Of chess pieces that move on their own and handcrafted pieces made of camel bones


By Venkatachari Jagannathan Chennai, Aug 1 : Chess pieces that move on their own as if possessed by some spirit, artistic boards, handcrafted pieces made of camel bones and several other novelties are available in the Indian market. There is also a 100-square chess board -- normal boards have 64 squares -- with new pieces like bull, camel, kangaroo and dragon. India that exported 'chaturanga', or the game of chess, is now shipping out chess boards to several countries like the USA, UAE and others in sizable numbers. According to the Department of Commerce figures, India exported USD3.27m worth of chess boards between April 2021 and January 2023 as against USD2.49m worth of shipment during FY21. A chess-board manufacturer also said his company has taken steps to make digital boards which are currently being imported. "Smart chess boards are in demand as people want to move away from watching the screens -- mobile, laptops and desktops. The chess pieces move in an automated manner powered by robotics. There are also rollable electronic boards," said PN Naveen Karthikeyan, proprietor of My Chess Dreams, the Indian distributor for the US-based Square Off. "With these boards, one can play chess anywhere with anyone in the world who is connected with certain chess portals," Karthikeyan, a FIDE arbiter and the author of the book 18x64 that links the 64-square chess board and the 18 chapters of Bhagavad Gita, said. At the ongoing 44th Chess Olympiad venue, chess board manufacturers, who have put up stalls, are smiling as they are getting enquiries from several foreign participants. "The demand for wooden chess boards and pieces will never go away even though there are vinyl boards there," Nikhil Dhir, partner, Paramount Dealz, told IANS. Dhir, a mechanical engineer formerly with Reliance Industries at Jam Nagar in Gujarat, in partnership with Pratik Matlawala started his chess board company in 2018. "We ship our boards to the US, UK and UAE. Our total turnover is about USD0.7 million and this year we hope to touch USD1 million," Dhir said. Liking the wooden chess boards to the iconic 350cc Enfield Bullet bike, Dhir said, "Everyone wants to own a Bullet bike for its unique engine noise. But they also want modern features like button start and others. Similar is the case with wooden chess boards. "The chess pieces are handcrafted as per the FIDE specifications," he added. While vinyl chess boards are foldable and easy to carry, Paramount Dealz has come out with a wooden chess board that can be rolled up. "We are planning to have a prototype of the digital chess board ready soon. Currently it is being imported," Dhir said. For the 44th Chess Olympiad that is being held at Mamallapuram near here, the digital chess boards were sent by the international chess federation (FIDE). Simply put, digital and electronic chess boards are the ones where the moves made by the players are automatically transferred to computers and also enables live transmission. Be that as it may, apart from wooden chess boards and pieces, manufacturers also make metal boards and carve chess pieces out of camel bones. "We also make chess pieces with camel bones apart from regular and special pieces in wood for domestic and export markets," Ricky, CEO, Taj Chess Store told IANS. The five-year-old Taj Chess Store, after focusing on exports to the US, UK and Australia, has started retailing in India for the last two years. The wooden chess boards and pieces are made with rose wood, box wood, maple wood, ebony wood, acacia wood and others. According to Dhir, garden chess sets -- huge chess boards and pieces -- are in demand from hotels and other institutions. The industry players said the holding of the Olympiad has further increased interest in chess and board sales are brisk. "Owing to Covid-19, sales of chess boards went down. People were in lockdown due to the pandemic and the sale of chess boards went down. But now it is picking up," AL Muthukaruppan, the owner of 8x8 that makes rexine chess boards and plastic chess pieces, told IANS. India exports chess boards and pieces made of wood, rexine and plastic. "We export rexine boards and plastic pieces to Europe, Sri Lanka, UAE, Canada and the US. In the domestic market we sell across the country," Rajendra Sagar, owner of Sagar Sports told IANS. Interestingly, his wife and two daughters are strong chess players -- elder daughter Tejaswani Sagar is a Woman International Master with an ELO rating of 2,166, while his younger daughter Siya Sagar has an ELO rating of 1,831 and wife Anjali R Sagar has a rating of 1,836. (Venkatachari Jagannathan can be reached at v.jagannathan@ians.in) /IANS


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