Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jab we met - A Chess love story! Part-I

A Real life story of how 2 chess players, Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal fell in love!

On 16th July 2013 I got engaged to Amruta Mokal,the love of my life! And people started to say Finally checkmated!! After all both of us were full fledged chess players! But just like in the game of chess, the road from the start of the game to the final move of checkmate wasn't brief nor was it easy. It involved a turbulent opening, an extremely complicated middlegame and a beautiful Endgame! But the best thing about this game was that both of us together sidestepped many traps of fate and and emerged victorious!!

Let me start off with the year 2004. Well thats almost 10 years ago! But thats how far our story goes! :)
I first heard of the name Amruta Mokal, when she brutally lost a game in just 8 moves to a fellow club mate in chess.(I know Amruta will kill me for sharing this but this is how it all began!!)

Now white who was a 8 year old kid, pushed his pawn to e5 and Amruta picked up Ne5 Ne5 de5 Bf7! And lost the queen and the game was over! The game ended in 5 minutes and the little kid was jumping all around. Supposedly he had beaten a 2100+ player with absolute ease! I wanted to know who this player was and so I left my game and went and asked him. He said Amruta Mokal! I laughed and said in my mind: "Girls are always weak players!!"

But as we all know Amruta Mokal being the u-16 National champion in 2002 and 9 time state champion is no pushover on the chess board! I realised this when she was analyzing a position in Sangli against one of my friend with whom she had drawn. The confidence with which she was analyzing the game and blitzing out variations was simply mind blowing! Here was a girl with good looks, who dressed in sporty outwear (the kind I like) with sport shoes and Jacket, short hair and most importantly she was proficient at the game of chess!
Amruta in 2005!

I started developing an attraction towards her! But a background check changed my mind. She was not as little as she looked. As it turned out she was 4 years elder to me!(later when things worked out we were more precise by saying only 3.5 years difference!!)

She was 1986 born while I was born in 1990.I was brought up in an environment where talking about girl was considered to be stupid! My friends were all sort of geeks and we would together appear for exams like Scholarship, BCTS, Homi Bhabha and not to forget play chess!! So, there was not even the remotest of possibility that I would have even proposed her! I was just a little boy who had finished his 10th standard!

Sagar: A total Geek!! :)

But fate works in unusual and sometimes unbelievable ways! In 2006 as I entered my college life, I started to explore things beyond chess and studies! The Rose day that was held on 23rd November 2006 in my Podar college turned out be a game changer! Though it went horribly and made me look like a fool, I think it was a blessing in disguise.

I gave a rose to a girl who I think was the prettiest one I had seen till date! She accepted the rose, however ever since that day she never spoke to me! That incident, which seems quite funny right now, had me heart broken back then! I had to resort to some kind of art form to let out my emotions and I am glad it was poetry!

Sagar in 2005!

I wrote a poem on the rose day with an intention that the rose girl would read it and fall for my talent. The rose girl I think never read it! Someone else did, but I will come back to it later!

Today as I write these lines I am amazed by the unusual incidents that took place for me and Amruta to meet each other! Back then it all seemed pretty normal but now that I think of it, it all seems like a huge co-incidence.

                            Me on the left with my brother Ronak in 2007 july.

I played the commonwealth chess championships in 2007. It was a tournament which Amruta had come to after making a huge decision of missing her best friend's wedding. 
In the 4 round, I was paired against Prathamesh Mokal, Amruta's real brother! In the game Prathamesh turned out to be a very strong opponent! When we reached the endgame, Prathamesh was left with 2 bishops against my lone king. I could have safely resigned considering my opponent was an IM but I decided to play on. Bad manners some would say, but I don't really care. Continuing to play on was the best decision I had ever made!! This meant that our game went on for another half an hour and the hall was totally empty! When the game ended, it was just me, my to be brother in law and my future wife going back to catch the bus!!

Unknowingly my game with Prathamesh, Amruta's brother turned out to be the reason why we spoke!

I think the brother and sister had their initial remarks about the game with each other and then they got bored it seems! But all the while she was tensed as the organizers hadn't received her draft of entry fee and she was asked to make the payment again. Seeing that another lonely guy is standing besides them, Amruta decided to be polite and greet me by asking, "What would happen if the draft gets in the wrong hands and someone encashes it!!" She missed the whole idea of why a draft was to be made!! It was really funny!
I was thinking i was a stranger to her till the moment she spoke to me. but it turned out that...............

................... a girl some 200 kms away from Mumbai had silently read my rose day poem on Orkut which I had written for the rose girl and had loved it! No money for guessing who the girl was! She loved the poem because of the last lines! The thought had passed her mind too but the fact that a guy had put it into words made her really happy! She wanted to meet me and tell me how good the poem was! And today after almost a year when she did get the chance, she didnt let it go! She showered me with all her praises! It felt really nice to get such beautiful comments from a beautiful girl!! :D

So the reason why my future wife spoke with me was because I wrote a poem for some other girl I liked!!

For all those curious about the poem.
Here it is : )

A boy from Mumbai met a girl from Pune in the capital of the country: Delhi!

Thus my initial impressions about Amruta were the following: A beautiful girl (beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder), with a sporty attitude, wonderful chess player, extremely lively, fun to be with and a little silly!! Just the kind of girl I wanted to be with!

On the last day of the commonwealth tournament, one of my friend Ravi Dange, who doesnt play chess anymore, sensing somehow that I liked Amruta, said, "I think she will be your girlfriend soon!" I laughed at his idea saying, "dont you know she is 4 years elder to me!" Although secretly I did hope that his forecast would turn to be true! 

Sachin and Anjali's love story did make me believe that there was some possibility!! :)

Just as a memory Ravi took a photo of me, him and Amruta together! It was the first photo that we took together even though we barely knew each other! Today I and Amruta secretly hope that Ravi would find that long lost photo in some of his laptop files and we can savour the precious photo forever! As of now I only have memories, no proof!!
Now, I truly knew that Amruta was 1986 born because I had checked it in the reliable databases of FIDE!(world chess body) while Amruta was not so meticulous. She decided to check what my age was on Orkut! I had mentioned that I was 1988 born on Orkut! Hence, Amruta began to think I was just 1.5 years younger to her! I wonder what would have happened if I had mentioned the correct age on Orkut!

Kolkata Open in March 2008 turned out to be the next stop in our love story!

The Gorky sadan, hosting the best Indian tournament since years!
If any of you guys have played in Kolkata Open then you know how depressing it is to be playing in the last hall, the library. Its as if you have been transported to the communist Russian Regime. You feel cold in there. Same sad faces every day who have taken a beating in the main hall in the previous rounds! and the lighting is such that they are trying to create a sorrowful environment!! The only joy for me in that otherwise colourless library hall was to see Amruta everyday!

This turned out to be a horrible event for both of us. Both of us combined, shed some 80-90 elo points and were competing for the last tables!! 
(Now after our marriage we are planning to play the Kolkata open in March 2014 and to loot back the points we had lost!! :D )

But again, whatever happens, happens for not just the good, but for the best! It was because she lost 55 points,that she decided to play the Delhi tmt which was about to begin in 10 days.

      Amruta had never lost 55 elo in her life,but without it she wouldn have played the delhi tmt!

Things weren't really moving at the desired speed some would say but Air Marshall Subroto tournament in Delhi, April 2008 turned out to be a catalyst. First of all, I came to know that Amruta was going to travel in the same train as mine to Delhi! It was the Sampark Kranti express! I got very excited. So much so that I scanned the entire train twice!! She was no where to be found. I was depressed and sad and felt that she had skipped the tournament! To my great joy I saw her at the playing venue and came to know that she was in a different train with the same name!

Sampark Kranti Express which dint allow us to get in sampark!

When I saw her in Delhi, I started to know her better. Especially because she had no room mate and hence she would hang out with me and my friends (chinmay kulkarni, atul dahale, sameer kathmale,rahul ved).

I would often see her talking with Akash Thakur and I thought "dal mein kuch kaala hai" (something is fishy!) Later I came to know he was her brother!! :D (In future I had to be careful as Amruta had innumerable such brothers!! :D )
But there were isolated instances which made me like her more and more. For eg in round 4, she arrived at the board after 50 minutes (the walkover time was 1 hour) as she didnt know that the round was to start at 9 am.

 The Beautiful campus of the Air Marshall Subroto, Delhi

But after coming to the board she played with such confidence and aggression and beat her opponent with ease! I loved that about her! She believed in her abilities!

Once she lost a winning queen endgame and was so dejected, that I too felt depressed. There was definitely some connection. This was the stage in the relationship where I had already started liking her and she was just getting to know me!!

Now if things kept going at this pace, then I am sure I would be invited to her wedding but not as the bridegroom but only as a guest! So in the prize distribution ceremony in Delhi I decided to up the ante!

At the Prize distribution ceremony of Air force tournament in Delhi I increased the Mach!

She was sitting and attentively watching the ceremony and next to her was an air force official. I asked the official to take a seat behind so that I could sit next to her!! It was a little rude! But who cares! I was not going to be a good boy that day! :) This gave me around 1 hour to speak with her with absolutely no disturbances!! The noise in the background began to drown as Amruta began to recount her stories of World Youth Championships in Greece, Wearing the Burkhas in Iran and having a wonderful sight seeing experience in Malaysia! At that point I was around 2200 but had never been outside India for a chess tournament!

Amruta's stories about foreign tournaments felt like bliss! I felt myself being transported to the places that she was describing!! I started to like her even more!

The prize distribution ceremony got over and our cover was gone! People started to come and talk with us! That one hour was when I realized that it would be so nice to have a girlfriend with a common interest i.e CHESS.

Days passed by after the Delhi tournament. We had exchanged our numbers and would regularly speak with each other. Alternate days to be precise.

Graham Bell would have hardly imagined that his invention could have such great repercussions!!

The talks would be filled with energy and enthusiasm and we spoke on variety of topics! As she told me later, the thing which she loved about me was that, I never used to get bored of a single thing and that inspired her to live life much more enthusiastically. The 20-30 mins talk to her 3 times a week was truly refreshing!

In the month of may 2008, during Mayors Cup tmt in Mumbai, we met again. For the first time we travelled together in the crowded mumbai local train from goregaon to ghatkopar!
I asked her to go in the ladies compartment but Amruta didn't want to miss out on the 30-45 mins we could talk in the train! Now that requires some guts!

Though the train wasn't as crowded as this, the fact that Amruta wanted to travel with me made me feel special!!

I was surprised to know that Amruta's dad had spent his first 20 years in Ghatkopar, the place where I stay!! Now I was determined to ask her dad to send her daughter back to his hometown!! :D (A little bit of over exaggeration here!!)

She called me specially before my CA entrance exam to wish me luck from Kerala where she was playing National B tournament! I motivated her to win the Sangli women's tournament by a proverb saying: "Hope not that it were easier, hope that you were tougher!"
In short the little relationship that was building here had nothing but positive effect on our lives!

We both would look forward to the talks and after the talks, like a refueled car, we would be ready to travel the ups and downs of life!! Slowly but steadily, I started taking up Amruta's mental space! In her own words all she could think of was, "me"!

By june 2008, Amruta had realized she liked me. She did get to know the reality of the Orkut age but by that time it was too late. Thanks to Orkut that it didn't otherwise create any initial mental block by letting her know the age gap between us. Once she realized her liking for me, she started trying new tactics. Her anxiety was whether I too like her.By not picking up calls and testing me whether i would call back again, she started the analysis! chess did help her to outplay me in personal life!

Amruta's off the board tactics were really at a high level for a beginner like me!!

Being just 18 and too ambitious in life, I was sure that I would never propose Amruta. I was too illiterate about these things and also not too interested! My only interest was to just keep in touch with her!

The ball was now in Amruta's court!

Amruta was a lot like Kareena Kapoor of Jab We Met and had always wished for 3 things in her life: to find true love, to marry him when she was 23, and to add a thrill to it by eloping!! All her friends were sure that she would be the first one to get married! She had secretly been working on creating her profile! Was I the guy she wanted to do all the above 3 things with?

It was the start of july 2008. Just before the Mangalore Open! The next few days were going to change our lives!

But with all good things, this article has to come to an end now! How about I write a Part II of the story! I think I will do that! As of now I just want to enjoy my days of 2008 when my relationship with my to be wife were nothing but Pristine! :) 
                                                                                                                  - Sagar!!


  1. First part is well written Hope the coming one will really cool. You are a very Sincere person. Amruta is very lucky to get you as her Husband. Long live Sagar, Amruta & Chess.

  2. that's interesting brother !!

    Must pay a tribute to the game for finding true love of your life like free coaching or anything like that
    three cheers for the beautiful game. . .. .

  3. Great story, congratulations!
    Please consider using less exclamation marks, their frequent use makes the story more difficult to read.
    Best regards!

  4. Amazing story! You are sure to inspire more chess love storys!

  5. Beautiful and wonderful love story :)

  6. Very beautiful story. Wish you both very happy life together... :)

  7. Awesome Story...awesomely articulated....:)

  8. Sagri!!!! What a story and superhit creativity!

  9. Beautiful story.. Wish u both happy married life!

  10. Ah, that was finally the cat out of the box! All this while u were in ur blissful bird watching and butterfly catching act, all we friends were completely clueless, i mean not a hint! That's damn brilliant of u man! Amruta is extremely lucky but Sagar is luckier! Wish you both the best life together ahead. May chess always be your glue.

  11. Amusing!! Honestly and nicely written too. But one thing the Color Scheme of your Blog is not right I feel.Hurting to the eyes.

  12. Well articulated Sagar!! Too gud:) waiting for part 2... Post it soon:)

  13. Where's part 2? when are you planning to post it/

  14. Wonderful part1 increses the urge to read the part2
    I wish that Part 2 comes up as soon as possible

  15. part 2, part 2, part 2, are you going to post it in your 1st anniversary?

  16. please give a tentative date of part2 ...pleaseeeee

  17. I cried, i smiled, i laughed and also i was in suspense... omg i was totally lost!