Gandhi was fond of watching chess and declaiming on the game. He even wrote that “it is essential to keep fit, by playing games.” The late Acharya Sushila Nayak, the ex-Chief Minister of Orissa, was also a keen chess player.
She told me once that “the life of a chess player has many advantages – one of them is that chess lovers remain away from everyday concerns and get into the flow of the game. Playing chess provides the sole focus necessary for the operation of one’s mind. One does not get distracted.
Once chess becomes a habit, it stops being a diversion and starts becoming a solace”. Chess provided Acharya a solace from daily worries and inspired her to the political cause of freedom.
Nelson Mandela once famously said, “By learning to play chess, I was able to realize that with complete honesty and integrity, we can achieve any goal. No matter how great or small the goal may seem, it is still achievable”.
Nelson Mandela, in fact, said that his greatest passion was chess.
What has Aurobindo said about chess? He said: “The real existence of a peaceful future lies in keeping the heart of the human spirit on fire for good causes.”
What was said by Mahatma Gandhi? In an address to a gathering in 1929, he said: “Take up a hobby and learn to play chess. Many serious things can be done by playing chess.
Once you know that there is no royal road to happiness, you can do anything, including fighting for the cause of freedom and justice.”
No wonder Aurobindo believed in the saying, “What does not kill us, makes us stronger.”
In my opinion, these two had understood the truth of this saying with their own experiences.
And who is not aware of the countless benefits of a hobby? One would be even more aware of the social benefits if the hobby is played with one’s own mind. And this is the objective of the article that I have been writing.
Gandhi loved watching chess. He often said that “playing chess is just like religion – it has changed my life.” He considered it as the foundation for all kinds of education.
It is not necessary to be a gifted chess player or an avid chess player to play a chess game or develop an interest in it. One can start playing with minimal effort and see how much can be achieved in a short time.
Several talented and highly skilled people are far from developing an interest in playing a chess game. But it does not mean that one can never be a good chess player.
The chess enthusiast is often frustrated when he does not find players of his choice in his area of interest, and the nearest chess clubs are hundreds of kilometers away. This problem does not occur if the chess enthusiast has a home library that contains several games, books, and playing strategies.
It is this very library, in fact, that gives the chess enthusiast access to a vast treasure of knowledge and experience. In such cases, the hobby becomes a source of endless discovery.
This is true of the chess aficionado as well. The best thing about the hobby is that it promotes general awareness and interest in learning.
This is a feature of all hobbies.
A world-class chess tournament is held once a year. The International Chess Tournament of St Petersburg in Russia is the biggest of the world tournaments.
A few major chess players consider it their pride to be a part of the big event.
It is quite understandable why the International Chess Tournament of St Petersburg is such a big event. It was the biggest chess tournament in the world when the first tournament was held in 1893.
In 1939, during the Second World War, an airplane crashed into the ground in St. Petersburg. This accident resulted in a colossal explosion that killed several of the participants.
But the chess community of the world was not to be shaken by accident. Thousands of people turned up to watch the second round of the tournament.
The tournament organizers held a short exhibition game between Boris Spassky and George Koltanowski, the President of the International Chess Federation, to bring the crowd’s attention to the previous day’s tragedy. The exhibition game was a remarkable performance by both players.
Over the years, the tournament has been a major attraction in St Petersburg. In fact, this is a chess tournament that is perhaps the biggest tourist attraction in Russia.
It is also known as the ‘Gateway to Chess,’ which refers to the various tourist attractions and historical sites that one can see in St Petersburg.
This attracts many chess enthusiasts to the place. The market for chess-related souvenirs, such as chessboards and games, is quite huge.
The largest chess tournament in the world had begun with a bang.
Go through the St. Petersburg map with your eyes closed and count the countries and cities that you can see in the picture. You can hardly find any that are not named in a language that you can speak or understand.
And the number of hotels and cafes has increased exponentially.
So, what is St Petersburg all about?
Possibly, the only answer you can find is that St Petersburg is a place for chess players and lovers of chess.
Founded by Peter the Great as Russia’s winter capital in 1703, St Petersburg still enjoys the honor of being one of the top five world tourist destinations. It is one of the few cities that can match places like Paris, Rome, New York, and London.
The Soviet government did its best to attract tourists to the city.
When the Cold War ended, the number of tourists arriving in St Petersburg was not as high as it used to be. But the city slowly recovered.
Today, more than 6 million tourists are expected to visit the city during the coming summer season. One can see the changes taking place in the city, from its Palms Mall’s heights to the excellent restaurants and cafes at the Nevsky Prospekt.
The most famous attraction of the city is the Peter and Paul Fortress. It is a complex of six historical monuments built at the beginning of the 18th century.
The newly constructed World Trade Centre, the Basmanov Palace, and the Miracles’ Center are remarkable architectural works of art in St Petersburg.