Second Planetskool Soul Event – with dinosaurs

11/3/2013 – As we recently reported, Indian entrepreneur and chess player Suneet Mausil ran an event that brought kids with different backgrounds and privileges to cooperate in a simultaneous match against him. In a second follow-up event, staged amongst roaring dinosaurs in a theme park, Suneet introduced a new element: teach kid on the spot to play chess, and then let them cooperate in three-player groups. Again: inspirational and certainly worth emulating.

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Second Planetskool Soul Event

By Suneet S. Mausil

The second edition was conducted on 24th October 2013. This time the experiment had multiple changes in it. First, there will be three students sitting on each board, one from a University Chess team, one from Chess teams from multiple schools and one kid from underprivileged section, who knows little about chess. Second, they have to teach board notation, pieces motions and general rules to the non-chess playing kids within the duration of the simul. So that the kids can build confidence that it’s not difficult to learn this game and they can do it very fast.

Events can act as a landmark as well as a booster for a process to execute a concept. In Planetskool concept we are trying to rethink and replan how we educate all our planet’s children and how they can be smart, connected and be responsible enough to allow sustainable and equal growth of all humanity. The challenge is to figure out a way to bootstrap such concepts so that it sustains and grows by itself. Soul Events, Conclaves and Educational Initiatives are what constitute Planetskool’s events so far. And what perfect season to conduct a Soul Event just near the start of World Chess Championship!

For any non-chess player this might look like an incomplete exercise, aimed at promoting one game. Now we know that it’s not just any game. Chess is highly related to academic streams, scientific thinking and it gives a complete exercise to not on mental development but also psychological development. The chess for schools is a brilliant initiative for same reasons. I remember writing this small article around 15 years ago, with inspiration from multiple sources which I can’t recall now. For kids who are from underprivileged sections here in India, it is very important to keep them engaged in good activities. The distractions and dangers they can get exposed to can be very destructive for them and for society around them. And what better option than to make them spend time playing chess and stay away from distractions. This might give way to scientific temper and inceptions of dreams to do better than what their circumstances offer them. Once they have the will, Planetskool concept will try to ensure that they find a way as well.

The second edition was held in city of Sonipat (near New Delhi). Sonipat is where I grew up and played most of my chess. At present the main development center of Technovite Lab is also located here. Therefore this is my best chance to try and create a sustainable pilot ecosystem of Planetskool and its events, where kids keep on learning and cooperating regularly.

Participating in the 50 board simul against me this time were…

50 students from

  • DCRUST University Chess Team and Players. DCRUST University is a reputed technical University with more than 40 colleges affiliated and 275 acres of campus. It’s where I completed my engineering in 2003 and also founded a Technical Festival ‘Technova’ and ‘Chaturangam Chess Club’, both of which are now integral annual part of University culture till date. Chess is very popular in campus and associated colleges now, with multiple events taking place often. 50 chess players from the official University chess team and enthusiastic players put their hand up for this event and for teaching chess to kids.

+ 50 students from

  • DAV M Public School Sonipat- Chess Team (website)
  • Jankidas Public School - Chess Team (website)
  • Hindu Vidya Peeth - Chess Team (website)
  • Springbird Public School - Chess Team (website)
  • Sonipat is actually famous for wrestling, with Olympic wrestling medal winners, Sushil Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt, being from this city.

    Though chess has been part of the city culture too. All of the above schools are from Sonipat and have strong chess team. Many former students and chess players from these schools went on to join DCRUST for higher studies, me being one of them. Lot of credit goes to the Sonipat district chess association, which was started by bunch of chess lovers back in 1995. I being a former multiple time champion of both the district and the university had immense support from all quarters for this event, for which I am very thankful.

+ 50 students from

  • Savera - Education Initiative for the underprivileged by DCRUST Students – Youtube
  • Students teaches children of construction workers, and poor localities nearby, filling up the hope of education for them. Many students gets associated with SAVERA each year and its helping a lot of needy kids. This is a brilliant and continuous initiative by the students which got supported by University and is granted decent space and infrastructure now.
  • VidyaShanti - Education Initiative for the underprivileged by Technovite Lab – Youtube
  • Evening English, maths and now chess classes for underprivileged girls started at Technovite Lab’s office premises. Some kids who come to us have never been to a school. Those who go to some school also have limited resources, both personally and limited school facilities. We are trying to understand the problem hands on and hopefully will device a bootstrapping mechanism to remove this gap of resources and reach to education.

Venue

The venue is a three star theme water park and resort Jurasik Park. These guys take the cream of the event’s budget, though it’s all worth it as it carries a remembrance factor with it. This helps in putting an everlasting impression of the kids with better hope of the continuation of the passion generated during the event. So this time it was a prehistoric theme park based in the city, which actually is very popular for visitors from the national capital New Delhi as well, which is 30 kms away.

The setup

The event started around 10 a.m., with all the children from different schools and different backgrounds came to the same venue, sat on same table, to fight against their common opponent. What changed was introduction of a third member, who will act more as a mentor than a peer. This is the role I gave to my super juniors from DCRUST University. Their entire chess team and enthusiasts from various colleges under the university as well as the main campus, came together for this event. This also involved the students who teaches the SAVERA kids in the University. It was a very proud feeling for me to see my juniors getting involved in good things in large number. Their enthusiasm is visible in the videos as well as in the result of the entire exercise, where all the kids could learn basics of chess by end of the simul.

The first challenge for the students of University and School Chess teams was to teach the kid from SAVERA or VidyaShanti about chess basics, and second of course was to win the game. Each challenge carried a prize of a chess board with it. Though eventually 100 chessboards were to be given to kids, but it wasn’t announced to keep the competitive spirit up.

To merge the music with the play, the party in Jurasik Park started during the games, and anyone who could win and teach the kid early could enjoy the poolside DJ. Though to my great happiness kids were totally interested in chess and were not bothered by the giant dinosaurs and the water park around them! The desire to learn, desire to teach and desire to win overcame the charm of partying.

The level of play was quite decent as most players had already played in many national level school and university chess competitions and were getting chess coaching in school as well. This is the trend which we are trying to introduce to all kids regardless of background and privileges.

All games were well competed but the event was not about winning or losing, it was about learning and showing new ways, with which kids without access to many privileges can still learn. The following display of how the mentors from University and peers from different schools came together to teach the underprivileged kids chess, shows what shape education can take in future, and what the power of bringing kids together can be. These pictures and video shows how remarkable learning can be if we put in a little imagination.

The peer-mentor network at work (growls in the background are dinosaurs!)

Can’t find a chair, the lap is here, but focus on chess and not the pool!

That’s the queen! School kids were also regular chess players and some were even
better than the University players. This made the overall exchange very engaging.

The kids were very excited about this event and more kids arrived than planned.
But all were accommodated by mentors like him who were keen to teach as many as they can.

Teaching the basics was quite a challenge for a 2-3 hour window, but the mentors did well

She studies English and computer science under the VidyaShanti initiative, and I was
amazed to see she learnt complete notation in her first introduction to chess in this event

The guiding hand

The future Anands. All they need is exposure and encouragement

In the end I lost two games, drew two and rest went in the inspiration mail box of the kids with work hard and do better message attached. Everyone is a winner in such events. For proof most kids learnt and retained chess rules and notations during those three hours.

Just an indication of how good a work the students of DCRUST are doing at SAVERA. The ‘strict’ elder mentor is showered with love by kids, who are generally look scared and honoring every instruction of her. In reality they confide in her and other volunteers.

DCRUST University chess team and kids of SAVERA

Students of DAV M Public School. I am an Alumnus of DAV as well

The closing of the event with special wishes for a special person, Anand Viswanathan!

Overall the event went very well with the kids, and they all retained it well. I visited the participant schools after the event, on a promotional tour for World Champion Viswanathan Anand. All students were very aware and excited about the World Championship and wished that Anand retains title in style.

For the event that generates so much good energy, it’s a challenge to make it self-sustaining. One way to bootstrap this event is maybe to start a promotional chess theme similar to this by chess bodies and players around the world. Now, I am a chess nobody. But if we have chess GMs sparing three hours for similar event, wherever they travel to, we will have a chess board in hands of the kids who desperately need to be busy with good things to keep them away from bad ones. If you remove the venue and party costs, all it takes is chess boards to be donated and time being spent. A chess board is not just cloth and plastic, it is a resource capable of carrying hope and dreams with it. So you can make each of your travel count more than it does, not only to you but for many others. Travel should be as much about discovering locals as discovering locations, and what better way to gel with the locals than a chess gifting simul for a visiting GM!? Well, you can say same thing has been happening as well, as Carlsen played a simul with Chennai kids recently. Therefore adding a small twist to it and involving kids who are not exposed to chess, by adding 1-2 more kids per board will do far better promotion for the game. I will try to do this again while visiting Chennai as a live spectator at World Chess Championship.

Follow up by Technovite Lab

On 15th August 2013, we started VidyaShanti (‘Vidya’ means knowledge, ‘Shanti’ means Peace) initiative in our premises, where underprivileged students come and take free evening classes. We also conduct a lot of technical activities for engineering college students, and now will start combined science and engineering projects involving schools students and underprivileged students combined. This will happen in combination of our R&D Unit at the DCRUST University campus, which was recently incepted and inaugurated.

When good energy of various people come together a lot of people get influenced and benefitted. Sh HS Chahal, Vice Chancellor of DCRUST Murthal and MDU Rohtak Universities, Dr Pawan Dahiya, DCRUST Murthal and many faculty members of the University are behind starting many initiatives in DCRUST including support for SAVERA and R&D Unit of Technovite Lab in DCRUST campus. Already many technical projects have been initiated and many pure fundamental research projects are being undertaken by Technovite Lab. This now will extend to SAVERA kids, giving them exposure of career and passion of an engineer at an early age. This Soul event I hope is just the beginning of cooperation, which started with chess and will continue to explore frontiers of general education, science and engineering.

They know it was an important day and they know that they are very important for everyone. The problem of disconnect among children is like a dinosaur, and we have to ensure that it goes extinct.

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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.


Topics India
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