The open-air Gariahat Chess Club, which is hard to miss amid the cacophony under the flyover, has received a new lease of life. With glass boundaries, bright lights and a small library on chess books, the club has become one clever trap you will not regret walking into.
The pawn parade, which started in the early 1980s from a pavement in Golpark with one chequered board and a handful of enthusiasts, gained momentum on Wednesday when police commissioner Rajeev Kumar unveiled the new-look chess club. Abhijit Saha, one of the founding members, said the club shifted to the Gariahat crossing soon after the flyover was commissioned.
“We started with a handful of players almost two decades ago but today, it has become a part of Gariahat’s character. We now have more than 100 members and several others have applied for the membership. But anybody can walk in and play. The rules that apply are only those of the game,” said Saha.
After the facelift — it continues to be open air — the club on the pavement has a floor resembling a chess board cordoned off with glass boundaries. “The facelift has cost around Rs 20 lakhs. The club has 26 chairs and bright illumination,” said an officer of Kolkata Police. But there is no entry fee to join the game. Any enthusiast or curious person can just walk in. “We welcome strangers to play because that improves the skill level and forges camaraderie,” said Saha.
Till a few years ago, the club collected a membership fee of Rs 20 but it has been done away with. “Now you only need to come here with some understanding of the game and civility. Everything rest is taken care of. We have several well-wishers who have always bought chess boards for us,” said Saha.
It is surprising how one of the nosiest stretches of the city has emerged synonymous to a game that needs high concentration.
But then, Kolkata is known to say checkmate to stereotypes.
Source: Times of India