Five years of powering chess in India

by Sagar Shah
3/11/2021 – On the 18th of January 2021 ChessBase India turned five years. Each day of its existence it has indulged in activities to power chess in India. But how did this company come into existence? This article is dedicated to the work that has been done by the organization. 21 grandmasters of Indian chess including have given their feedback about ChessBase India. Check it out!

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The story and evolution of ChessBase India

"Powering Chess in India” is the motto of ChessBase India. We want to ensure that chess is the most popular sport in the country and bring inspiration and motivation for the masses to learn and follow it. ChessBase India wants to create an ecosystem in the country where a chess player can thrive. The sport of chess must become an Olympic sport. We work to spread quality chess content at an unparalleled level.

ChessBase, a 35- year-old organization headquartered in Hamburg is the world’s leading chess software company. In 2014,  during their  travel in Germany, I, International Master Sagar Shah and my wife Amruta Mokal, met Frederic Friedel, one of the founding members of ChessBase GMBH. We visited the ChessBase GmbH, and were totally surprised to see the people working in a beautiful spacious office. Amruta said: "Imagine such a company in India where people are dedicatedly working for chess." The seed was planted in our minds.

In 2015, we understood the need for a chess company to create an ecosystem in the country where a chess player can thrive. Initially, Amruta was sceptical, but after brainstorming for innumerable hours she agreed. We identified two problems at the basic level that needed to be worked upon in order to boost Indian chess:

  1. have world-class news and services to promote the sport and uncover young talents in the country;
  2. provide technological support for chess players at affordable prices.

Co-founders of ChessBase GmbH Frederic and Matthias, with Co-founders of ChessBase India Sagar and Amruta

CEO of ChessBase India IM Sagar Shah with CEO of ChessBase GmbH Rainer Woisin

The Founders:

In early 2016 Sagar and Amruta founded ChessBase India.

Sagar Shah

Sagar Shah, born in Mumbai, has been a chess player since he was eleven. He is the first Chartered Accountant in India who achieved the prestigious International Master Title. He was awarded the Shiv-Chatrapati award, by Maharashtra Govt. He started blogging in 2011 and later became a popular chess author and interviewer for the ChessBase International newspage. Between 2015-17, he managed multiple roles of chess player, chess journalist, and chess entrepreneur. While at the peak of his chess career in 2017, he decided to devote all his time to ChessBase India. Sagar holds two grandmaster norms. He also became a Fide Trainer in June 2020. So the co-founder can add some letters to his name: CEO, IM, CA, FT!

Amruta Mokal

Amruta Mokal, born in Pune, has been a chess player for 25 years, with incredible experience in the field of chess. She is a former National Champion and has been a member of the Indian team for various international events. Amruta was 2199.5 on the Elo rating scale, with 5 WIM norms, but missed her WIM title. She married Sagar Shah in 2014 and complemented his path of journalism by becoming a high class chess photographer. She is the COO and co-founder of ChessBase India. 

Chess in India has been growing at an amazing pace in the last few years!

Activities

News and Media

Chess news: The newspage on www.chessbase.in has daily articles with over 4,500 articles in the last five years. This covers achievements of players, tournament results, game analysis, interviews, features, and much more.

Social media news: The fastest way to know about the happenings related to Indian and world chess is by staying in touch with ChessBase India's social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

World Class Calendar: For years, players all across the world have been looking for a free calendar that would meet their needs regarding tournaments that are held all across the world. Hence we decided to launch a calendar which has all Indian and World events - absolutely free of cost to the users.

Education:

Articles: While the newspage has updates of the achievements of chess players and the latest happenings in the world of chess, we dedicate a lot of time to make our content instructive so that players can read it and improve as chess players.

YouTube series: Without doubt ChessBase India Youtube channel has the most instructive chess material out there. From opening traps, to deep middlegame strategies and carefully explained endgame concepts. We have it all. YouTube stats:

over 60,000 minutes of video content
286.4 million views
19.5 million hours of viewing
2.9 million likes
2.4 million comments
442,496 shares

Position of the day: Since 2019 we have been posting the position of the day on all our social media platforms for chess enthusiasts to solve. This is also featured on the ChessBase India Android App, with the solution.

Events:

Online tournaments: We have held over 50 online tournaments successfully. Players can sit at home and compete with the best in Indian and world chess. The aim is to provide an opportunity for our players to improve before they travel to tournaments.

Workshops: We have conducted physical workshops in hundreds of tournaments explaining how to improve on chess using the ChessBase softwares.

Live shows: We realized the importance of videos and video interviews to bring an authentic feel to our journalism. On our YouTube channel you can find videos of the all the best players in India and the world.

Products:

Software: ChessBase Software is used by all the top grandmasters in the world. If you have not begun your journey with ChessBase software you are definitely missing out.

Books: Books have the capability to raise the chess culture of an entire nation. For this reason we have brought the highest quality original chess books to India at affordable prices. Quality Chess, Gambit, Everyman, Thinkers, Russell, Siles James Press we have all the major publishers working with us.

Merchandise: If you have the pride of being an Indian chess player, then we recommend our merchandise. Add style and glamour your chess.

A few reviews on Facebook

Google has close to 200 reviews! Here are a few of them.

Wedding report

Seven years ago on 5th of February 2014, Sagar and Amruta got married to each other in Pune! It was a chess themed wedding and a lot of chess players attended the ceremony! But how did this marriage mark the beginning of ChessBase India? Sagar and Amruta narrate the story of their wedding 

YouTube video: Chess tournament at a wedding! + How ChessBase India began!

Testimonials, wishes, congratulations (excerpts)

The following are letters ChessBase India received on the occasion of their fifth anniversary. They are generally much more extensive (and effusive), and you can read them in full on this CBI report. Here we bring you excerpts.

GM Vidit Gujrathi: Congratulations to you and your team for running a successful company for five years. I believe you guys have stayed true to your tagline: "Powering Chess in India" it. You have always made your decisions with one thought in mind - will this help Indian chess? I think this approach has helped Indian chess tremendously. I am glad to be a part of this journey and I hope you go on to fulfil your vision in the years to come.

GM D. Harika: Sagar. I remember you from the days when you were mad about chess as a player and wanted to become a professional. You worked on your chess – got a high rating and made norms. I really appreciate the fact that you have chosen a different path and have been very successful at it.

GM Nihal Sarin: Congratulations on completing five years, staying true to the promise of powering chess in India in every possible way, starting from making educational materials available to every Indian Chess player at affordable prices to really supporting players who need the backing. May this continue and keep getting better.

IM Padmini Rout: It's been an incredible journey taking chess to new heights. Chess from the nooks and corners of India (also world) – we are well informed about the chess scene in India at all times. I also congratulate and thank you for starting the chess learning series, and also making chess books and DVDs available to us at affordable prices!

GM S.P. Sethuraman: I was recently impressed by the organization of the online event (the Super Juniors Cup 2020) for our talented juniors. Kudos and fingers crossed to see many more interesting ideas this year.

GM R. Praggnanandhaa: I am being recognized by many people because of ChessBase India articles and Youtube videos! I remember when I was playing World juniors in Italy in 2017. I was around twelve years old and made my first GM norm. When I returned to my room there was a video analysing my game. I seriously don't know how Sagar was doing that, but it motivated me so much! I buy a lot of products like books, ducats from ChessBase India shop regularly, which is helping me to get stronger.

IM Nisha Mohota: Congratulations Sagar and Amruta on this amazing journey! You have taken chess journalism to a new level!  Also, I have totally enjoyed the discounted products of ChessBase through the special Indian pricing of the products in the ChessBase India shop! Hope your romance with chess continues, and that in turn will help maintain the same level of content in your channel and newspage!

GM Sandipan Chanda: I appreciate what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, from launching big projects, interviewing the great champions to taking care of the smallest of things. The project ChessBase India affects so many Indian chess players. 

GM Arjun Erigaisi: Hearty congratulations to you and Amruta! Your contribution towards Indian chess has been absolutely immense!

IM S. Vijayalakshmi: It's amazing what you guys are doing. I have seen you guys grow, and I have seen ChessBase India grow to what it is today. Our family eternally wishes ChessBase India to be every so successful.

GM Sriram Jha: What you have done for chess in India is simply unbelievable. Vishy Anand took Indian chess to great heights, and after that I would say the biggest contribution has been of ChessBase India to put the country on the world map.

GM D. Gukesh: What you have done for Chess in India is fantastic, starting from making top level books, software and DVDs available to Indian players at affordable rates to covering so many tournaments. I personally learnt so much from watching your interviews with top players. Thank you very much for all the support you have provided me and many other players.

IM Bhakti Kulkarni: I really want to congratulate Sagar and Amruta and their hardworking team for starting this initiative and taking chess to a totally new level. The lockdown was quite difficult for all of us, but your channel kept us busy and many new people started following chess. I was amazed at how close to 70,000 people watched the commentary of the Online Chess Olympiad finals. Wow! Thanks for popularizing chess, not just in India but world over.

GM Srinath Narayanan: It took some time for it to dawn on all of us the profound impact of the work of Chessbase India, which played a role in helping build a profile for almost every Indian chess player, through Sagar and Amruta's selfless dedication towards building this. Most of the kids who are superstars now were first known to me from Chessbase India.

GM Arun Prasad: ChessBase India has done an incredible job of bringing the game to the common man. There will be a time when we can say that a whole generation of players were introduced to chess by the efforts of ChessBase India.

GM Swayams Mishra: Congratulations for the achievement. I remember the time I asked you about what are your plans with ChessBase India. Now wearing a ChessBase India T-shirt is a common thing for most players. Cheers to good memories and good times to come. Wishing you all the best in future. 

IM Soumya Swaminathan: A sweet memory that I would like to share: when you started ChessBase India, a lot of my friends and family started to follow chess because of your posts and articles. What I couldn't achieve by 15 years of playing chess - getting my family interested in the sport – you were able to do it with two years of your writings!

GM R.B. Ramesh: You have made the game more popular by taking it to the grassroots level. Lot of hard work and dedication to the cause. Best wishes for greater times ahead.

GM Stany GA: Congratulations Sagar, to you and your team for five years of ChessBase India. It is wonderful to see the impact that ChessBase India has had on the lives of so many chess players throughout these years. I hope that in the coming years, the impact doubles and triples and that ChessBase India is able to connect more people to this wonderful game.

GM Magesh Chandran: Your team has made some high-quality chess content accessible to everyone in India. With your YouTube videos about tournaments and training you have brought chess to our household, watching your videos made people feel they were in the tournament hall with the players during the games.

GM Neelotpal Das: In a country where cricket is like a religion, I couldn't imagine live chess is being followed by thousands of people online. Thanks to the entire team of  Chessbase India this has happened in recent times.


Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India website, the biggest chess news outlet in the country.

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