Over the last 30 years, interest in chess has mushroomed in India, the country that gave birth to the modern board game more than 1500 years ago.
The game’s popularity began taking off seriously in 1988, when Viswanathan Anand became the country’s first grandmaster. He went on to win the world championship, inspiring players across India and as far afield as Canada.
“I learned chess in 1995 when I was five, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Vishy Anand played a world championship match that year,” says Raja Panjwani, one of Canada’s top-10 ranked players.
Panjwani’s father, a physician originally from Mumbai, became his early coach and soon the Timmins-born youngster was winning national championships in his age category. He earned the international master title in 2009, but then shifted most of his attention to his academic career.
Though he is busy with doctoral studies in economics at New York University’s school of business, Panjwani still plays actively and hopes to become a chess grandmaster in the next couple of years.
As for India, he points to the steady stream of young superstars emerging every year.
“It’s just a matter of time before this young generation grows up and India is the top chess country in the world.”
Raja Panjwani v Sundararajan Kidambi, Philadelphia, 2010
White has a forced mate in 3. Can you spot it?
Panjwani played 30.Qxg7+ Rxg7 31.Rd8+ and it’s mate next move with 32.Bxf6.