Chess is one game that has a long history, along with its associated variations, one of which led to the disrobing of Draupadi and the Mahabharata war. In the 11th century, Omar Khayyam wrote: ” ‘Tis all a Chequreboard of Nights and Days/ Where Destiny with Men for pieces plays/ Hither and thither mates and slays/ Then one by one back in the Closet lays”. Life in itself, it seems, is a chessboard.

Emperor Akbar played with his queen at Fatehpur Sikri with maids of honour as chess-pieces. In the famous film Shatranj-ke-Khilari, Mirza Sahib and Mir Sahib played out their fatal rivalry while Lucknow was being bombarded by the British during the “Mutiny” of 1857. Chess still continues to fire the imagination of countless people, who take inspiration from such masters as Bobby Fischer.

Mayapuri’s Anil Ahuja is one chess enthusiast, who devotes most of his evenings to chess. He plays with the colony residents ~ both young and old, like the septuagenarian Hindi litterateur “Dinkar”, in front of his shop. Now Anil has helped to set up a school in Harinagar, where, on three or four days in a week, those interested in chess are taught to play the game for a monthly fee.

There are many good chess players in the Walled City too, who have mastered the game and spend long hours over it. There are chess clubs there also despite an injunction, or fatwa, by the Ulema that chess is un-Islamic, but the school in Harinagar is a novelty since busy West Delhiites generally don’t have the time to play chess, which requires great concentration for hours, where the Bishop or King mates and slays, and the Queen does the same ~ literally in case of a Thakur, who was found dead with prized piece stuck in his throat at Mehrauli in mid-19th century ~ a bizarre tale of a weird alliance with a “ghost rani”. Raunchy Anil Ahuja, incidentally, has no such liaison, though there’s a “haunted” park behind his flat alright.