Saturday, 25 August 2018

Where Kindness has no Boundries

Kindness. The simple word has such a vast range of meanings and emotions. The act of being kind is a very important virtue, and yet there are so many people, such a large number of us that lack this virtue. We tend to ignore such petty things and over the years, forget the mere act of showing kindness. 'Do good and good will come to you' is one such true quote that partially conveys result of kindness. Those who really 'do good' will relate to this statement, and those that don't believe it as an utter lie and deception of the real world, where there is every man for himself. I believe in the former, that you will be re-payed for your actions in the same way you choose to perform them. 

Such acts may really be little, such as letting someone do something before you, or holding the lift/door for someone. It isn't as if such things go unnoticed either. Take for instance Robert James "Bobby" Fischer. Everyone knows he became World Chess Champion in 1972, his extreme skill in chess and his famous games against GM Boris Spassky, which at the time was considered an extension of the Cold War. In short, everyone knows him for his chess. However, if you were to ask anyone, "what was Fischer like as a person" a lot of people won't be able to give you an answer. Although he was possibly the finest chess player, he was arrogant and stubborn. He wouldn't co-operate until his whims were suited, and would rarely accept to a suggestion other than his own. His death, due to renal infection, could also have been prevented, had he allowed it to be examined, which he refused. No one remembers him for his character, simply because he didn't leave that kind of likeliness.

Skeptics may return, "what, then, is kindness?" It would be wrong to set a parameter of any sort to kindness, because there cannot be a limit to such things. When one person gets something in return for nothing, it is blackmail. When a person gets something in return for giving something of  his own, it is an exchange. However, when a person gives something and doesn't expect or want something  in return, that can be defined as kindness.

Kindness, to the right person, can be much more than what is seems like in passing. To the people, that need it, who have too less of it, such an act is more of a gift to them than anything money can buy.

To end, with a quote:

"...would it be asking too much to be kinder than is necessary?"- JM Barrie, The Little White Rose

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

An Open Letter to Sundar Pichai

Hi Sundar Pichai,

My name is Avathanshu Bhat. I am 13 years old and live in Mumbai, India. After a challenging set of assignments, I was privileged to be selected for #SummerCampWithGoogle Thanks to this wonderful opportunity, I traveled to Hyderabad on a full expenses-paid trip to visit the Google India Office. It is a great feeling to know what is behind the plain color logo which we all see every day! I got a chance to see where Google's services actually function. The Google Team handled the entire event excellently, from the airport to the stay to everything! Hats off to them!

 The thing I admire most about Google is how they introduce such vast ranges of products, all of which are extremely useful. Another is how products such as smart phones and smart speakers are all dominated by AI, Voice Control, Bio-metrics etc. all of which are giant leaps in the tech-world in quick succession. (I have seen all of the existing AI such as Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Bixby and I still think Google Assistant is smarter than them all by far. It is my personal favorite too!)

 What amazed me the most was the environment you provide to your employees; I haven't yet seen your HQ in Mountain View, but everything is so 'user-friendly'. Stressed out by work? Grab whatever you want at the cafeteria. Didn't get sleep? Take a nap at the Sleeping Quarters. Laptop forgotten or stopped working? Here's another one for you to use from the spare! What with the game room, gymnasium and much more, you make sure that no employee fails to work because of any of the reasons above. I admire that! I just want to thank you for creating something without which the world would stumble. I hope the Google Alphabet continues to expand and collaborate with other companies around the world.

 On a personal note, Google has been part of my life since as long as I can remember. When I grow up, I too want to contribute to society in the same way Google has been doing for the human race. To repeat what I put at the end of my fourth assignment, "Thank you Google, never stop to amaze us!"


Tuesday, 23 January 2018

A letter from 2050

Hey everyone!
Sorry for the long gap. I know I haven't written in a long time. But look at the bright side! Your 'tapasya' is finally over. Here is one of my latest articles, called 'A Letter from 2050'. It's a fun and fictional one, for a change. I hope you all enjoy it!

A brief introduction follows:

The year 2017 came to an end and it was filled with some amazing moments for the Indian chess fans. But what will chess be like in 2050? 33 years from now will chess be the same? Would Pragg have become the World Champion? What would be the prize fund of Delhi Open and what would ChessBase India look like? In this amazingly fun article, our youngest author 12-year-old Avathanshu Bhat has predicted and constructed what the future holds for us. A fun-filled, light-hearted article. Enjoy!

Here is where you can read the full thing! The comments are still accepted here though :)

Side note: The reason why I haven't put it here is because it's been published in ChessBase India, and it's now has their copyright. And there is no way I'm going to plagiarize my own article from another website, right? I am allowed to put the introductory paragraph here and the link though, so that's what I'll be doing henceforth.

That's all guys! Have fun reading!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

"Colours of Black and White"- ChessBase India

Hello everybody,
Colours can tell stories. My six year-long chess journey has seen many of these colours. Some of the incidents still come to my mind after four whole years of it taking place. They are my treasures. I would like to share some truly memorable ones with you! Here's a preview of my latest article on ChessBase India, the colours of Black and White:

 "The last few days have been very special for all of us, particularly in the chess world. The top players spoke about colours in their chess world. It was fascinating to read it. I too have some colours in my chess journey. These are the some of the incidents, which may not be so great, but has always been close to me. Some of which are bright and beautiful, and some are dark and dull. After all, these colours make a beautiful rainbow! Isn’t it?"

Read the full article here!


Monday, 16 October 2017

My Top 10 Books!

Books are for me and I am for books!

 I vaguely remember my first reading ‘encounter’ with a book ‘Mickey Mouse: Clubhouse’ with me on my mother’s lap. Since that time to the present, I read hundreds of books which I cherish. I decided to narrow down my favourite top 10 and present a mini-review with it. What’s your pick? Read and find out!

10. Malgudi Schooldays (R.K. Narayan)

A classic Indian tale, probably set just after the Indian Independence. The story follows the days of Swami, the main character, and his friends Rajam and Mani. Something worth noting about this book is the innocence of the characters. The timid Swaminathan, the brave Rajam and the bold Mani make a great team. It is interesting to see what life was like in a typical Indian town. Also, their story of trying to become part of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) is great as well. Connecting to their stories is not very difficult as my native place is in Mangalore, South India. Clearly, my reason for liking it is because of the simplicity with which it is narrated.

9.The Complete Adventures of Feluda (Satyajit Ray)
Crime-thrillers are always my favourite. What I really like about it is the change in depth of the crime; sometimes it seems obvious enough and you try to work it out yourself. Other times, instead of stopping to think, you just get on with the book anyway. It is a collection of stories, one better than the other. However, it is really great to see the Feluda equivalent of ‘Elementary, my dear Watson!' Satyajit Ray outdid himself on this one.

8. A Man Called Ove, (Fredrik Backman)
This book is about…well, a man called Ove. The book is narrated in two time sequences, one taking place in the past narrating Ove’s backstory, and one taking place in the present. The present narrative is interesting and especially good with people like Patrick “The Lanky One” and Parvaneh, always trying to get Ove to 'modernize'. But is the past time sequence which was enthralling. The very sad story about how Ove loses everyone in his life after his father and his wife and unborn child. It just brings tears to one’s eyes to read about it. It also explains Ove’s uncanny temper. A very tear-jerking book.

7. The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
Thievery, violence, arguments, more thievery, makes a good book! It paints a very good picture of what times were like during World War II. 

The story begins with the life of Liesel, her mother and her brother. After her brother's death on a train, possibly due to tuberculosis, her mother leaves Liesel to Hans Hubberman and Rosa Hubberman. she also meets Rudy Steiner and makes friends. The story is beautifully narrated illustrating her journey and unquenchable thirst for book. It is also entertaining to read about how she gets along with neighbours, The bullies in her school, and most of all, how she would rather help another person for her own life.

You begin to take an instant liking to the characters, especially Hans Hubberman. Rosa Hubberman just adds to the fun with her constant yelling and shouting. An astounding work of fiction if I may say so.

6. The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)

What can I say? This prequel to the masterpiece of The Lord of The Rings is ground breaking in itself and adds spice to LoTR as well. What differentiates it from other novels is the amount of detailed description to each and every character, the way it never lingers and keeps moving on, and most importantly, giving almost every item and person their own backstory, and not introducing them to the story when the plot asks for it. Detailed description is why the LoTR movies were a huge success: because the readers were able to imagine the characters exactly as portrayed in the movies. One example for this is this song:
Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates-
Smash the bottles and burn the corks!

Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!
Pour the milk on the pantry floor!
Leave the bones on the bedroom mat-
Splash the wine on every door!

Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl;
Put them up with a thumping pole;
And when you’ve finished, if any are whole,
Send them down the hall to roll!

That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates!
So carefully! Carefully with the plates!

This book is worth your money. And your time. And my axe!

5.Wonder (R.J. Palacio)

The protagonist August is different and passes through love, anger, hatred and most of all kindness because of his facial deformity. Yet he stands tall and is remembered forever in my heart. In this book you begin to really feel for Auggie; you are just as shocked as him if he is insulted, you are just as upset when you learn about Daisy the
Dog’s fate and you too are joyous when he triumphs at the end of 5th grade. The books simple English made me feel like it really was a recorded diary by August, his sister Via, his friends Jack and Summer, Justin, Miranda and Julian. Although it seems like this book is nowhere in the crowd, it is one of the best I have ever read.
“If you had a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind”
…is the essence of the book and touched my heart!

4.To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

The story is set in Alabama in around the 1930s. The book is about two kids, Jem and Jean-Louise who are brothers, living during a time when Alabama's racial laws still existed. The plot line is interesting as their father, Atticus Finch, is almost the only one in support of the blacks in a court case. It is nice to see him defend their side when the crowd gapes in disbelief.

Atticus Finch, is one amazing character. From the way he reasons with his kids to his court case later on in the book, truly spectacular. The way he keeps cool and calm in the craziest of situations is almost lovable. Really, he is the more gripping guy in the story, followed by Jem Finch. (The protagonist just feels like an active narrator in the book). A must read for all those who haven’t.

3. Surely your joking, Mr Feynman! (Richard Feynman)

The humour Feynman comes up with! Richard Feynman is a man into science ever since he was a child. He is associated with developing the Atomic Bomb, won the Nobel Prize and is known to have given talks to Einstein and Lord Kelvin. If you thought hat science books were boring, you might want to reconsider. In this autobiography, Feynman talks about varied subjects, from his childhood demand of fixing radios, to how unwillingly he accepts the Nobel prize and many more in a fun way.  Basically he likes to do a combined mixture of comedy and knowledge. He makes a joke out of every scene. How he does it is beyond me, but all I can do is sit and wonder. Truly, Feynman is one legend!

2. The Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson)

Bryson has made some amazing works of fiction. These include A Walk in the Woods and The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid. This book however, is completely different from the other two. The name suggesting it, The Short History of Nearly Everything talks about how you are lucky to be reading the very book (using atoms), that you are never alone (using microorganisms), and yet at the same time are alone in this Universe (using the vast emptiness of space).

There is something about the book which just makes it difficult to put down. Coming from an author who is into travel logs and travelling itself, you would be surprised to see this book. It is more of an encyclopaedia, when Bryson dedicated a couple of years of his life to this book.  Otherwise, I’m just a queer person for liking this. But it is more than just an encyclopaedia. Bryson can write good comedy. Just because the book only contains knowledge doesn’t mean that he isn’t going to use comedy in his book. Just like “The late but godlike Richard Feynman” in Bryson’s words. Although he was referring to something else then. But still! It is a great book and you should read it!

1.The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)

Nothing ever comes close to beating the humour in this book no matter how much I try to find one. Truly remarkable book! The book is about two people on Earth, Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, who are actually from 'somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse'. Earth is destroyed by a Galactic race called the Vogons, but Arthur and Ford ‘hitch a lift’ and escape. After a series of events, they meet up with Trillian, a human who skipped the Earth’s demolition. They also meet Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Galaxy. Not to forget, another favourite of mine from Douglas’ creations is Marvin the Paranoid Android. What’s special about him is how he is always depressed. Some of the randomness just makes you want to think “What is going on?” An example for you:

“…back when men were real men, women were real women, and fuzzy creatures from Alpha Centauri were real fuzzy creatures from Alpha Centauri”

Excerpt from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, entry: Magrathea

Seriously, this book is something that is must read. It is “my precious”. Don’t you want to make it yours?

That's it then! Now if you'll excuse me, I have to rush to my kindle to add more books. Which one is your favourite? Answer in the comments section below! 

Till next time, goodbye!


Friday, 18 August 2017

The latest International master in the block: IM Sidhant Mohapatra

170 km away from the capital city Bhubaneshwar, Odisha is a small village called Chudamani. This is where a talented lad, and India's latest International Master is from. Yes, you guessed it; we have with us IM Sidhant Mohapatra to tell us about his chess life.

Q: Congratulations! Coming from a small place like Chudamani, it was a tough journey, wasn’t it?

A: Thanks :). Yes, it was really a very tough journey. And I must say Chudamani is not a small town, it’s a typical village area. If you look for Chudamani in the map, it will show you a small area near the Bay of Bengal. Bhubaneswar, the main city of our state where all the Chess Players stay, is around 170kms from my place. So, going there to playing training games or practicing together was very much difficult for me. So, yes basically the journey was quite tough but I learnt a lot of lessons from it.

There lies the village that is Chudamani...

Q:  I’ve heard that you learnt how to play this game by playing against your sisters with a toy chessboard that came free with a health drink packet :) Is this true?

A: I don’t know where you found this out but it's true. It was in the year 2004 when if you buy “Horlicks” you get a chess-set free with it. I was a very naughty kid; I would always be running and hiding and would be troubling my mother. So, to make me sit in one place, my father taught me and my sisters the rules of chess. And I got attracted to the game. After learning the rules, me and my sisters used to play against each other and I would be winning most of the games (they stopped playing chess after that). And then after a week I started winning against my father regularly. So that’s how it all started and I still am a big fan of “Horlicks”

After all, little boy Sidhant needed to be "taller, stronger, sharper"!

Q: It is never easy when it comes to coaching. It doesn’t come cheap. How did you manage? How was your talent ‘unearthed’?

A:  As I have said, my house is quite far from the main cities. So, when I was a kid I used to stay in the hostel of S.R. Chess Centre with Rabindra Kumar Ojha (a very experienced chess player and coach in Odisha), a tutor in the center. Staying there helped me a lot. I had the access to the chess library there. I could read and study many books and I could play practice matches with other strong players. It improved my game a lot. Then after some years I went to RB Ramesh for few camps but couldn’t afford them regularly due to the financial problems. Our state association organized two GM coaching camps from Farrukh Amonatov in the year 2013, which was immensely helpful. But after that, I was on my own for almost 3 years because there were no good trainers in my state and I had to go to another state for training, which was obviously quite expensive. But during these days Swayams Bhai (Swayams Mishra) was always there to help me. He was like a big brother and mentor.

Champion Sidhant in the making!

Q: You went to places internationally. Many players also wish to go abroad. But, it is a costly affair. How did you manage?

A: Actually, I have played few open tournaments abroad. I never had, and still don’t have any sponsor. So, it was very difficult for my father to send me abroad to play in tournaments on his own as we didn’t have a good financial status. Hence, I relied mostly on the tournaments in UAE which were a bit cheaper.

Q: Do you have any memorable incidents?

A: Yes, it was during the Dubai Open this year.  I was paired against GM Salgado Lopez. There was a rest day before the round. After I checked the pairing, I searched for his games in the database and I found out that he is playing almost everything against 1.e4, which is quite obvious for a guy who is above 2600 for many years. So I immediately messaged my coach and asked him what I should do. And on the next day, which was the free day, I with my roommates went to visit the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa. By the time we returned, it was already around 8 pm and I was very tired. After some time I got a message from my coach, asking me what I had seen on that day and I replied that I was out the whole day and now I was very tired. Of course, he wasn’t pleased to hear that. He told me that tomorrow you are playing against a guy, who is playing almost everything and today you went out. He was correct as I could not finish preparing against him. And before the game, I was cursing myself that I should have prepared on the rest day. But I won that game and beating a player like him was always memorable.

Q: How do you go about your chess preparation?

A: Since last year I have been working under Vishnu Prasanna. He is a great player and a great coach too. He bought the confidence back in me. He brings around lots of positivity in me. I learned a lot in my camps with him. We normally have a camp in every 3-4 months. And besides that, I play training games with my friends, which are equally helpful as well.
What else does one need when he is by his coach? With GM Vishnu Prasanna.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

A: In my spare time, I like to watch movies or anime, listen to songs and go out with my friends. But most of the time, I would be sleeping.

Sidhant's favourite anime, Dragon Ball Z

Q: Which particular player do you idolize and why?

A: I like Bobby Fischer’s game a lot. I like the way he handles the position and craves for activity. The way he plays the Spanish Opening. The love for light-squared bishop. His endgame magic with Taimanov. His love for chess. The attitude to win (Sac, Sac, Mate!). And the fact that when I was a kid most of the books I read were about him.

The two legends who inspired Sidhant.

Q: You have inspired many chess players from small towns. A word of advice?

A: Well I would like to say to them that, there is nothing impossible in this world if you work hard and believe in yourself.

...and you'll get here someday!

Q: Finally, which do you think is your best game?

A: Well there are few good games I have played, but I think my games against Srinath in IIFL Mumbai 2016 and Salgado Lopez in Dubai Open 2017 were quite good.

(game Srinath vs Sidhant)

This game of Sidhant vs GM Srinath Narayanan, where Sidhant got his second IM norm, is a truly beautiful Sicilian Najdorf! But wait, there is more to come...

(game Sidhant vs Salgado Lopez)

Thank you for joining us on this interview. Congratulations once again! We wish you a pleasant future ahead.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Chess Species Classified!

Disclaimer: This article is based on real-life incidents and should not be taken offensively. This is taken from observations over time and NOT on any specific individual or on his/her traits. Your discretion is advised. 

Chess is always fun! I’m sure you will agree with me on it. Apart from winning, losing, emotions and atmosphere there is something else that spices up the game. I have an unusual habit of observing players that come by. Trust me, I am not being judgmental or sarcastic, but this is just part of me which I am born with. My mother often complains that I get distracted by this, but I can’t help but watch people and ‘admire’.

In all these years of playing chess, I have classified them into these types. Again, no fingers pointed at anyone.

Mr. Take your time: These people appear just five minutes before the walkover time when you’re drooling for that free point. They will slowly sit down, put the bag aside with no rush, put the coffee aside carefully, comb their hair neatly, fish their pen out, fill their scoresheet without any hurry, adjust the pieces on their fingertips as if they are meant to be kept as decoration, take an enormous breath, shake hands and finally, painfully play ‘e5’ and feather-touch the clock. Phew!!

Mr. Why so serious: They appear serious as if they had a bad morning, they never smile and they give a very cold and lifeless handshake. They don’t eat anything themselves and dislike their opponents eating as well. Any sound from another board and they will sulk while looking at that board with a pointed look. They dislike their opponents shaking their legs or pressing the clock hard. Win or loss, their expression is always the same- stony.

Ms. Perfectionist: Why ‘Ms’ is because it is more often girls than boys. They are pretty punctual, they carry a lot of stationary, as big as the cabin luggage all neatly kept on the table. They have impeccable handwriting and their movements are graceful, be it eating or drinking. They appear calm and do not show their emotions quite easily.

Mr. Made for eating: They generally carry a kitchen with them. They will munch and chew and repeat. Better are those polite ones who offer you their food. As if that wasn’t enough, you can see them after the game is over chomping on more food! Unmoved by the result they continue chewing.

Mr. Midget: These guys are better not messed with or underestimated. They are barely higher than the table yet they have an air of menace around them. They appear disinterested and clumsy, often accompanied by a runny nose, scattered footwear under the table, pen marks all over them and a half eaten pen. Never try to fix their ways; they know the rules very well. Beware!

Mr. Pins under their seat: These are the guys that rarely sit. The moment you write down your move and look up they are on the other side of the hall, spectating on other’s games. Their frequent standing sometimes gives the impression of winning. They seem to find the washroom so interesting that they go every alternate move. When they sit, they change their posture every ten seconds from Spider-man to Superman to Batman.

The Baby Bones: I say ‘Baby Bones’ but it is nothing to do with age. When it isn’t in their favour, they panic, they shake their legs vigorously, they start asking for draws, their eyes become red and they sniffle. When it is over, they become inconsolable. Nevertheless, they are fine ten minutes after coming out of the hall.

Well, isn’t it fun? I am sure, you too might have come across these types as well and maybe many more.

Honestly, I never had any problems with my opponents so far. None of them have tarnished the image of this game as far as I know. Chess has always been a royal game and has earned its respect as a gentleman’s game. After all, what is a game without these diversities!