Commonwealth Chess Championship in Mumbai

by ChessBase
11/6/2006 – "Bombay" was the original name, and for anyone expecting the 2006 Commonwealth Championship to be held in an over-crowded, noisy mega-city we have a nice surprise. The venue is in the northern suburbs of Borivali, next to a 103 sq. km national park. And the games themselves will be played in a giant glass pyramid. The event starts on November 19. Illustrated report by Praful Zaveri.

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Commonwealth Chess Championship 2006
set to enter the Guinness Book of World Records!

By Praful Zaveri

The Commonwealth Chess Championship 2006 is scheduled to be held at Mumbai, India from 19th to 29th November 2006

When we think of some exquisite locations for the important chess tournaments held so far, the 1995 World Chess Championship match between Kasparov and Anand immediately comes to mind. The event was held in the "Observation Deck" of the World Trade Center, New York – the 107th Floor! Wow! it must have been a stunning view over the Manhattan Island from the that rarified and now tragically lost venue!

Well, a similarly spectacula setting awaits the participants of the Commonwealth Chess Championship 2006. The event is slated to be held in the 120-foot Glass Pyramid of Eskay Resorts, which is in fact the Asia's largest man-made glass pyramid.

The Eskay Resorts – the Official Host of the Commonwealth Chess Championship 2006 – is situated in Borivali, the northernmost suburb of Mumbai. The club, built on seven acres of land, has everything in sports. From the chess player's point of view, the Pyramid generates energy to rejuvenate the mind, body and spirit!

Before giving the tournament details, I would like to give the readers a brief of Mumbai. The city – formerly known as Bombay – is the financial capital of India. It is basically a long narrow island, almost a peninsula, which goes southwards into the Arabian Sea. This mega city has a population of over 13 million.

The city can be basically divided into four-parts: South Mumbai – 'The Gateway of India'  (Colaba, CST, Fort, Churchgate, Nariman Point etc.);Central Mumbai – Dadar, Mumbai Central; the Western suburbs – from Bandra  to the northernmost suburbs Borivali and Dahisar; and the Eastern Suburbs – from Kurla, to Mulund. There is also the Navi Mumbai (navi means new), which has been developed across Thane Creek on the mainland.

A closeup of the 120-foot glass pyramid of Eskay Resorts

To take care of the transportation needs of the teeming poulation, Mumbai has one of the most efficient and reliable (though crowded!) public transport network. For a shorter distance one can travel by Autorickshaws (three-wheelers), taxis or the highly efficient buses of the 'BEST' Network. For longer distance it is advisable to use Mumbai Local Trains, which transports nearly five million people every day. You can rightly term Mumbai as the city, which never sleeps. It is a city with an indomitable spirit, which keeps us moving on with life.

More about my Borivali. This northernmost suburb of Mumbai is located at a distance of 40 km from Mumbai City. For first-time tourists and visitors, who have just visualized Mumbai as a concrete jungle, with sky-hugging buildings and teeming millions, Borivali comes as something of a shock, with its houses and lush green 'Sanjay Gandhi National Park', more popularly known as 'Borivali National Park'.

A night view of the spectacular glass pyramid, the largest in Asia

This National Park, which is a green lung for the city, is the only national park in the world which is situated so close to an urban inhabitation. It is spread over an area of 103 sq. km, is rich in forest flora and fauna. Here you can find long stretches of trees and the largest species of birds, herbivores like cheetah, sambar and barking deer, predator mammals like leopards and panthers, jackals, hyena, species of snakes and reptiles, including the huge Indian rock python and over 50 varieties of butterflies. The best time to visit the park from November to February (the tournament date!), when the weather is cool.

Apart from the National Park, the other attraction of Borivali is is the Kanheri Caves, which are also located well within the park area. These caves dates back from the 1st century BC to the 9th century AD, indicating a rather well organized Buddhist establishment of monks, who dwelled on the ancient trade route connecting a number of trade centers and Indian ports. Most of these 109 Buddhist caves have been made by just using chisel and hammer on the volcanic rocks. For those who want to enjoy beach and sun, the Gorai Beach is just two kilometers from the venue.

The Commonwealth Championship

Now a focus on the event: You would be wondering as to what has a chess event go to do with the Guinness Book of World Records. Well, the Commonwealth Chess Championship is set to enter the Guinness Book for being hosted at the same place (Mumbai, India) for the third consecutive time. Prior to this edition, the event was held in April 2003 and January 2004. The Guinness team would be visiting the tournament to judge the veracity of the record. Incidentally, the event has already found its way to the Limca Book of Indian Records 2005.

The entrance to the main lobby

The "card room" where the main event will be staged

Naturally the tables will be different and adapted for chess games

The tournament hall no. 2

The Commonwealth Chess Association is spearheaded by GM Nigel Short as its President and Mr. Ravindra Dongre as its Deputy President. The association has the membership of 54 countries under the umbrella of Commonwealth countries, with nearly 20 active countries like UK, Australia, Canada, Scotland, South Africa, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Malaysia, India, etc. According to Mr. Dongre, GM Nigel Short has toured extensively to attract participation of more number of countries and as also to make the game more popular. The 2007 edition of this event would be hosted by South Africa.

Mr. D.V. Sunder, the Secretary of the All India Chess Federation, with Mr. Ravindra Dongre, Deputy President of Commonwealth Chess Association, at the venue.

Checking the venue details

The pool area of the Eskay Resorts

The gym for the health conscious

With a countdown of two weeks from now, 15 GMs, (including GM Nigel Short!), 5 WGMs and  25 IMs, from nearly 15 countries have already confirmed their participation in this event. In all, around 150 players are expected to participate in this event.

So, on behalf of the Venus Chess Academy, Mumbai, I take pleasure in inviting players from the Commonwealth group of countries to participate in the Commonwealth Chess Championship 2006 and thereby become a part of the event that is all set to enter the Guinness Book of World Records!

The sparkling 'Amphitheatre' of the Eskay Resorts at night


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