chess champion Nihshanka Debroy talks about her debut novel ‘Checkmate’ | Chess champion Nihshanka Debroy
RYou remember the 1977 classic by Satyajit Ray “Satranj ke Khiladi” based on Munshi Premchand’s short story about two nobles obsessed with the game of chess, one of them even as he loses his kingdom of Awadh for the benefit of the East India Company?
It is this same passion that runs through author Nihshanka Debroy, the son of famous economist Bibek Debroy, a former Delhi under-12 chess champion who has twice represented his state at the national level and faced several opponents who are now great masters and international masters, and his first novel, “Checkmate” which comes from
was published by Westland as an eBook and will be available in print once the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic is lifted.
The book is all the more relevant in today’s “difficult” times when, like in chess, good moves must complement strategy.
“Chess taught me to never give up, to keep my defense under fierce attack. Sometimes, against better players, my pieces were forced into terrible positions. But when my opponent’s attack wore off, I found a way to improve my position I won a lot of these games, âsaid Debroy, a Burdwan-born, who now lives in Atlanta, Ga., and is a pharmaceutical industry analyst, in an interview.
âWe are living in extraordinary times. Bad news hits us every day, from many angles. No matter how difficult the circumstances are, we cannot give up. This is when we must stand up for ourselves.
“Like in chess, we have to complement the strategy with the right moves,” Debroy said.
It is these “good movements” which fit perfectly between two eras in “Checkmate” to deliver a timeless thriller.
It begins in AD 455 in central India.
The marauding Svetahunas manage to capture Harshavardhan, one of Bharatvarsha’s bravest warriors.
While in captivity, he creates a combat strategy game with black and white pebbles, preparing for the day the Svetahunas and his people face off in battle – a war that will determine Bharatvarsha’s future. His compatriot Kalidasa, a famous poet, shares Harshavardhan’s captivity and the hope of saving their country.
Switch to present-day New Delhi.
When her ex-father Rajinder Joshi suddenly passes away, Vinita is called in from New York to take over her 40-year-old company, AveoGen, now struggling for lack of leadership.
As she sorts through her papers and belongings, Vinita uncovers tantalizing clues to Rajinder’s long-standing obsession – the origins of chess and the identity of its creator. Navigating between meeting rooms and unknown historical sites, Vinita must battle both her inner demons and her father’s many enemies to come to the truth.
Much research has gone into the writing of the book.
“I investigated the battles that took place before the first mentions of Chaturanga, the ancestor of chess. Almost immediately, I imagined the face of a young warrior. A story began to unfold,” said Debroy explained.
âI asked more questions. Questions such as – when did failures appear?
Do we know who created it? And why? Certainly, a game the sole purpose of which was to destroy the opposition had its origins steeped in conflict. I looked everywhere for the origin of chess, read the mammoth ‘A History of Chess’ by HJR Murray. However, I still had no answer.
âThat’s when I started to imagine what could have been,â Debroy said.
To that end, the historical narrative is a combination of research, such as reading Murray’s book, visiting ancient Indian forts, and geo-trekking via 3D Google Maps that he extrapolated to the 5th century.
âFor the sake of storytelling, I avoided some granular historical details in ‘Checkmate’ (like the specifics of clothing worn in the 5th century or the script used to write Sanskrit at that time).
“I have found many interesting nuggets during my research. For example, there is a village called StrÃ¶beck in Germany with a long association with chess. According to legend, at the beginning of the 11th century, a military commander was there. imprisoned in a tower. Out of his boredom, he played a game of chess and taught his guards to play “,
Debroy said, adding that he hoped to travel to StrÃ¶beck “one day when international travel returns to a new normal.”
Until then, he focused on disseminating “Checkmate” to as wide an audience as possible.
âIn parallel, I have been working on a second (non-fiction) book on a new way of thinking and navigating the world. I plan to finish it within the next 9 to 12 months. During this time, an idea of psychological fiction has grown in my mind, âDebroy concluded.