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Can Soundarya and Aryan bring home medals at the World Juniors for the Blind?

by Sagar Shah - 20/08/2018

The World Women's Championship and the World Juniors for the blind is taking place from the 14th to the 23rd of August 2018 in Solec Zdroj, Poland. Two Indians Soundarya Kumar Pradhan and Aryan Joshi are representing the country at the World Juniors. After five rounds they both are on 3.5/5 in the 4th and 5th positions. Both of them have good chances to win a medal for our country. In this report you will find not only information about the Indian participants, but get an insight into the world of blind chess and also about the women's world championship. This report comes from Poland from Sagar Shah with photos by Amruta Mokal. Both of them are present at the venue as the coaches of the Indian team. 

The World Women's Championship and the World Junior Championship for the blind and visually impaired are being held from the 14th to the 23th of August 2018 in Solec Zdroj, Poland. India was going to send three participants for the championship - Vaishali Salavkar for the Women's event and Soundarya Pradhan and Aryan Joshi for the Juniors section. At the last moment Vaishali had to cancel due to the lack of funds. Soundarya and Aryan, who are two of India's finest visually challenged players proceeded to represent the country in the juniors section. The team was joined by author of these lines and Amruta Mokal as the coaches of the team.

Aryan Joshi, Soundarya Pradhan and Sagar Shah with Soundarya's uncle Kesha Ranjan Pradhan (who is an internationally rated player) and Aryan's father Balachandra Joshi at the Mumbai airport 

Check in, security check and immigration done successfully!

When we think of blind players we think of people with limited or no eyesight. But what we are unable to fathom is the repercussions of this disability towards the various facets of life. Check this behind the scenes video to see how Soundarya who is 100% visually challenged makes use of his mobile phone:

As Soundarya says, "This is one of the upsides of being blind!"

We travelled by Swiss Air from Mumbai to Zurich to Krakow

We had a six hour lay over at the Zurich airport and we didn't miss the opportunity to do some training! The position was taken from Dvoretsky's book "Recognizing Opponent's Resources" and it was great fun to work with both of them on those positions.

Soundarya made good use of his time on the flight by following the games of the Abu Dhabi Masters on Follow Chess App. A big shout out to Asim Pereira and his team that has made Follow Chess App accessible for the blind with the Talkback feature. Asim also sponsored premium membership to both Aryan and Soundarya so that they can prepare better for their event. All those who are not aware of Follow Chess App can check out the video with the creator over here.

A two hour car journey from Krakow to Solec Zdroj took us to our hotel Malinowy Raj. The hotel is well known for its Sulphide pools. But more about the hotel later!

It was 24 hours of travel, but we were not complaining!

The World Junior Championships has brought together eighteen of the top blind players of the world from nine countries to fight it out against each other in a nine-round Swiss League format. The top seed of the event is Adam Czajkowski from Poland (2232). With 18 participants and 9 rounds, there was a high chance that Aryan and Soundarya would be pitted against each other. But we didn't expect that it would happen as soon as round two.

The battle between the two Indians on Independence Day of India!

Both of Aryan and Soundarya won their first round on 14th of August 2018 and were paired against each other on the Independence Day. Two Indians 6000 kms away from home, two Indians staying with each other in a room, two Indians who are excellent friends of each other! The easy way out was to accept a draw, be on 1.5/2 and then try to fight in the remaining 7 rounds. But both Aryan and Soundarya consciously decided that they should fight over the board. They shouldn't succumb to the attraction of an easy result. Yes, it was difficult to prepare against each other in the room, it was difficult to have this sort of competitive feel in mind when both wanted each other to do well. But they withstood it.

When it was 3 p.m. Aryan held Soundarya's hand and they both went together to the tournament hall.

How often do you see two opponents holding each others hand and coming to the playing hall

And then the battle began!

They sat down, shook hands and fought as hard as they could. Soundarya sacrificed an exchange and tried his best to mate Aryan's king. Aryan defended calmly and refuted the attack and won the game. As soon as the game ended, they were back as being friends. Aryan held Soundarya's hand and they both came back together to the room.

At the dinner table there were jokes, fun and frolic!

Soundarya and Aryan two visually challenged Indian players showed the perfect balance of Independence and Dependence. They knew that off the board they are both dependent on each other, but on the board they were the masters of their own future! Completely independent! That's what independence is all about. Making the right choice when you have to be dependent and when you would like to have your freedom!

Mirko Eichstaedt, top German Junior, is leading the tournament with 4.5/5 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Mirko Eichstaedt is a strong positional player. He is been able to keep control and at the same time create chances for himself. Here is his fifth round win over the talented Russian youngster Ermakov, where the German is seen converting a small edge into a full point with calm and controlled play.

The surprise of the event has been Stefan Mitrovic from Serbia, who started as the 7th seed, but has scored 4.0/5 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Aryan Joshi vs Stefan Mitrovic

White has just played his king to h2. How should Black finish off the game?

Top seed and favourite to win this event, Polish Adam Czajkowski has had a slow beginning and with three draws is on 3.5/5 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Indian lad Aryan Joshi is on 3.5/5 and is already gaining 40+ Elo points | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Soundarya did lose to Aryan in the second round, but later made up for the lost ground by winning two games and is also on 3.5/5 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Standings after round 5:

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4  TB5 
12CMEICHSTAEDT MirkoGER21904,513,015,040,03
27MITROVIC StefanSRB16594,012,514,540,01
31CZAJKOWSKI AdamPOL22323,514,517,020,01
48ARYAN B JoshiIND16233,513,514,530,02
53SOUNDARYA Kumar PradhanIND18083,513,015,030,01
69ERMAKOV MaksimRUS15833,013,013,030,01
712STASKEVICIUTE DarijaLTU14793,010,511,530,02
810GARANIN DanilRUS15653,09,010,030,02
913JOHANSSON William 2007SWE14482,513,515,520,01
106DIAZ DE LA GUIA LuisESP17182,512,013,020,02

Women's World Championship:

The Women's Championship has a clear favourite Lisenko Lubov Zsiltzova | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Zisltzova is a legend in women's visually impaired chess. Just have a look at her achievements. She won her first world champion title in Szczyrk in 1989 , then defended it four times in 1993, 1997, 2001 and 2005. She lost the title only in 2009, occupying the third place (behind Daria Pustowarzowa and Anna Stolarczyk ) in the championships played in Wągrowiec.


Between 1994 and 2008, she appeared six times in the team of the IBCA at chess Olympiads, each time on the first chessboard. She has two gold medals for individual results, which she won in 1994 (score 10½ points out of 13 lots) and 2006 (score 9 points out of 10 lots). She has successfully competed with men, being the main player of the Ukrainian national team.


The highest ranking in her career so far has been Elo of 2296 that she reached in September 1, 2009 which placed her 14th among Ukrainian women players!

On number two spot is Tersa Debowska, who is on 4.0/5 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Olga Chernichenko is also on 4.0/5. She always has the support of her husband, who is sitting besides her for any of her needs including water, going to the washroom and writing the scoresheet. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

It is for the first time in the history of IBCA that Indonesia has sent a contingent of players to any of their world events. And these girls have not just come for participation! They are playing really well.

Tati Karhati from Indonesia is in the fifth spot | Photo: Amruta Mokal

This is what the players are fighting for. The organizers have also made the announcement that the first place will receive 150 euros, second place 100, and third 50, in both Juniors and Women Championships

Standings after round 5:

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtg TB1  TB2  TB3 
11WIMZsiltzova-Lisenko LubovUKR22074,512,54
25FMDebowska TeresaPOL17604,012,53
33Chernichenko OlgaUKR19124,012,03
42WCMStolarczyk AnnaPOL19873,514,03
521Karhati TatiINA03,511,53
619Brahmana Aisah Wijayanti PutriINA03,511,03
718Ariesta DebiINA03,014,02
89Karsokaite IrenaLTU15413,012,53
910Benkunskiene VioletaLTU15343,011,51
106WCMValner ShafigaRUS16903,010,02

The city of Solec Zdroj and Hotel Malinowy Raj

Solec-Zdrój is an administrative district in south-central Poland. The district covers an area of 84.9 square kilometres (32.8 sq mi), and as of 2006 its total population was 4,987. With such a low population you could hardly see people on the street! I walked a bit through the town and the natural beauty was quite enchanting.

Quiet roads and place! A pleasure to walk through the city!

Small shops that were nicely decorated

Hardly any cars to be seen!

I visited the cemetery and somehow found it very relaxing. It gives you a feeling that life is transient, and just like others, yours too will come to an end some day. So enjoy, while it lasts!

This market has everything that you need, right from ice creams to vegetables to toothpaste!

The greenery is just enchanting

The Hotel Malinowy Raj is one of the best in the region. And it is a great honour for the players that the tournament is being organized here.

It has a swimming pool with a jacuzzi, different water slides, and water massaging therapies. It is a bliss for people who love water. There is also a Sulphide pool. The Hotel claims that they have the best and most powerful Sulphide pools, not just in Poland but all over the world!

None of this would have happened if not for the Cross organization that has teamed up with IBCA to hold this event

Spychala Josefa is the President of the Cross association | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The players are provided with excellent food during breakfasts, lunch and dinner...

...and there are refreshments during the game as well

Amruta Mokal's five favourite pictures:

Amruta Mokal is one of the finest photographers in the world of chess. She has taken many nice pictures. But here we share five of her favourite ones:

What you cannot see, you can feel! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The traditional Braille method to write the scoresheet | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Their vision is blurred, but on the chess board, their thoughts are crystal clear | Photo: Amruta Mokal

A blind player's chess table | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Capturing a piece! Look at the little pin underneath the pawn. It helps to fix the pawn on the square. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Videos from Solec Zdroj:

Soundarya Pradhan's minority attack
Aryan Joshi's rook endgame against Adam Czajkowski. Aryan nearly won as his opponent's time came all the way down to 1 second!
Feel the environment of the event

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