Life for me was all about playing and trying to turn professional in a sport, particularly in chess. I competed in a variety of tournaments, won some of them, but somehow I felt that I wasn’t going anywhere. Then, I found the reason as to why. I understood that my passion was to create, invent, think, and serve. I wanted to make a lasting change and a difference in the world. Looking for ways to do good, I started writing my blog-cum-website Devachess in 2012 at the age of twelve, expanding it to a non-profit project called ‘Project Checkmate’ at 16.
Through Project Checkmate I aimed to reach out to the underprivileged and disabled community and impart education through the game of chess. I wanted to use some of my learning in the advanced and theoretical world of chess to guide people who aspired to use their lives in a more constructive way.
Project Checkmate: Achievements So Far
So far close to 40 students have been mentored under Project Checkmate and two international FIDE rated players have been achieved. One of these players has even received his international FIDE Rapid Rating. The students learning under the project have received guidance in chess as well as in their educational pursuits through training and mentoring under the program. They have participated in a wide variety of tournaments across the city and the country including school, club, local, state, national, and international events. Some students have even won prizes including cash rewards in these tournaments. Students have also received the honor of winning national medals at the 1st National Schools Chess Championship for the Blind in Shirdi, Maharashtra.
Under the Project, the biggest ever North Zone Chess Championship for the Blind was organized in the National Association of the Blind, RK Puram, New Delhi in October, 2017. The prizes for this event were sponsored by the project.
Project Checkmate has produced its two prodigies mentioned above to participate in two National B Chess Championships back to back in 2016 and 2017. One of these students has also participated in the Parsavnath Delhi International Open Grand Masters Chess Tournament in 2018.
Project Checkmate: Collaborations and Support
Project Checkmate has also collaborated with numerous chess stars and personalities. Students participated in the GM Coaching Camp with Grandmaster Jacob Aagaard from Scotland in March 2017. They were also invited by the Chessmine Company to participate in India’s biggest Open Rapid Rating tournament in Bangalore in August,2017, where three students took part. The work under Checkmate has been appreciated by Grandmasters Abhijeet Gupta, Vidit Gujrathi, Dronavalli Harika, Harikrishna Pentala, Vaibhav Suri, Akshat Chandra, and Srinath Narayanan. International Masters Vishal Sareen, Sagar Shah, and Tania Sachdev have also been appreciative of the work done.
Magnus Carlson sponsored a chess set for Project Checkmate through his company Play Magnus. International PRO Chess League Team Delhi Dynamite has been Checkmate’s partner since its inception in October 2016. The Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled has also been an influencer in this venture. Many other chess players and supporters have come forward to contribute books and other items for the students’ use. I have also authored two chess books, which were published in Braille as well, to prepare her students for the upcoming championships.
Project Checkmate also organizes special activities like simultaneous displays and in-house tournaments. Online Skype classes have also been popular throughout the course of this initiative. India’s visually challenged chess world junior medalist, Darpan Inani, has also come forward to support the Project Checkmate.
Using technology and creative thinking to my advantage, I invented an online and offline training and mentoring program for my students. I guided them in not only chess but also in terms of their education in school. I would send them regular emails from the world of chess and games by different grand masters. And I would organize simultaneous exhibitions and grand master coaching camps. And I would take my students for the world-class tournaments.
The Future of Project Checkmate
I felt that by doing all this I had enhanced my own knowledge of this mega-vast game of chess. It was also important for me to develop as an all-rounded human being and that is what I learnt most throughout this period of time. I learnt to grow beyond just my own self, grow out of my initial phase of just becoming a professional player, and achieving something as a collective collaboration. I felt both humbled and proud to have been able to impact someone else’s life through my acquired knowledge.
As I now enter university, I am looking for ways to expand this outreach program. The first step was to register my Project Checkmate, which I managed to accomplish in June 2018. I registered the Devanshi Rathi Foundation of which I am the founder and managing trustee. The foundation would work in the areas of sports, education, health, and sustainability — the four key areas that I think are the most important aspects of my life.
Through the initiatives of this foundation, I aim to improve the state of our nation and bring about a change in my own unique way. I believe that it is important to do rather than just think because execution is always harder than mere abilities of thinking. With this in mind, I would like to keep growing my Project Checkmate and foundation to greater heights in the near future.
Devanshi Rathi wrote and contributed this article to WeCapable.