Self-moving chess pieces and handcrafted camel bone pieces

By Venkatachari Jagannathan

Chennai, Aug 1 (IANS): Chess pieces that move on their own as if possessed by a spirit, artistic boards, handcrafted camel bone pieces and several other novelties are available in the Indian market.

There’s also a 100-square chessboard — normal chessboards have 64 squares — with new pieces like the bull, camel, kangaroo and dragon.

India, which used to export “chaturanga”, or chess set, is now shipping chess boards to several countries like USA, UAE and others in large numbers.

According to Ministry of Commerce figures, India exported $3.27 million worth of chess boards between April 2021 and January 2023, compared to $2.49 million worth of shipments in FY21.

A chess board manufacturer also said his company has taken steps to manufacture digital chess boards which are currently being imported.

“Smart chess boards are in demand as people want to get away from screens – mobiles, laptops and desktops. Chess pieces move in an automated and robotically powered way. There are also rollable electronic boards” , said PN Naveen Karthikeyan, owner of My Chess Dreams, the Indian distributor of the American company Square Off.

“With these chessboards, one can play chess anywhere with anyone in the world who is connected to certain chess portals,” said Karthikeyan, FIDE arbiter and author of the 18×64 book which links the chessboard of 64 boxes and the 18 chapters of Bhagavad. Gita, said.

At the site of the ongoing 44th Chess Olympiad, chessboard makers, who have set up stands, smile as they receive inquiries from several foreign participants.

“The demand for wooden chess boards and pieces will never go away, even though there are vinyl chess boards,” Paramount Dealz Partner Nikhil Dhir told IANS.

Dhir, a mechanical engineer formerly with Reliance Industries in Jam Nagar in Gujarat, in partnership with Pratik Matlawala, started his chessboard company in 2018.

“We ship our boards to the US, UK and UAE. Our total turnover is around $0.7 million and this year we hope to hit $1 million,” said said Dhir.

Loving the wooden chessboards of the iconic 350cc Enfield Bullet bike, Dhir said: “Everyone wants to own a Bullet bike for its unique engine sound. But they also want modern features like push-button start and such. The same goes for wooden chess boards.

“The chess pieces are handcrafted to FIDE specifications,” he added.

While vinyl chess boards are foldable and easy to transport, Paramount Dealz has released a wooden chess board that can be rolled up.

“We plan to prepare a prototype of the digital chessboard soon. Currently, it is being imported,” Dhir said.

For the 44th Chess Olympiad being held in Mamallapuram near here, the digital chessboards have been sent by the International Chess Federation (FIDE).

In simple terms, digital and electronic chessboards are those where the moves made by the players are automatically transferred to the computers and also allow live transmission.

Anyway, besides wooden chess boards and pieces, makers also make metal chess boards and carve camel bone chess pieces.

“We also manufacture camel bone chess pieces in addition to regular and special wooden pieces for domestic and export markets,” Taj Chess Store CEO Ricky told IANS.

The five-year-old Taj Chess Store, after focusing on exports to the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, began retailing in India in the past two years.

Chessboards and wooden pieces are made with rosewood, boxwood, maple, ebony, acacia and others.

According to Dhir, garden chess sets – huge chessboards and pieces – are in demand by hotels and other institutions.

Industry players said that holding the Olympiad had further increased interest in chess and sales of chess boards were booming.

“Due to Covid-19, sales of chess boards went down. People were confined due to the pandemic and the sale of chess boards went down. But now it’s picking up,” AL Muthukaruppan, the owner of 8×8 who manufactures rexine chess boards and plastic chess pieces, IANS said.

India exports wooden, resin and plastic chess boards and pieces.

“We export rexine boards and plastic parts to Europe, Sri Lanka, UAE, Canada and the United States. In the domestic market, we sell nationwide,” he told IANS Rajendra Sagar, owner of Sagar Sports.

Interestingly, his wife and two daughters are strong chess players – eldest daughter Tejaswani Sagar is an international female master with an ELO rating of 2,166, while her younger daughter Siya Sagar has an ELO rating of 1,831 and his wife Anjali R Sagar has a rating of 1,836.