Visually impaired chess player Darpan Inani shows opponents he’s not a pawn to mix
Darpan Inani is the highest rated blind chess player in India and the youngest to win the National Blind Chess Championships.
Darpan Inani sits facing his opponent with his wooden chessboard in front of him, visualizing the pawns and contemplating his next move. He then picks up a pawn and walks over to the king and shouts with enthusiasm, “Checkmate!”
Darpan, 24, is the highest rated visually impaired chess player in India with an Elo rating of 2,053, and has represented the country four times at the World Blind Chess Championship.
âI started playing chess at the age of 13 and since then there has been no turning back. I was inclined to play mainly because it gave me the opportunity to play against a sighted person, âsaid Darpan. Your story.
Darpan’s love for chess is such that he’s always up for a game. His goal is to be the first visually impaired Indian to achieve the title of “International Master”.
Darpan’s Rendezvous in Chess
Darpan, based in Vadodara, was diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a severe skin reaction when he was only three years old.
âI was born without any problem. The skin disorder flared up after a pediatrician gave me an injection for fever and conjunctivitis. I have developed an allergy to something in the photo. Within a week, I completely lost my sight, âhe says.
Darpan and his family tried everything to restore his sight, but to no avail. The only way out was to accept and face the situation. So Darpan made sure he was doing well in school, where he rarely scored less than 85 percent. “The only aspect that bothered me was the fact that I couldn’t play outdoor games, like my other classmates during the PT class, âhe recalls.
The turning point in Darpan’s life came when he visited a blind service association with his father. “My father spotted a chess board at the association, and planted the idea of ââme learn the game. I was 13 at the time. My dad helped me understand and grasp the rules as well as the tactics involved in the game, âsays Darpan.
After a few months, Darpan signed up for a local chess tournament, where he met another participant. Zahir Abbas Bhatkal, who recognized Darpan’s talent and encouraged him to become a professional trainer. Darpan then signed with Shekar Sahu, an international chess master based in Mumbai for further training.
“A game of vision, no visibility”
The only different aspect of Darpan’s game from any other sighted chess player is the design of the chess board and pawns. Darpan uses either a wooden or acrylic chess board with Holes in the middle of each square and nails affixed to each Pawn. He learns whether the piece is King, Queen, Knight, Rook, or Bishop depending on the shape of the piece.
âChess is a game that requires vision, not visibility. There is a thin line of difference between the two, âhe notes.
As soon as the opponent announces his move, Darpan visualizes his counter move.
âWhen I first started playing chess, I thought sighted players had an advantage in terms of the time they spent making each move. However, once I started playing a lot of games and practicing my moves, I was able to save time, âDarpan adds.
Darpan has participated in various tournaments and won many laurels. He faced sighted players in state-level chess tournaments under the U13, U15 and U17 categories, and has represented Gujarat at national championships. He became the youngest player winning the National Blind Chess Championship at the age of 16 in 2010.
He bagged the Bronze at the World Junior Blind Chess Championship (U20) to Serbia in 2013, the first individual medal ever won by India in blind chess.
Darpan has represented the country four times at the World Blind Chess Championships. He is also the only visually impaired Indian chess player to win an international award at the Creon Open Chess Tournament in France in 2018. Darpan was featured in Algorithms, an award-winning documentary directed by Ian McDonald, which details the little-known sports field of blind chess in India.
Darpan’s friend and mentor, Zahir, says: âI am extremely proud of him. It’s not easy to win tournament after tournament in such a short time.
Darpan has not only outdone himself in the game of chess but also in academics. He is currently pursuing Accountant and has already passed the intermediate exam on his first attempt. He also enjoys playing the harmonium and the tabla in his spare time.
A source of inspiration
by Darpan ‘never say die attitude’ is a great source of inspiration for many, especially for those who have lost their ability to see. Darpan helped the ‘Project Checkmate’ initiative, which aims to motivate visually impaired players to reach greater heights in the game of chess.
âChess has helped me in many areas. It refined my cognitive abilities and my decision-making abilities. I am sure that the game will be of added value for many other visually impaired people like me. I will continue to do my part to encourage and motivate them all to reach their full potential, âhe concludes.
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