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Kishan Gangolli was in Class VI when his uncle introduced him to chess.
Kishan Gangolli was in Class VI when his uncle introduced him to chess. With only 25 per cent vision, he is called the "silver lining" in blind chess in the country. At the International Braille Chess Association (IBCA) Blind Chess Olympiad held in Chennai recently, Gangolli won the individual gold medal in the third board and helped India finish fifth in the team event from a field of 30 competing countries. Another blind chess player, Darpan Irani, 18, still cherishes his meeting with world chess champion Viswanathan Anand. "After analysing my game, Anand told me that while I am good at strategy, I should concentrate on tactics, and this is what I try to do," he says.
Vadodara-based Irani was first introduced to chess at the city's Blind Welfare Association. "There, I learned for the first time that even a blind person can play chess. Chess is the only game in which a blind person can compete with a sighted on equal footing, and this is what attracted me to the game," he says. He won the first district-level tournament, an Under-14 Baroda Open tournament in 2005, defeating sighted opponents.
The main difference in blind chess is that the moves are announced out aloud ('E4, A6'). The board is a bit different too. The black squares are raised by 2 mm. Every piece has a tiny spoke under it that fits into holes in each square. The black pieces are different from the white pieces with a dot on the top so that players can touch and recognise. "All the notes are written in Braille. In normal chess, I use a regular board but it is difficult for me to take notations. In blind chess, we can record on Braille score sheets or voice recorders," says Gangolli.