A Chess Festival of a Different Kind

by ChessBase
4/14/2009 – Different in the sense that in two days there will be groups competing in Fun Chess, Gift Chess, Chess Doubles, Chess 960, Chess Quiz, Blindfold knockout, Lost to Win and Problem Solving. Different because it is being held in a South Indian matchbox, firework and printing city in the middle of lush Western Ghat forests and waterfalls. Just after a Car Festival. Rathinam Anantharam reports.

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A Chess Festival of a Different Kind

By Prof. Rathinam Anantharam

How long do spectators have to wait patiently to see some good moves on the chess board occasionally? To make chess a spectator sports, Sivakasi Chess Club in India has come out with an innovative idea of holding a chess festival for two days on 9th and 10th May 2009. Sivakasi,a small industrial town in the southern part of India, has the honour of being the first city in India to organise any FIDE official championship, by conducting the 3rd Asian Junior Chess Championship, way back in 1979. Viswanathan Anand, the world champion, as a teenager won an All India Tournament here in 1985, ahead of many national champions. the Hon. President of FIDE, Florencio Campomanes, still has fond memories of his visit to Sivakasi, where he was garlanded by an elephant and taken on the elephant for a procession.

Campomanes inagurating the Third Asian Junior Championship in 1979

Elephant ride in Sivakasi

Rajasabai Vijayann, inventor of Fun Chess

There will be eight events with unpolluted fun and frolic. Though competitive, it provides relaxation, enjoyment and also educative. The eight events are Fun Chess, Gift Chess, Chess Doubles, Chess 960, Chess Quiz (Team), Blindfold knockout, Lost to Win and a Problem Solving Contest. Fun Chess is an innovation from R. Vijayann, the secretary of Sivakasi Chess Club, during the Indian National Junior Championships in 2005. Here, a team consisting of three or four players will play against another team. When a whistle is blown after a specific time, the palyers have to change their opponents by rotation, and they will have to play on the neighbouring board, from where his team mate has moved away. Thus, each player, after a particular time, has to play with a new opponent and sa new position. In 2005, the spectators felt as if they were watching a football match and showed their enjoyment with deafening applause.

All the events will take place simultaneously and continously in batches, and each player can participate in six events. So, as a spectator, if you arte getting bored with one event, you can move on to watch the next event. The programme has been scheduled in such a manner that a player will have no confusion in his participation. Besides these eight events, there will also be an exhibition on chess, a novice corner, teaching chess to beginners and a simultaneous display by a grandmaster. If the carnival turns out to be a success, the organisers are planning to hold it at a higher level.


Sivakasi is a household name, commonly found on the cover of a matchbox, a glossy calendar or perhaps on a box of firecrackers in India. The bustling industrial town in Tamil Nadu is world famous for its fireworks, printing and matchbox industries. About 90% of India's fireworks, 70% of India's popular safety matches and 60% of India's offset printing solutions come from factories in Sivakasi. Sivakasi houses largest number of printing machines in the world next only to Guthenburg in Germany. The town also has a school of printing technology. It is no wonder that Sivakasi has been nicknamed as Mini Japan, as its hardworking and enterprising citizens have transformed the town into one of India's leading industrial towns. The town can boast itself on having 100% employment.

A panorama view of Madurai, with the Meenakshi Amman temple, one of the main contenders for the new Seven Wonders of the World last year. Madurai airport is 60 Km from Sivakasi. [Photo Bernard Gagnon]

The Car Festival in Sivakasi. The car is pulled along the four main streets of Sivakasi by thousands of devotees. The chess festival is to be held at the end of this festive season.

Though Sivakasi has a dry climate, there are many places around it worth visiting as a tourist. You can enjoy the calm and serene nature at the squirrel sanctuary, Senpagathoppu, or Ayyanar falls, all picturesque dense forests at the nearby Western Ghats.

The beautiful Western Ghats

A forest stream amidst the thick jungles of Ayyanar Falls

Courtallam, a tourist spot, with many falls like this one

The grizzled squirrel sanctuary is home to the endangered, arboreal grizzled giant squirrel ratufa macrora, besides elephants and a variety of birds, mammals, reptiles and butterflies. Other animals sighted are tiger, leopard, spotted deer, barking deer, wild boar, porcupine, sloth bear and flying squirrel. Another main attraction near Sivakasi is Courtallam, a tourist destination with salubrious climate and several falls.

The author

Prof. Rathinam Anantharam is a retired professor of Chemistry and an international chess arbiter who has served as chief arbiter in several international tournaments, including the World Schools Championship in Singapore last year. He is at present a member of the Swiss Pairings and Programs Committee in FIDE.

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


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