My Chess Story: Devanshi Rathi

The beginning

I was eight when I started playing. During the first two years, I just played for my school and I didn’t have any idea about the ‘real’ chess world. I got my rating in 2011, two and a half years after I started playing. In that same year, I met IM Vishal Sareen. He is my mentor since then. Actually, it was because of him and his superb training techniques that I got better and participated in a variety of different events.

Love for the game

Chess is something that I truly like doing. I like playing with different people, and the idea of a win makes me more interested in the game. I can play chess for hours and I feel that I love blitz chess the most.

Photo: ChessMine Rapid & Blitz FIDE Rated Tournament 2017

I have had many memories on the chess circuit. Playing so many matches and in so many different tournaments, I have had an exposure like no other. Right from when I played my first official game in a school tournament way back in 2009 to the Commonwealth bronze in 2016, chess has given me a lot to remember. The journey has been enriching and the process helped me learn a lot of new things.

Chess is a game that makes me feel happy. I like doing positions and I like reading different books and magazines. Watching different tournaments online and reading player interviews gives me a sense of motivation like no other. I like researching about different grandmasters and their life in chess. It gives me inspiration to watch players like Carlsen and Anand play. I also like the new comers into the world of super grandmaster chess- Vidit and Harikrishna.

Chess has also helped me meet different people across all forms. I have had the opportunity to meet, watch, and compete against some of the strongest players in the world. This made me feel that I was in another world altogether. I would say that I am consumed by the beauty of the game and feel that the joy it brings into my life is far from anything ordinary.

Chess and life

Chess has had a huge role to play in my life. Although I didn’t reach the elite level of GMs and WGMs, I think that it was not the end of all. I believe that playing chess gave me more maturity and advanced thinking techniques that couldn’t be learned just like that. Being involved with the game, I have been able to start my own project and have a personal blog on chess. I learned how to manage a team (Delhi Dynamite) and interacted with numerous grandmasters. I think I just improved my overall thinking and personality by playing chess.

Team Delhi Dynamite of’s Pro Chess League.

Project Checkmate

I was fifteen when I thought about starting something for the blind and underprivileged community during a tournament game. I was overwhelmed by the game that I played against a blind opponent and felt that this sector had all the potential to succeed in the game. I was curious to understand how their minds work in a complex game like chess without having the sight. These thoughts lead me to start my project and it kept on growing since the start in April 2016.

The project started small and didn’t have enough funds and I was the only one doing it. I didn’t have many people to help me out with the process. It was challenging to make people understand the need for the project and how the game could help the children develop themselves. Another factor was the time issues that my students and I faced. Their schedules were much more different than mine. I had to take a lot of online classes via Skype to help them out during tournaments. Also, in events, there were a lot of problems. The students didn’t have proper Braille boards and the people treated them like any normal player. It was difficult to get them some help during the tournaments as most of the people were unaware about the proceedings of conducting blind chess players in normal events. Besides, I wasn’t able to accompany them for different events and they had to manage with a helper who wasn’t aware of the happenings in the chess world.

Photo by Amruta Mokal

Future vision

I am going step by step in this project. It is a slow process and one mustn’t try to rush up things. I am finding different opportunities for these children every day. Sometimes, things fail and don’t go as per the plans that I had thought about. However, there are always better moments. I learn from my mistakes and try to improve on them the next time. Mistakes are bound to happen as this is something that few take up and I have few to look up to in this space. Thus, I am just going with the flow and hoping that things keep falling into place as and when it’s possible.

Learn more about Project Checkmate here.

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