Chess on a houseboat in Kerala

By IM V. Saravanan

Chess Houseboat is back

The highly anticipated Chess Houseboat event returns to the exotic state of Kerala, a tourist country in southern India, after the inaugural event in 2020. The second edition of the event is scheduled from 22n/a at 28e January 2023, with a total cash prize fund of 2300 euros with a first prize of 500 euros, and an additional 1700 euros in material prizes and trophies. It will include a nine-round rapid chess tournament spread over five days with a time control of G20+5 and a one-day Blitz tournament.

Tournament flyer

Aimed at showcasing the state’s natural beauty, rich cultural heritage and traditional cuisine of the land, the event has the potential to attract primarily foreign visitors and is supported by the Kerala Tourism the official department of state government.

Tournament Logo

This tournament was inspired by the Chess train tournament launched in 2013 over several years covering the Czech Republic and neighboring European countries. The architect of the event, Pavel Matocha participated in the previous edition of the Chess Houseboat event in 2020, and also led a Charity Simulcast by Managing Director David Navara in Prague to support the vaccination campaign in the state of Kerala at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw the then Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Andrej Babis himself as one of the participants .

Chess Houseboat 2023 is run by Orient Chess Moves led by Correspondence IM NR Anilkumar, who participated in Chess Train 2019 and was inspired to create the Chess Houseboat concept.


NR Anil Kumar as a participant in Chess Train 2019 | Photo: Prague Chess Society

The unique attraction of the event will be the location of the tournament venues: a floating barge named Emperor Vembanadu on the famous backwaters of Vembanad, a lakeside jungle resort Tiger Reserve Forest on an island in Thekkady, and a resort among a group of small islands next to a vast bird sanctuary in Kumarakom, a famous tourist spot in the state.


A floating houseboat in the backwaters of Vembanadu, the tournament venue for the first two days | Photo: Orient Chess Moves


Interior of Emperor Vembanadu | Photo: Orient Chess Moves

Attendees will be attracted by the various unique resorts where attendees can stay during the event. The first two days, visitors will enjoy the waterfront Abad Turtle Beach Resort with its uniqueness vibe in the white sand of Marari Beachone of the top five hammock beaches in the world.

The beautiful white sand beach of Marari | Photo: Orient Chess Moves

The other attractive place to stay will be the Bolgatty Palace on the island of Bolgatty, a sumptuous mansion built by the Dutch in the 18e century, transformed into a seaside resort.


The majestic Bolgatty Palace Resort | Photo: Kerala Tourism Development Corporation

For the day of the stay, participants would have the opportunity to visit ‘Aranya Nivas‘, a jungle lodge by a lake inside Periyar Wildlife Reserve, a tiger reserve famous for being a habitat for elephant, sambar deer, barking deer, wild boar, tiger, leopard and bear – for the sake of these wild visitors the gates to the lodge are closed in the evening every day. While in Thekkady, participants will travel through exotic greenery accessible only by boat for their rounds to lake palacea former summer palace of the Travancore kings which is now a resort.


The Aranya Nivas Jungle Lodge | Photo: Kerala Tourism Development Corporation


The Lake Palace, majesty turned into hospitality | Photo: Orient Chess Moves

Throughout the event, the cultural and artistic heritage of Kerala will be showcased through exclusive performances in the traditional arts of the state exclusively for the participants. During the evenings there are performances in demonstrations of Kalaripayattu – a thousand year old form of martial arts – and other Kerala arts.


Kalaripayattu, an ancient form of martial arts from Kerala | Photo: Kerala Tourism Development Corporation

One of the attractions of the 2020 was the elaborate spread of delicious Kerala cuisine in the barges themselves immediately after the end of each tournament session, which was praised by the participants. Highlighting local culinary delights will also be one of the important objectives of the event.


Lunch at the barge | Photo: Orient Chess Moves

I will be giving a lecture on chess at one of the evenings and was rewarded with a typical caricature as an announcement poster, by one of the renowned artists, designers and sculptors of Kerala, Nandan Pillai.

Announcement of a chess lecture by IM V.Saravanan during the event. Caricature by artist Nandan Pillai

The package fee for the whole event for participants will be 950 euros, while it will be 900 euros for companions, while discounts have been offered for some categories of visitors. Fees include entire stay, food, airport pickup and drop-off, travel, sightseeing tickets, and cultural performances.

A detailed itinerary and other information is available on the official website: http://www.chesshouseboat.org/. Registration for foreign participants is open until 15e November 2022.

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