Friday, May 17, 2013

The "ICE TRAY" Effect!

The heat wave had got unto me! I was sitting in my room trying to solve some chess tactics for my upcoming tournament when the wrath of the Sun god finally became too much to handle! I could no longer focus. Why is it so hot this season? Must be the Global Warming! I switched on the air condition just to feel a little better. But whenever I have switched on the A/C I feel a pang of guilt hit my heart.
My theory goes likes this:
1.Heat is caused due to Global warming.
2.To beat this heat we switch on the A/c.
3.The gases emitted because of the air conditioners are the cause of the Global Warming!

Its such a vicious circle, I thought to myself. How can I stop this? I had no clue!
But today i had no choice, I have important tournaments coming up and I need to practice.
The Air condition did help to bring the temperature down but somehow i just couldn't help stop thinking about the problems facing Planet Earth.
I went to the Kitchen to get a glass of water. The water was really hot. I needed some ice cubes.
I opened the refrigerator to get the ice cubes.
I turned the ice tray over and removed the ice in a vessel.
Instinctively i went to the tap and poured water over the Ice tray so that holes were filled with water and I put it back in the Refigerator.
I went back into my room and sipped on the cool water as i solved the chess problem.
Suddenly, A thought hit my mind. I tried to remember what had just happened.
I had gone to the kitchen to get the ice cubes. So i utilized the resource called Ice. Once i had emptied the ice tray, My instinctive reaction was not to enjoy the cool water, but to first fill the ice tray with water so that new ice can be formed. I didnt know who would be the next person who would want the ice, nor did I know when the need for the ice would arise! All i knew was that this was the right thing to do and in time of need we should not be left "ICEless".
Somehow this habit of doing a certain good deed i.e filling the ice tray with water, had become a part of me. I did it without thinking it. It was natural to me!
As I started to see this phenomenon clearly I realised  that:
This is exactly the kind of attitude we need to save the earth from Global warming!
We need to start doing the right things to save the planet! These right things must come naturally to us!
For eg. We plant a tree today! Not because we would want to enjoy the fruits or the shade of the tree but just because its the right thing to do. Now because of this good deed, I might be able to enjoy the fruits of it, but it would be pure co-incidence! My main intention of filling back the ice tray was not so that I would get the ice again but anyone who would want it in the house would get it!
If you look at it with this logic you understand that when i went to get the ice, I didnt say to myself. Ohh look if I take the Ice, there would be nothing left for others but infact i enjoyed my share of the ice but made sure that the next person wouldnt go back disappointed!
Thus if you are using the Air condition or resources of the earth, you dont need to feel guilty!
Using the Ice is your right! But bear in mind that filling the Ice tray back is your duty!
Its only when you are ready to fulfill your duty, can you enjoy your right without guilt!
This filling of ice tray for the planet earth could be done in variety of ways! You could plant trees which could help to make the environment more pleasant, You could stop yourself and others from throwing waste or dirt on the road, You can help by switching off electronic gadgets when not required thereby saving energy!
Whatever you do, always remember the basis of the Ice Tray effect:
You do something good just because you think that it is the right thing to do. Any benefits that you might get from it are a pure co-incidence.
I think that this is the right attitude that each one of us must start developing now. For it is only when we will inculcate this in us, will we be able to fight the perils like Global Warming and make this Earth a better place to live in!!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

We Can Co-exist !!

One of the biggest problems faced by Indian sports community are the strained relations between Sports players and Officials.

Be it any sport, for eg, Mahesh Bhupati and Leander Paes always volleying with the Tennis Association, The hockey team always dribbling with their orgainsers, Abhinav Bindra shooting harsh words for the Shooting Orgainsation... the list is endless.
But I am a chess player, and I am pained to see the same scenario raising its ugly head even in this royal sport.
Whether its our National Hero Anand, the pride of India Humpy,Harikrishna, Sasikiran, Ganguly or the brilliant Young guns Abhijeet Gutpta and Harika! They have all had their share of problems with the Indian chess association better known as All India Chess Federation (AICF).

When the goal of both the players and AICF is the same (to popularise and improve chess in India) why do these problems persist?
Let me give you an example. Have you ever seen a couple: Husband and Wife amicably agreeing on every issue? I think such a kind of couple is like a blooming flower in the desert. It just doesnt exist!
So my question to you is: Why do Husband and Wife always fight and argue when their goal is same. i.e to live a happy and satisfied life together!
My answer to this is: "Difference in Opinion."
But Married couples speak out their differences. They discuss it and sometimes the husband compromises, sometimes the wife. In the end they both see the bigger picture and they move forward confidently towards their aim of happily being together.
From this analogy we can see can that even the Organizers and Players can sort out their differences provided each one respects the other and are ready to discuss the differences and both are ready to compromise on certain issues.

A beautiful example of this was on show at the players meeting of National Team championship 2013 in Hyderabad.
The arbiters and Organizers had made a decision that zero tolerance is compulsory as this was a national championship.
The players were of the opinion that zero tolerance can only be applied when the place of residence and the playing hall are nearby. As the organizers didnt provide the accomodation, they had no right to enforce the zero tolerance rule.
There was quite a Hullabaloo on this topic with players like Harika,Adhiban,Tania etc making a point for the players that it was extremely difficult to travel long distance and not expect any inconvenience on the way.
The players had a point but the organisers didn't.(atleast they couldnt come up with anything better than zero tolerance is necessary for national championship).
But there was something positive here. There was a discussion. The players opinion mattered even though in the very slightest.
Finally a decision was made that grace time of 15 mins will be given on the first two days.

Ok! So there was a compromise! The players of course wanted it for all the days but at least the organizers heard them and gave in to maybe 20% of their demands! Both can be pleased to some extent with the outcome because no one trampled the other.
I totally agree that its the officials right to make rules for the players. But if you just think about it deeply, why are the Officials going through all this pain. Its because they want the game of Chess to flourish in India. And its obvious the players are the ones whom they are catering to. So then why not listen to their wants? Why this autocratic form of ruling when actually what you are trying to do is to make the life of a chess player easy!
At least give it a try. Even in a tournament we have a players committee! So then why not in the outside world? Why doesn't AICF itself form a Chess players body which helps them to make more informed decisions as to what the players wants are.
A parent can sometimes take strict decisions for his/her child but if the child "never" gets what it wants, the final result will be frustration, supression and depression!
I see the players and the Officials as two peas in a pod! Each maybe different but both have to stay together! And while we do that, why dont we make the journey more amicable,more discussion oriented, more democractic and more enjoyable!

Finally as I sign off I would like to say:

Currently, India's top player Surya Shekhar Ganguly is facing a problem of not getting to play in Asian Continental Championship because he didn't participate in National Premier Championships of 2012.
Ganguly is a 6 time National Premier winner. He is the pride of India. There is no doubt that he has a great chance to make India proud by winning a medal in Asian Championships. Whether he will get to play or not, I don't know But we have to recognize the root cause of the problem. AICF wants Ganguly to play in National Premier Championship to make the National Championship a strong event.Great intention! But what is the total prize fund that they are offering? 5,00,000/- (approx 10000$) for the strongest tournament in India?!! Why would such a strong player play for such a paltry sum. To make players like Nakamura and Kamsky play in US National Championship, the organisers offer an astronomical sum of $ 1,60,000 as the total prize fund. If the prize fund is increased to a decent amount, I see no reason why top Indian players would have any problem to play in our National Tournaments!

(These views expressed here are totally of the author and not anyone else).
                                                                                                                   -Sagar Shah.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


I get up at 6 in the morning!
I am playing the Mayors Cup international chess tournament 2009 which is held in my hometown, Mumbai.
The game is to begin at 10 AM but I am not able to sleep.
The Reason: My 3rd round opponent is the extremely strong Russian GM Vladimir Belov 2628.
While preparing against him on the previous day, I saw that he hardly had lost a game to players rated lower to him. After all to reach a rating of 2628 you have to be consistent.
With my paltry rating of 2268, I had mentally given up the hopes of beating my esteemed opponent.
And when I came to know that he had been a second of the super famous Alexander Grischuk, that was the last nail in the coffin!
How can a player who is just another bloke in the sun (i.e myself) challenge a product of Russian chess school. More importantly what quality did I possess that would be superior to his?
His opening knowledge would definitely be world class as he has worked for Grischuk, He must definitely have seen more middlegame patterns and well even a 12 yr old Russian boy would play better endgame than me!
I left my home with this “I give up” attitude. It was definitely a David vs Goliath encounter!

I reached the Railway station to catch a train for the tournament hall.  And while I was on the bridge I saw the train was approaching the platform.
I made a dash a for the train! My eyesight was fixed on the train as it approached the platform.
Thoughts like, “I would be late for the game if I didn’t catch the train, a 10 min deficit against Belov is like rubbing salt to the wounds etc etc!” started to bombard my mind.
BAMMM!In my haste I hadn’t noticed a stone that was lying in my path and I fell. It wasn’t a bad fall, I got up instantly but I had lost enough time to not be able to catch the train!
I waited for the next train to come. While I was waiting, I tried to think about what had just happened.
There were two forces interacting in the situation when I wanted to catch the train:
The train and Myself.
I had absolutely no control on how the train would behave.
But I had full control on my body, on my legs and on my speed. I should have been focusing on how I could maximize my running speed, on how I could have dodged the obstacles in my path and given my best.
 But what I did was to watch the train. Secretly I was hoping that my gaze would be powerful enough to slow it down!
Add to that my mind which was producing negative emotions. How in the universe was I to focus on the job at hand.
As I reached the tournament hall, I had formulated an important hypothesis:
In many situations of life there two forces interacting with each other.
1.       Forces that are in our control.
2.       Forces that are out of our control.
In such a situation it is important to completely block out the forces which are not in our control and focus with all the energy on what is in our hands. For if we give our best and still can’t achieve the job, you need not be upset because there was nothing more that you could have done about it.
But what we definitely should not be doing is to waste our precious energy on things that we cannot influence.(like the train)
Thus the Moral is : Train your mind to always focus and give 100% on the things that you can influence. If you do that you will never feel guilty that you didn’t give your best!
As for my game with Vladimir Belov,
I reached my board a few minutes late but I was calm. My mind was focused at the work on hand, to make the best moves! It was as if I didn’t even care who was sitting opposite me.

We played a hard fought game, And Believe it or not , after 4 hours I was able to beat him!
Since that day David has grown and with that so has his confidence and self belief!