Contact and cooperation through chess

by ChessBase
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.

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Chess cooperation on a boat

By Suneet S. Mausil

I believe that if everyone gets right amount of love, care and education in their early life, the planet would get rid of most of its problems. If we all knew each other when we were kids, we all would be friends. But the circumstances and exposure all kids are subjected to are different everywhere. Which raises the problem of disconnect, misunderstandings and less faith in each other, once they grow up. I started working towards experimenting with common platforms for kids, to bring them together. One such idea clicked: chess could help. So I came up with a new type of chess event which will attempt to bring kids with different background and privileges to same environment, and fight to overcome a common challenge, forgetting about everything else.

The concept was to have a chess simul, where more than one kid will play on the same board. There was no need to introduce the opponent, who just has to play role of an unknown challenge, which can be conquered by teamwork. Kids should believe they can beat the opponent and they should work together to ensure their success. The opponent, however, has to try his best to defeat the kids, by not only playing chess but also challenging them psychologically and making them think and talk more with each other after each move. Giving them verbal hints and funny threats at each move, getting them more involved in the battle by feeling laughter and anxiety at the same time.

The result that I was expecting out of it was that two kids of different backgrounds can forget about their past and present and can completely focus on the current daunting challenge, both mentally and emotionally. Can they become friends? Can they realize they can help each other? Can they retain this experience forever? And, can they understand that they are not at all different from each other after all?

I call this event a Soul Event, and this is how the first edition went. The venue was a Khair-Un-Nissa Boat, Historical Hussain Sagar Lake, Lumbini Gardens, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. Participating: 50 Kids from Sphoorti Orphanage, Hyderabad, 50 chess coached Kids from St Anthony’s School, Himayath Nagar, Hyderabad. The opponent: yours truly, Suneet Singh Mausil, CEO - Technovite Lab Pvt Ltd. Arbiters: Mr Subrahmanyam, B.V. Kumar, Andhra Pradesh Chess Association. Special Guests from Mauritius and Rodrigues Island, Africa / NIMSME Hyderabad were present.

The event took some planning, as multiple institutions were involved. We scheduled it around lunchtime, so that kids can be served lunch and given time to settle down. The kids from Sphoorti arrived accompanied by their caretakers. Then they kids from St Anthony’s School arrived with their teachers, chess coaches and arbiters. Their entry into the Lumbini garden is itself a testimonial of pain points of our planet. They had to pass through security checking while entering Lumbini Gardens, which unfortunately has become a necessity.

Neither of the two set of kids knew that the other is coming, or that they would be playing a simul. All they were told by their teachers was that there is going to be a chess event on a boat. Their natural curiosity made them ask a lot of questions, which were being answered by their eventual opponent on the chess board. They introduced themselves to each other and shook hands for what was going to be translated into cooperation soon.

After initial introduction, the march towards the boat begins. Already the number of questions being asked was good, I was sure many were about to come when the games started.

The Venue, Khair un Nissa boat of AP Tourism. It took till late night on the previous day to get the boat prepared for the simul. I must thank the officials of AP Tourism, Ayub and all boat staff for their wholehearted attempt to ensure all went well. They prepared the playing area and arranged for the refreshments etc.

The boat’s rooftop was prepared with a dance floor and music system, which was reserved for an after-event party for kids – though the first to shake a leg were the special guests, caretakers and the teachers!

So the kids arrive inside the boat and the confusion begins! The kids had no idea how they are going to play chess and why there were no chairs on the other side! How are we supposed to sit? Who will we play against? Questions and curiosity abound, and the time had come to introduce to them the pattern of this event.

Now they were being seated next to one another, making a team of two, one from Sphoorti and one from St Anthony’s School. They were being explained how chess simul works and how they have to talk to each other before making every move. They were also given a small QUIZ, where they were asked about their partner’s name and likings etc. It’s always good to know more about each other tastes, as it helps forming initial bond between two souls.

The kids from St Anthony School have a regular chess coach in B.V. Kumar. Most of the kids from Sphoorti know little about chess, though some of them were good at it. So the cooperation began at different levels. They not only had to play chess, but also know about each other. So the ego attached to simply making a chess move was diluted. Even if the partners have little knowledge of chess, there is lot more to learn about them. Plus the peer pleasure of helping a friend was imbibed and was put to test.

Some last minute instructions about open choice of colors, simul rules, etc., and then the games started. Now I am not a regular chess player – I played my last tournament four years ago (where I met my hero Viswanathan Anand), and the one before that had even larger time gap. I am unrated and have a very humble chess profile, but I can hold my own and knew just how to play out these games in order to invoke maximum response from the kids. Most importantly, I needed to feel their reaction first hand, so that I can improve this event as well as take inputs for the Planetskool initiative design too.

– Part two will follow soon –

About the author

Suneet S Mausil is CEO of Technovite Lab, and is focused on software R&D and education. He is totally invested in Planetskool, an under construction initiative which aims at bringing kids closer and helping them learn better. For anyone who wishes to know more about Planetskool, contribute ideas, please be in touch through our facebook pages.

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