This visually impaired chess player from Gujarat made history
Darpan Inani sits in front of his opponent and a personalized chessboard separates them. While he is waiting for his opponent to announce his move, he has already visualized the chessboard and pieces in his mind, and once his opponent declares his move, the visual will change in an instant!
Darpan is India’s highest rated visually impaired chess player and faces off against sighted champions!
“I chose to play chess because it is the only sport that can be played by a visually impaired person against a sighted person,” Darpan told The Better India, adding that “Although blind chess has been around for about 20 years now, I wanted to compete with sighted opponents.
Darpan’s life is sure to inspire you. At the age of three, Darpan was diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome and completely lost his sight.
Over the next six years, he would spend the majority of his time in hospitals and undergo more than 50 surgeries.
Doctors, like Darpan and his family, hoped that his visual impairment could be reversed. But it didn’t have to be.
When he was eight years old, Darpan was admitted to a regular school. âIn sports time, all my friends would run on the ground playing games like kho-kho, Kabaddi, etc. I obviously couldn’t compete with them. It was then that my parents and I discovered that I could play chess when my friends were busy with other sports, âhe says.
The only thing that sets Darpan apart from any other chess player is that he uses a special chess board, one with holes in each square and nails on each piece. This prevents pieces from falling when players touch them to check their position.
âBut chess has time constraints, so I refrain from touching the pieces to check their position every time,â Darpan told TBI. So how does he keep the game going?
âWell, when the game starts, I imagine the picture of the board with the pieces. As I progress, my opponent announces each move and I visualize the pieces accordingly. A movement of ‘rook to E6’ changes the visualization in my mind, but since some parts can last up to 5 hours, I sometimes touch the parts to check the position, âsays Darpan.
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He recognizes the immense help he has received on his journey so far. âMy father taught me the basics of chess. When I was about 14, I played a local tournament against a sighted person. After the tournament, Zahir Bhatkar, who is also a chess player, approached me and encouraged me to continue playing chess. Even today, Zahir bhai helps me in my training. There are some videos that I can’t follow on my own, so he helps me out, âhe says.
Apart from that, he was professionally trained, first by an international master, Shekhar Sahu, based in Mumbai, and then by Srinath Narayanan, a grandmaster from Chennai.
Darpan has come a long way since winning his first tournament at the age of 14. He started representing Gujarat in national level chess championships, beating sighted chess players like a pro. In 2010, Darpan became the youngest player to represent India at the World Blind Chess Championship in Serbia.
According to the World Chess Federation, in 2013 he is the highest rated visually impaired chess player in India and has an Elo rating system of 2053! Recently, he made history by becoming the only visually impaired Indian to win international gold at the Creon Open in France.
If you think the Vadodara boy is only good at chess, think again.
He plays tabla and harmonium, is currently pursuing his certification as a chartered accountant and passed his intermediate exam on the first try.
Earlier this year, he participated in Project Checkmate, an initiative to take blind chess to corners of India, inspiring visually impaired players to pursue their passion in the game.
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Tournament organizers are only too happy to have Darpan on board when he registers. âThere have never been any problems with the organizers regarding my entry into tournaments. Usually it is a new idea to them that a 100% visually impaired player faces sighted opponents. So they are curious and ask me questions. questions like I have special requirements, like maybe a special board. But I have my own board at each tournament, so it’s not a problem for them, “he concludes.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)