Chess in the backwaters of Kerala

by Priyadarshan Banjan
1/2/2015 – Imagine you wake up early to play a morning round and are greeted by a musky fragrance caused by the raindrops caressing the flora around you; summoning a feeling so powerfully evocative that it cleanses your body and purifies your mind. Blessed with such an environment, imagine playing your favourite game in this land referred in India as 'God’s own country'. A breathtaking pictorial.

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The 2014 edition of India’s National Premier Chess Championship was held in Kerala, a south-Indian province nestled at the mouth of the Arabian Sea on one side and the Sahyadri Mountain range on the other. For a traveller, this state is a cocktail of tropical beaches accompanied by scenic backwaters, evergreen mountain ranges and a dash of Indian city life.

Walking to the tournament hall as the moist breeze touches your skin and your nostrils lovingly suck in the red soil soaked aroma - it is as if having a massage before sitting to play! A pleasant way to play chess, don’t you think?

The younger players dominated the tournament, as you would expect these days. However, if a Goliath is facing you, it invariably means you are the David.

Veteran IM PDS Girinath finished at the bottom of the table...

...but not before vanquishing the top seed GM Vidit Gujarathi in the final round.

Experienced GM Abhijit Kunte was not at his best

Nor was GM Lalith Babu...

Here he is facing Little Red Riding Hood

Nah... It is IM VAV Rajesh

If you remove the chessboard and the table, you may well assume that they are dancing around a bonfire

The backwaters of Kerala

For the Indian chess stars competing for the title, it was a combination of a business trip and a pleasure ride. Nothing to lose here! After six days of pushing wooden pieces over a chequered board, the players finally got down to business. Well, chess is a pleasure ride, right?

The organisers had planned a trip aboard a houseboat at the backwaters of Kumarakom on the Vembanad Lake. Vembanad Kol, as it is known in Kerala, is almost 100 kilometers long and 14 kilometers wide and is the longest lake in India.

The Kerala houseboat is a cultural heritage which in itself tells you a lot about this province. The country-side house boats are referred to as ‘Kettuvallam’ in Malayalam – the language of Kerala. They are made up of locally found materials like of bamboo poles, coconut fibre, ropes, bamboo mats, and are often 60-70 feet long.

Chief Arbiter IA Anatharaman with his wife. The professor is amongst the most learned
people in the Indian chess community.

International Masters Swayams Mishra, VAV Rajesh, Shyam P Nikhil with IA Vijayraghavan

"A memorable free trip to Kumarakom" in the words of the champion, GM Sethuraman

Away from the hustle and bustle of the chess pieces

GM Sengupta and GM Gujarathi

Looks like they found something...


A group picture to document the moment

Further pictorial impressions of 'God's own country'

Backwaters of Kochi: a backwater usually means that part of the river which has little or
no current flowing through it, but is saline – unlike a lake.

Kumbalangi Backwaters in the evening

Inside of the Kalamandalam – a typical south Indian temple architecture. They are fortresss
like structures with the main temple in the centre

Kovalam Beach

The traditional way of eating food in Kerala and south India in general. The food is served in a banana leaf which does a plate’s job. It is believed that this maintains the freshness and tenderness of the food. The rice is known as rosematta rice, an indigenous variety that gives you an earthy flavour which reaches enticing proportions when eaten with red meat.


Silent Valley at Palakkad

A tea plantation at Palakkad

Ayurvedic medicines

Boat race

Champakulam boat race competition

The folk dance of Kerala  - Kathakali

An elephant at .... No, this image is not photoshopped

Elephants at Thrissur pooram festival

Vishy Anand? No, the Tiger of Madras lives in Chennai, in the neighbouring province. This
guy lives in a zoo in Thiruvanathapuram – capital of Kerala.

Lions at Neyyar Safari Park

A Malabar Flying squirrel

India’s National bird – Peacock – is very common in Kerala in contrast to many other Indian
provinces, partly becuase of the flora and fauna that is part of the state

Special thanks to Yohan Jojo (2124 Elo) for the pictures of players from
the rest day. Yohan is a 20 year old player and a Business Administration
student at the MG University, Kochi, Kerala. He has also contributed to
the New in Chess Yearbook.

Photos of Kerala are sourced from the Kerala state’s tourism department

Priyadarshan Banjan is a 23-year-old club player from India. He works as an editor for ChessBase News and ChessBase India. He is a chess fanatic and an avid fan of Vishy Anand. He also maintains a blog on a variety of topics.


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