Literacy in chess – people may find it funny when they hear this. But for the thousands living in Marottichal, chess has become the integral part of their life. And they have been rewarded with the URF Asian Record recently for the most number of people playing chess at a time.
More than 1500 villagers residing in the Marottichal village including men, women, children and even old aged participated in that massive event. In a stretch of one and half kilometres distance the road was made as the ‘game table’.
Marottichal village is about 20 km from the cultural capital of Kerala. The history behind Marottichal’s craze for the chess dates back to some 30 or 40 years. The locally made alcohols and drugs had driven away the peace from every single house out there and quarrels were a common affair. It was at this time Unnikrishnan came to scene.
He had come to the village after resigning the job he had in a private firm in Bangalore and started a teashop. The 60 year old Unnikrishnan, took the responsibility to wipeout this ‘devil’ from his village. Unnikrishnan (villagers call him as ‘Unnimammen’) was quite upset with the condition of his hamlet.
In order to take away attention and discourage the people from things like alcohol and cribbage and to make the people methodical, Unni started to teach the initial lessons of chess. That ploy got the result he intended. People began to understand the real ‘stimulant’ in chess. Unnimammen’s tea shop became a place for the villagers to play chess.
The 2013 Malyalam movie, August Club is based on this village. “Almost 80 percent of the people living here play chess. We didn’t learn everything scientifically. But we give life to this game”, says, Unnikrishnan who has taught a new culture to the people of Marottichal.
The game lovers in Marottichal have started themselves an association for the game. It is called ‘The Chess Association of Marottichal (CAM). In the words of Baby John, president of CAM, “There is no restriction for anyone to play chess here. From small kids to aged people including women play chess here. What we want is to make the name of Marottichal to be visible to the entire world. We are working towards that goal”.
The association helps to spread the game to nearby areas also. The members of Chess association of Marottichal often takes classes for the students of nearby schools and to those who are unaware of the game. There is no particular time for them to play chess. Sometimes the games starts at early morning and may continue till late night. So is the place also. They play their game in Unnimammen’s teashop, on the lovely paddy fields, or even on roads.According to Saji Thannickal, secretary of CAM, “the black and white boards and 64 squares have changed the image of Marottichal. The mission named ‘Mission Chess Sampoorna’ will make us proud. We are sure about that”.