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Jewels of Chess - 21st Century Edition

by Aniruddha Deshpande - 20/04/2023

It is widely believed that the number of books written in chess is more than any other sport. Some books and great literature were lost over time for various reasons. While in the era of advanced technology, restoring and translating scripts might sound easier in words, but most certainly quite difficult when it comes to execution. FM Aniruddha Deshpande decided to take the difficult challenge of translating a book written in Sanskrit language over two hundred and twenty years ago. After two years of laborious work, he finally released - Jewels of Chess - 21st Century Edition on 1st January 2023. The book 'Vilasmanimanjiri' was originally written by Pandit Trivengadacharya Shastri in 1800 CE. Photo: Aniruddha Deshpande

Translation of 220+ year book in Sanskrit language

What are the chances of you to believe that chess puzzles were created and noted down in Sanskrit language, many many years ago? And how much advanced and complex do you think these puzzles were compared to our current standards?

Jewels of Chess - 21st Century Edition - Translated and Edited by Aniruddha Deshpande | Photo: Aniruddha Deshpande

Pandit Trivengadacharya Shastri in the year 1800 CE, created this book named 'Vilasmanimanjiri'. This was done on the order of the Bajirao Peshwa II, the last Peshwa of the Maratha Empire.


At first, the only fact that a chess book was written in Sanskrit language made it look special! Most of us have agreed to the fact that chess originated in India, but we don't have any earlier known chess material or books. This book is more than two centuries old! During that time, the European influence on the world as well as the game was increasing steadily. Indian chess and European chess (current chess) were both played in India at that time. As you will know after reading this book, Indian chess was richer and more complex than current chess! Indian chess has many interesting concepts, the most exciting of which was the grading of the victories! The author was a master of both these variants of chess!


Even if we keep aside this book's historical significance, it would still be a match to the best problem-solving books that are available now. The puzzles start from ‘mate in one move’ and the difficulty keeps on increasing. When I first started solving the book, I was quite excited to see how difficult it can get. The difficulty of puzzles starts increasing steadily, mates in 10, 12, 20, 45, and the most difficult puzzle is of 82 moves! The checkmating motifs and plans are flawless and have a distinct artistic feel to it! Most puzzles would come under the term ‘studies’ used for deep and thematic puzzles. The book also contains rarely seen puzzles of ‘help-mate’ and ‘self-mate’. Overall, it is an excellent book to build your calculation abilities!

FM Aniruddha Deshpande presents his book Jewels of Chess to the fourth Grandmaster in Indian chess history - Abhijit Kunte | Photo: Aniruddha Deshpande

Many top level players from time to time have tried to create and popularize a ‘100 squares board’, with additional pieces. One of the top players to bat for it was Jose Raul Capablanca. The book which was written a century before him not only sets up all the rules of the 100 squares board and its new pieces but also puts up a puzzle on it!


Another interesting aspect about the book is the stories and facts related to the origin of chess. Origin of chess and its journey to its current form has always been an exciting topic. The book throws light on this topic too, debating on different theories and providing facts about how India is its birthplace. The book also goes through the various stages the original chess went through to reach its current form.


The brilliancy of Pandit Trivengadacharya Shastri can be seen in this book. The reader will be truly delighted to see how the author has composed these puzzles more than two centuries ago, which will still be a challenge to the best in the world!


In the year 1937, Mr Ganesh Kulkarni had translated this book in Marathi. The position printing in that time had limitations but Mr Ganesh Kulkarni came up with an interesting way to put it up. The first position which is shared in the book. I came across this book in June 2020. The high quality chess content had to be brought back in circulation. Very little information is available about the Pandit Trivengadacharya Shastri or the book on the internet as well. I tried to find every additional information about the author or the book that I could find. We visited the Bhavans Library which is in possession of the original book. Also on the internet some interesting information was discovered which is shared in the book.  And so after working on it for two years, we launched it on 1st January 2023.

Back cover of Jewels of Chess - 21st Century Edition | Photo: Aniruddha Deshpande

The book is now available in Paperback format in Amazon India.

About the Author

Aniruddha Deshpande is a FIDE Master. He is an IM-elect, currently has four IM-norms. His published peak rating is 2312. Present rating - 2281.

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