Chess on an Indian house boat

by Venkatachalam Saravanan
12/22/2019 – The Chess Train tournament launched in 2013 in various years covers the Czech Republic, parts of Germany, Austria, Poland and Slovakia. Now a similar idea is launching in India from January 26th to February 2nd, 2020, in the state of Kerala: A Chess Houseboat tournament! Every day double-rounds will be played, each round consisting of 20 minutes per player, inside a houseboat in various scenic locations. A total of €5000 prize fund is up for grabs and only first 100 registered players will be able to participate. This is your unique chance to combine chess with sight seeing in one of the most beautiful destinations in India. | Photo: Official site

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Inaugural Houseboat Tournament

A unique event has been planned in South India from January 26th to February 2nd, 2020: A chess tournament on a floating house boat in the famous Vembanad Lake of Kerala! Dubbed as 'God’s own country', the state of Kerala in south India is a beautiful stretch of land in the southwestern tip of the peninsula. With long stretches of beaches, lush green coconut groves and paddy fields, hills, valleys and enchanting backwaters, easily the most sought after tourist destination in India. As they say in India, it is the only state in the country with all the types of tourists destinations that one can think up — beaches, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, hill stations, palaces, historic monuments, architectural marvels, art collections, famous temples, adventure sports, music and dance festivals and medical tourism.

For the first time ever, an international chess tournament that blends chess and tourism has been planned in this traveller's paradise, to be held at four different venues: two days in a floating houseboat in the Vembanad, the longest lake of the country, and a day each by the Marari Beach, a 5-Star hotel and a riverside resort.

It is a unique experience to live in the 'Houseboats' of Kerala — you have a huge boat for yourselves, with all the amenities of a home floating in the Vembanad lake with bedrooms, dining space, kitchen and restrooms. The boat is managed by a crew who cook your food and cruise the boat along breathtaking scenery all through the day. The air-conditioned floater for the event 'Chess Houseboat 2020' is identical to the 'Spice Routes luxury houseboats' which hosted the King of the Netherlands when he visited Kerala a couple of months ago.

The tournament itself will be a 10-round unrated Swiss with a time control of 20 minutes plus five seconds per game, spread over six days — two rounds per day in the mornings in five days with a complete rest day after six rounds, apart from the day of arrival and departure. It is conducted by 'Oriental Chess Moves Trust', an independent chess body of organisers and chess lovers. They are headed by NR Anil Kumar, a former member of the Indian Chess Olympic team and an International Master in Correspondence Chess, along with Joe Parappilly and P Manojkumar, former international players. The authenticity stamp for the event comes in the form of the associate organisers, the Department of Kerala Tourism, an official government arm.

The tournament carries a total prize fund of €5000, with €2500 in cash and €2500 'in kind' as follows:

  • 1st - €600
  • 2nd - €500
  • 3rd - €400
  • 4th - €300
  • 5th - €200
  • 6th to 25th - In Kind
  • Best below 2100 Elo - €100
  • Best below 1800 Elo - €100
  • Best below 1500 Elo - €100
  • Best Unrated player - €100
  • Best Lady player - €100
  • Best Veteran (60+) - €100

The accommodations for each day have been planned at different places, the first three nights being planned at the 'Lake Palace Resort', Alleppey.

The Lake Palace Resort, on the banks of the Vembanad Lake

A further two nights stay will be at the luxurious Crown Plaza Kochi, a 5-star facility.

The Crown Plaza Kochi, one of the finest hotels of the beautiful city of Cochin

The final two nights of stay have been planned at the Hyatt Regency, Trichur, another 5-star facility.

The breathtaking ball room of Hyatt Regency at Trichur, the cultural capital of Kerala

The games too will feature different ambiances, offering a variety of playing conditions. The first two days' rounds have been planned in floating houseboats.

Could this be your tournament hall?

The third day, the games have been planned at the famous Marari Beach resort, at a beautiful location of a long sandy strip of beach surrounded by palm groves.

Thatched-roof houses in style of the local fisher-folk abodes, are unique attractions of Marari

While the fifth day's games have been planned at the Crowne Plaza Kochi hotel, the last two rounds will be in another unique location, Rasa Gurukul Heritage Village, a beautiful riverside retreat among the coconut and spice groves.

A bird's eye view of Rasa

Strewn across the itinerary are some of the unique experiences of Kerala which the organisers are offering for the players. A few of the best tourist attractions of the state are included among the list of visiting locations, typically in every afternoon and the rest day.

Athirapilly Waterfalls, an unforgettable experience

Fort Kochi, a nostalgic ambience of a bygone era

The historic Chinese fishing nets of Fort Kochi

Kerala also being a land with a rich heritage, the organisers have promised some of the ancient arts of the state to be staged during the event.

Kathakali performance

'Kathakali', an ancient art form of Kerala, with elaborately colourful makeup, masks and costumes, which blends dance, music and acting, with dramatization of stories from the Indian epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Mohiniyattam, a delicate and feminine dance form

Kalaripayattu, an ancient battlefield martial art of the land, with unique weapons and combative techniques

The organisers aim to market the tournament with a complete package of entry fees, accommodation for seven nights, food (not including alcohol) and light refreshments between games, tickets for travel, sightseeing, activities & cultural shows, airport transfers and a friendly tournament. The packages have been pegged at:

  • Players: €949
  • Accompanying persons: €899

Since space on the boats is limited, the total entries are capped at 100 applicants.

The itinerary with more details of the tournament and the registration process can be found at chesshouseboat.org. The organisers can be contacted at info@chesshouseboat.org, passedpawn@gmail.com and at +919446230888 (Mobile).

Tournament poster



Saravanan is an IM from Chennai, the southern-most state of Tamil Nadu, India. He has been an active chess player in the Indian circuit, turning complete chess professional in 2012, actively playing and being a second to strong Indian players. He has been consistently writing on chess since late 1980s and is a correspondent to national newspapers and news channels.

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