It has been 16 years since India’s Chess Federation for the Blind (AICFB) gained recognition from the International Braille Chess Association.
During this period, players have missed out on winning individual medals although the country’s chess players have gone from strength to strength. However, the dry phase has finally ended with 19-year-old Darpan Inani bagging the bronze medal at the International Braille Chess Championship in Belgrade on Saturday.
Darpan shares a unique connection with current world champion, Viswanathan Anand: they became the youngest national champions at the age of 16 in their respective categories. The former world No 1 in fact met Darpan before the world championships in 2010 and has since then been his mentor, even providing him with a special chess kit.
And Darpan seems to have gained immensely from his interactions with the chess ace as he outplayed Serbia’s Jandric Damjan to clinch the bronze.
It has been an uphill journey for the game over the years for blind players. With no financial grant coming from the government, players had to bear the cost of travel to participate in the Belgrade tournament. However, the association backed its players to make the trip.
“We had confidence in our squad this year. With players like Darpan, we knew we stood a good chance of bagging a medal. We had received a go ahead from government, but did not get the funds this year,” said Charudatta Jadhav, general secretary, AICFB, and a former braille player.
Darpan narrowly missed out on a bronze the last time around. But the Baroda lad kept his composure to beat his opponent, who needed only a draw to clinch the medal.
He is also pursuing the chartered accountancy course, and cleared the entrance examination in the first attempt. “He could notparticipate in the national championship as he was giving his CA exam. Hopefully he can juggle chess and accountancy and continue with his winning ways on both the boards,” said Jadhav.
Sachin Tendulkar, a patron of the game, has been closely following Darpan’s exploits. “We have received a message from Tendulkar congratulating Darpan and the team. He has been a keen supporter of blind chess and has supported many of our programmes,” said Jadhav.