sahil has not only sent us the game, but also an exciting recount of how things panned out on the day he got to play against Mr. Perfectionist of Indian cinema.

The Aamir Khan starrer movie, Dangal, was being shot near Ludhiana. Like any other movie this one too didn't have much significance in my life until it became the reason for playing chess with the great Aamir Khan! 
Let me tell you how that happened.

 

Poster of the movie Dangal which is scheduled to be released on December 23rd, 2016

Like chess, dance has always been a parallel passion for me. I was part of 'Bollywood Dance Dream Academy' during my school years and since then I have had a very close relationship with Abhinav Sarna, director of BDDA. He had given me many opportunities to perform at different shoots and be a part of flash mobs. Recently, due to higher studies I had lost contact with him. One fine night around 11:30 p.m I received his call. I was surprised and sensed a new project coming up, but never thought it could be this big!

  

Abhinav told me that the Dangal team had contacted him and were seeking good dancers for a day's shoot. I got all excited hearing that. Working in a Bollywood movie with Bollywood stars, director, under proper Bollywood environment, all this gave me chills! And of course there was a chance to meet Aamir Khan! Who could reject an offer like this?!

 

I remember I couldn't sleep that night thinking of all the different possible scenarios that could happen the next day. The night passed like a Millennium. The next day I got ready and as usual my father came along to see me off. He said, "If u get a chance to meet Aamir, ask him to play chess with you and do carry your chess set." I nodded but ignored the advice, thinking that would be too high a hope to keep.

Sahil's father knew that Aamir had played against Anand at the MCL 2015 Auction and hence advised his son to take a chess set, but Sahil turned a blind eye towards the suggestion

Kila Raipur in Ludhiana, Punjab, was the venue for shooting. I was familiar with "lights, camera, action" thing but nothing as compared to this huge project.


As we were practising for our shots, out of the blue, we saw Aamir Khan was arriving! "Is this for real?" I asked myself. We were refilled with zeal and enthusiasm seeing the great actor.

Aamir arriving from his vanity van

During every break I witnessed Aamir interacting and playing with kids and local villagers wishing him a happy Lohri. It was a total family environment. He was very distinct, humble and a genuine personality. I was waiting for the right time to approach him, to introduce myself, and ask him the big question, "Will you play chess with me?"

 

I gathered some courage and tried to go near him. I could feel the thrust of a bodyguard on my chest, as I leaned forward. Before it was too late I blurted,"hisiriamanationalchessplayerwilluplaychesswithme? "(there was no time to insert spaces!) A pause...and then a smile on his face "You are a national player?", asked Aamir.

 

The weight of the guard's hand faded away. 
"Sir, I know you played with Anand few months ago, I have those notations."
To which Aamir replied, "Yeah, we played Ruy Lopez!" Just when a conversation was building up, the director shouted, "Shot ready!"

 

We gave a few shots and then took a break. During the break Aamir called me and asked "Do you have a chess board?" My father's voice echoed thousand times in my mind! How could I have made such an error! "No sir" I replied in a guilty tone. "Toh kya imagination se khele?" (Shall we play with our imagination?), he was as serious as me. "I'll try to arrange sir" 

"Ok karo arrange" (Arrange it), said Aamir.

I had no idea where to find a chess set in this village but as soon as the director announced lunch break, I ran helter and skelter looking for one! . 
I did not know what lunch looked like that day! No door was left un-knocked, no bell un-rung , not a single villager unquestioned! 

"Chess board hai?"
"Aunty chess board?"
"Shatranj?"
"Oh Jo hathi ghode nal khed de hai.."

 

I did not miss out a single being, young or old, male or female, no one. If animals could play, I would have asked them too! I left no stone unturned.
Soon it was time for the shoot and I had to rush back.

Sahil (centre) with his friends on the sets of Dangal

Before taking up our respective positions for the shoot, AK approached me and asked "So, arranged?" With a sad face I replied "No, but I'm still trying!" Seeing my grief, he joked, "Lucky you!"

 

Was he underestimating my game? All chess players know how it feels when their chess abilities are questioned! That was not easy to take. The joke was, of course, intended to motivate, and that's exactly what it did.

 
 
Every time a break was announced I would get transformed into Usain Bolt and run right through the village, pleading for a chess board!
Everyone in the crew could sense my desperation for the chess set by now.  A fellow spectator informed me, about an elderly doctor , who was spotted playing something, similar to what I was searching for, years back. This spectator was my angel, minus the wings and the harmonica!
With a twinkle in my eye I asked, "Can you take me to him?" 
The doctor's place was around 1.5 kms away and we covered it on foot in mere three minutes. I never knew I could run so fast!

 
"Sir, I've heard you play chess"
"What?? "
I explained the entire situation to the old man about how a chess set would help me to set up a game with Aamir Khan.
Being an old wise man he calmly said,"Yes, but I have to search"
We waited there for around ten minutes but it seemed like a lifetime. Finally I saw him with a box in his hand.


"This is no ordinary chess board. It's 50 years old and belongs to my grandfather. It's some sort of a treasure". I assured and promised him its safety, and convinced him to hand it over to me.


Finally! I had found one! I tried to enter the set again but the day had ended. I explained the guards my purpose to see Aamir.  They mocked at me for taking things too seriously. I saw Aamir passing by, like a king, in his royal gait, accompanied by his guards. I screamed on top of my voice, "Sir ho gaya arrange!" (Sir, I have arranged it!)

 

As soon as he saw me with the chess board, he quickly sent one of his guards to make arrangements for settling me in one of the nearby shops, where we could play chess.
"We'll play lightning", Aamir said while going for his shot. I nodded. With a generous grimace he granted me the white pieces saying, "I'll give you the chance to start the game". Surely he was taking me lightly.

 

I offered my hand for a handshake and introduced myself "Sahil Batra" 
He replied firmly, "Aamir Khan!" That was a moment I can never forget for the rest of my life. I started game with e4 and he immediately replied with e5.

 

I knew he must have knowledge of this common opening so I surprised him with 2.f4!? "King's Gambit" he said. I was totally shocked! He knew the name of the opening!

The King's Gambit against the king! Look at the settings where we were playing - the background with machine parts littered around!

"Wow, you know the name!" I said. 
"Chalo yaar I decline!" (My friend, I decline.) and he played 2..f5?!

 

This is how the game unfolded. Click on the magnifying glass on the upper right corner (on computer and laptops) to enjoy the full screen view of the board:

[Event "Dangal Set game"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Batra, Sahil"]
[Black "Khan, Aamir"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C20"]
[PlyCount "38"]
1. e4 e5 2. f4 f5 $5 3. d3 d6 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. Nc3 Nf6 6. Be2 Be6 7. O-O Be7 8.
Be3 O-O 9. exf5 Bxf5 10. fxe5 Ng4 11. Bd2 Ncxe5 12. h3 Nxf3+ 13. Bxf3 Ne5 14.
Ne4 Bxe4 15. dxe4 Bf6 16. Bc3 Qd7 17. Qd5+ Kh8 18. Qxb7 Nc6 19. Bg4 Qe7 $2 {
The knight on c6 is hanging and Aamir resigned.} (19... Qe8 {Aamir said he
doesn't take back moves but anyway continued for fun.} 20. Qxc7 Bxc3 21. bxc3 {
"The shoot is ready", were the words that put an end to the game.}) 1-0

After the game ended we took a few pictures and he went for the shot. 

A memory for a lifetime!

I packed the chess set and moved towards the doctor's place, to hand it over safely. While walking back I realized, What a day it was! I could visualize a slide show of all the events from my blunder of not taking the chess set, to Aamir's blunder of hanging the knight on c6. Phew! All is well that ends well.

 

It all seemed like a scene from a Bollywood movie! It's a fact that I am still trying to make myself believe!  I feel thankful to my passion for dance,  my dear friend Shubham Dhiman, my sir Abhinav Sarna and above all - my love for the game of chess.

 

P.S: Papa ki advice hamesha manni chahiye! (Always heed your father's advice!)

 

The official trailer of Dangal which is based on the real life story of Geeta Phogata wrestler who won India's first ever gold medal in women's wrestling in the 55 kg freestyle category at the 2010 Commonwealth Games
About the Author
Sahil Batra is a 21-year-old chess player from India with a rating of1732. He is currently doing his final year in Bacher in Commerce (B.com). He describes himself as a passionate chess player. He loves to dance and he intends to do a MBA in future. He believes in the karma theory and feels that the ultimate purpose of life is "to give". Check out his wonderful deed of kindness which was reported on the ChessAce website in October 2014.