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India's best visually challenged player Kishan Gangolli about to quit chess

by Nandakumar Marar - 19/02/2018

Kishan Gangolli is 75% visually challenged. But it has not stopped him from pursuing his passion - the game of chess. He is the five-time national blind champion, current Asian champion and two-time Olympiad medal winner. He is, perhaps, the greatest blind chess player that India has ever produced. The 25-year-old has always given the priority to chess over education. But, he has never received any recognition, sponsorship or support. Very reluctantly he has made a decision to quit chess and study for IAS. Can we save our star player? 

This article was originally published in "The Hindu"


Life is more about black pieces than white for Karnataka’s Kishan Gangolli, the National chess champion for the visually challenged. Born with 75% visual damage, circumstances are forcing the player to make a difficult decision — whether to walk away from the sport, and return to studies for a regular job, or continue with the passion for knights and rooks without expecting recognition.

Five-time National Blind Champion from 2014-18

Champions with disability in other sports, like para Olympians, get awards for exceptional achievement. Winning titles for India, including the 2017 Asian chess championship (Manipal), medals at the chess Olympiad (individual gold in 2012 at Chennai and bronze in 2017 Macedonia) are getting him nowhere towards making a living off the game. Gangolli, who started playing professionally at 19, was sixth on debut at the World Juniors 2011 (Greece). Earlier in his career, the MA (Economics) graduate from Kuvempu University in Karnataka, securing the second rank, had skipped exams to compete in competitions and remain in National reckoning. “I am a four-time National ‘A’ champion (after the interview he won his fifth title in a few days) and the current Asian champion. What use are these titles and medals if there is no scope, no rewards or recognition?” said the 25-year-old.

The heart-wrenching story of Kishan Gangolli

Gangolli listened to lectures, read books with special software and took a writer’s help during examinations. “I skipped the final semester exam for graduation earlier when dates clashed with World team chess as I was trying to win medals and make India proud. Motivation is dipping in the absence of awards or job offers. “Being from a middle-class family, I cannot afford to play more events with no chess income. Taking a break from sport will help prepare for the UPSC exam. I wish to try for the IAS,” said Gangolli.Credited with a FIDE rating of 1996 (standard), 2042 (rapid) and 2006 (blitz), the Shimoga scholar has represented Karnataka at the National School Games. “I was the team captain for my State and won many rapid chess events beating sighted players.

75% blindness hasn't stopped Kishan from beating many strong sighted players in a game of chess!

Chess helped me to develop memory and visualisation. I play in events with sighted players whenever I can arrange funds. The prize money barely covers my expenses. My mother’s support has taken me this far. She is a beautician. It is time I start taking care of her,” said Gangolli. “UPSC study and chess at same time is tough. The next Olympiad is four years away. For now, a return to studies may get me a job, before it is too late.”

Watch the entire interview:

This interview with IM Sagar Shah gives you an insight into the life of one of India's greatest blind chess player till date

Kishan needs sponsorship or employment as a sports player. If you can support him, kindly contact him on his mail id:

About the author:

Nandakumar Marar (left) with ChessBase India's junior author Avathanshu Bhat. Nandakumar is the senior assistant editor at the Hindu.