Afghanistan Rising: a request for support

6/9/2016 – How dangerous is it to go to Kabul, to hold a simultaneous exhibition for young Afghani chess talents? Suneet Mausil, CEO of the Planetskool Initiative, spurned the usual security – like an armored vehicle for a short drive from the airport – and chose instead to simply call locals and make a friend from the very beginning. Now he is calling for international tournament directors to support Afghanistan players.

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Afghanistan Rising: a request for support

By Suneet S. Mausil

I am Suneet, CEO of the Planetskool Initiative. I start with a request directed at chess tournament organizers around the world, including FIDE, AICF and all other respected and esteemed bodies, who are doing great work in taking the game forward. Please allow players from Afghanistan to play in your tournaments without taking any tournament fees from them. If possible, please provide them a chance to get funding for their travel and stay in the respective counties where the tournament is being held.

I will share my experience of playing a chess simul in heart of Kabul with all of you. I am sure this will present some strong reasons for supporting the above said request.

I started my experiments with chess via ‘Soul Events’, and I continued them in different forms in India and Estonia. If you look at the three pictures below, they are just simple pictures of a chess simul under way. The perspective which I want to give while playing a chess simul is that of equality. It’s the same chess board, and it’s the same opponent, and children from India, Estonia and Afghanistan faced the same challenge with same opportunity. “I call these simuls Soul Events, as they have no color, no race, no bias, and just highlight the need of treating children around the world equally and providing them same opportunities and access to education. Chessboard doesn’t discriminate, and neither does the initiative of Planetskool, which I dedicate my all to.”

Simul in Kabul, Afghanistan

Pärnu Vabakool, Estonia ...

and in Chennai, India (GM R.R. Laxman playing)

I wanted to go to Afghanistan for a long time. The question was how?! I rang up the Indian embassy in Kabul and Afghanistan Embassy in India. What ensued was a strong bond of friendship between the people of two nations, which is visible from the positive way in which both the embassies reacted. Though there were distractors. The usual stereotype of Afghanistan being an unsafe place. I met people who were offering me an armored vehicle to stay in a compound which was within 500 meters from the airport. I suggested that I can just walk in then when it is so close, and the response was that most killing happens at that junction where you move out of the airport. There were many deliberate attempts to scare me off and prevent me from going there, but the one above totally worked the opposite way: I decided to be ‘normal’ and not give into the influences of heresay and typical stereotyping by news.

I met a few Afghan nationals in India, and warmth was instant in the meetings. They participated in Planetskool activities, trainings and are working together now for educational activities. I rang up one of their friends in Afghanistan whom they introduced me to, someone who never went out of Afghanistan. I asked him if he could pick me up at the Kabul airport. That’s how I prefer to travel anywhere – just call a local and make a friend from the very beginning. I also got in touch with the Afghanistan Chess Federation, MasterPeace Afghanistan and few more organizations. The result was a great trip to Afghanistan enjoying pure Afghan hospitality.

I decided not to bother my embassy people with anything, but they forced a specific hotel on me: the Kabul Serena Hotel. I couldn’t avoid going there. Still I decided to dispense with the hotel service that would pick me up at airport and stick to my plans to wander the streets of Kabul and to play chess in open space.

I was picked at airport by Safiullah Yousufi, whom I met for the first time, but it felt like meeting an old friend. Greeted by a little hailstorm at the airport, we drove across Kabul for a long time, talking and having lunch at a famous place. I being a vegetarian was well taken care of by my host! He not only found me vegetarian food, but also ensured that I got enough packed for dinner at hotel, where I may not get the vegetarian option.

Safiullah Yousufi, H. E. Manpreet Vohra, Ambassador of India to Afghanistan, me

We went to the Indian Embassy and met various officials and H. E. Manpreet Vohra, Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan. There was lot to learn, explore and plan for future. In spite of being given directions, I mistakenly went to the wrong office of Indian Embassy, as there were two offices about two kms apart from each other. I and my good friend Yousufi decided to run the jam-packed street to make it on time! The feeling of walking on the street in Kabul was just like walking the street in my hometown. There were soldiers, guards and all that all around, but eyes refused to see the guns. I saw traffic jams, people walking, civilians in a rush, just like anywhere. You can see a lot, if you choose not to see what you are being programmed to see by stereotyping. A positive perspective is good for health and spirit.

Finally I arrive in the fortress, err… Hotel Kabul Serena. It was an experience to go through the security checks and walking inside the plush hotel. The moment I entered I knew my decision to not hold chess simul in such guarded place was right. It has got to be as normal and casual as any other part of the world, otherwise what’s the point. There are millions who live without all this kind of security apparatus in Afghanistan, so why can’t we.

Then I got to know two fine young men, Ahmad Tamim Mehrad, General Secretary of Afghanistan Chess Federation and Mansour Raufi of Masterpeace Afghanistan. They met me in Serena Hotel lobby, and again it was the same feeling of meeting little brothers and not some strangers you see for the first time. I was already in touch with both of them for this simul, and their energy enthusiasm and spirit was next to none.

Finally next day, the 11th of February 2016, was the day of the simul, and as agreed upon by me and all my Afghan friends and Afghanistan Chess Federation, it was held in a chess club in middle of a famous park. Here are a few videos and pictures:

Planetskool Soul Event - Kabul, Afghanistan, with Ahmad Tamim Mehrad assisting with the rules

Planetskool Soul Event - Kabul, Afghanistan - Games on!

Help is allowed and is on the way!

I lost this game!

Mansour Raufi of MasterPeace Afghanistan

All the bright children and rising chess stars

The chess club of the Afghanistan Chess Federation, and its committed members

In the park just outside the chess club playing hall

I was surprised to find the level of play of many children was quite good. One of the players managed to beat me, while most were playing fighting chess. Even the chess etiquette was gloriously upheld. Many kids would say ‘adjust’ and other fine nitty gritties of chess ethics. They followed touch and move themselves and played very smart chess. I cannot decide who played better, the children in India, Estonia or Afghanistan. I was awestruck at each of my soul event simuls and this was no different.

The conclusion is simple: children are same all over the world if we ignore their situations and the protein of their skin tone, which gladly is not known to color the soul.

The games went on for good two hours, and it was not just the players, many elders, members and supporters of Afghanistan Chess Federation came to meet and greet me. We had long discussions about future of chess in Afghanistan. My conclusion was clear that they need to play more and more outside Afghanistan. There are very limited economic possibilities of sponsorships within Afghanistan, and the chess world must come forward in a grand way. I gifted some chess sets, got some goodies for the children, but I can never repay the warmth and love I got from my brethren in Afghanistan. Many of them left their office to be with me, and it’s not easy to forego a day’s pay in touch economic situations. It’s hard to describe my impression upon meeting and knowing them, but it demolished any doubts if I ever had about future of Afghanistan. It’s as bright as the shine in the eyes that I saw. I lost my heart in the streets of Kabul, bless the land and bless the people.

I hope this makes for a good pitch for the chess world to come forward
and help the chess stars of rising Afghanistan.

Previous articles by Suneet Mausil

Contact and cooperation through chess
10/18/2013 – Disturbed by the misunderstandings and disconnect that are rampant in society, Suneet Mausil came up with the idea of staging a chess event specifically designed to bring kids with different background and privileges to same environment. One where they faced a common challenge, forgetting about everything else. A truly inspiring expriment worth emulation.

Contact and cooperation through chess – Part 2
10/21/2013 – Suneet Mausil, an Indian entrepreneur and chess player, recently ran an experiment, bringing kids with different backgrounds and privileges to cooperate when facing a common challenge: to play a game of chess against him. Part one described the setup on a boat trip, today we show you how the simul was executed – and the followup in the less privileged school.

Second Planetskool Soul Event – with dinosaurs
11/3/2013 – As we recently reported, Indian entrepreneur and chess player Suneet Mausil ran an event that brought kids with different backgrounds and privileges to cooperate in a simultaneous match against him. In a second follow-up event, staged amongst roaring dinosaurs in a theme park, Suneet introduced a new element: teach kid on the spot to play chess, and then let them cooperate in three-player groups. Again: inspirational and certainly worth emulating.

WCh Chennai: more wishes for Vishy
11/12/2013 – Can you imagine how popular World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand is in his home country? With what intensity people are rooting for him to win the current match? No you can't! Take a look at what Suneet Mausil is doing, on his visits to the Planetskool chess kids. Suneet had a portrait painting made, and took it to the schools for the students to see. It's called King of Lightening.

About the author

Suneet S Mausil is CEO of Technovite Lab, and leads its Planetskool Initiative. Planetskool is in 'stealth mode', and is working towards spreading peace via education and technology. Suneet was author of a book on game programming and winner of many national technical competitions during his engineering college days. Having started his career as CTO of a startup and having consulted for top management of many funded companies, Suneet left it all for Planetskool. He feels that true entrepreneurship has to be for profit – of everyone, and has to give tools to guide humanity. Its time for a better system than capitalism, and he wants to construct Planetskool as a meritorious example of a new system which he terms as "Sattvism". He does a lot of crazy things and hopes that in future they will all make sense. You can get in touch with him at suneet@planetskool.org and through his facebook page.


Topics Afghanistan
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BKnight2003 BKnight2003 6/10/2016 05:01
Congratulations for the initiative, Suneet!
rajabbu rajabbu 6/9/2016 12:18
game from this trip would have been nice !!
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