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Rook and Roll - A Simul with IM Rakesh Kulkarni

by Merwyn D'souza - 26/04/2023

Bangalore Chess Club is an all-inclusive chess community with an aim to increase engagement and reach, giving people a platform to play OTB Chess. Last year, they organized a Simul by Karnataka's first and India's 50th Grandmaster, Thej Kumar. On Saturday 8th April, a day before the start of the FIDE World Championship 2023, BCC organized their simul event at Garuda Mall in Bangalore. A total of 20 players were eligible to play against IM Rakesh Kulkarni. All of them qualified in four different methods. Two players - Gurudeep Mathad and Nazeef Khan managed to beat the IM, while Vrajesh, Samaksh Ashok and Rahil Shah managed to draw with him. The IM won the Simul by 16.5-3.5. Check out the details of the entire event written by a chess enthusiast, Merwyn D'souza. Photo: Ashwin Subramanian

What does one do when you achieve something commendable? Do you rest on your laurels and revel in your glory? Well if your answers is yes, you are not Bangalore Chess Club.


After having completed a public simul with Karnataka’s first Grandmaster, GM Thej Kumar in 2022, we were back at it again, just bigger and better!


This year, on the 8th of April, we invited the very well known, IM Rakesh Kulkarni, a respected name in Indian chess and also the director of Chesscom India. Not only was it a public simul right in the heart of one of the most popular malls of Bangalore, this event was also a celebration of chess with the World Chess Championship starting just a day later.


Tarun Mittal has been running BCC and was quite excited about putting this event together. “We have been wanting to do a public exhibition of chess to reach out to as wide an audience as possible and show them how exciting it can be. We have tried “Chess Hustling” where we offered strangers ₹100 for defeating us. However, we wanted to take it up a notch higher!”

Playing Chess with Strangers | Video: Bangalore Chess Club

“We Rook and Rolled! The event attracted 500+ people who participated in our quiz, played some fun games of chess, solved puzzles and won Bangalore Chess Club swag. All of this built up to 20 players who got to play the simul and be the center of attention!”

Aerial view of the event | Photo: Ashwin Subramanian

There were four ways to qualify for the simul:

1. Chess Connect (Our Regular OTB Meetups)

2. Chesscom Online Qualifier

3. Online Lucky Draw

4. On-The-Spot Lucky Draw

The final game of Offline Qualifier | Video: Bangalore Chess Club

On spot Lucky Draw | Photo: Ashwin Subramanian

The average strength of simul was upwards of 1600 (Chesscom Rapid) and there were opponents from ages 6 to 43 with a vast variety of experience and playing style. While we did not try to skew towards a younger field, the youngsters at BCC jumped at the opportunity.


“Playing an IM is an exhilarating experience, especially when my opponent is a well known chess influencer.” said Shaun Pinto, a 15 year old student.


One of our youngest participants was little 9-year-old Samaksh Ashok. He tells us how he prepared for the simul, “Playing against an IM in a simul chess event can be a nerve-wracking experience. However, I approached the game with confidence, making sure to avoid all distractions for the two-hour duration. I even refrained from taking a break to relieve myself to ensure that I remained fully focused on the board. To keep my energy levels up, I snacked on dry fruits throughout the game and kept myself hydrated by drinking plenty of water.”


The excitement was not just one-sided. IM Rakesh was also caught in the excitement! He shared, “It was so cool to see that it does not take big cash prizes to get players excited. It shows their love and passion for the game!”.


Commenting on the strength of the field, IM Rakesh said, “There were some players up to 2000 on Chesscom but even the kids and the lucky draw winners were strong. I was not expecting it to be so difficult. It was quite a challenge!”


As the games went along, IM Rakesh settled down and found his way through the boards. “After about 15-20 minutes, I thought I would score about 15 out of 20.”


The players were also enjoying the rollercoaster games. 18 year old Rahil Shah, who was one of our lucky draw winners to play the simul, recalls, “The game was wild as we castled on opposite sides. I sacrificed a piece, but Rakesh sir kept his cool and soon started an attack of his own. I was in control for the majority of the game, but he used his experience and managed to draw the game.”


Our little champ Samaksh gave us a summary of his game, “I understood the importance of keeping my tension level low to avoid impacting my game. I played fearlessly, disregarding my opponent's title, and focusing solely on the board. The game began with me playing the Scandinavian defense mainline. The position was closed, and my opponent had a dark squared bishop while I had a knight and my pawns on light squares. The position was equal, and the IM offered a draw, which I accepted.”


As the games came to a close after more than two hours, IM Rakesh was happy with his performance, “Scoring 16.5 out of 20 against such a top quality field was nice. Tarun told me that this was a slightly stronger field than the one faced by GM Thej Kumar in his BCC simul, so I am happy with my score.”


Sharing his experience of playing in a public setting like Garuda Mall, Rakesh said, “I have played plenty of simuls before but nothing in public like this. The crowd and the atmosphere at Garuda Mall was great. I had some family there to watch me play which made the feeling special.


Gurudeep Mathad and Nazeef Khan were the two strong players who defeated IM Rakesh. While Vrajesh, Samaksh and Rahil secured a draw against him. All the participants got a certificate for their result and there was a photo session towards the end of the event.


Speaking about the organization of the event, 19-year-old simul participant Rakshita Jain said “The event went quite smoothly. The cheerful energy created in the space was unbeatable. The organizing team made the environment engaging for the audience. Participants were guided without any hindrance.”


Chidambar Navalgund, Content Manager at our partner Chesskid shared his thoughts about the event, "It was fantastic! Happy to see that the love for the game is on!"


We tied up with Chesskid-India, Stonkraft as our main partners, Garuda Mall as Event Partners and Mello as an event partner to make this happen.


And our steadfast sponsor Chesscom was represented at the event by none other than IM Rakesh himself! He shares his thoughts about the partnership with BCC, “Hats off to the BCC team for their attention to detail. From the social media posting to the registration, down to the simul itself, everything was bang on! I would not hesitate to come and do this again.” “It has been a year of working with BCC and we are happy to support chess clubs in the country who are doing such a good job of building an offline community. BCC brings together more than a hundred chess lovers and enthusiasts to play on the weekend and that is absolutely amazing. Kudos to BCC, Tarun and his team. We are very, very happy with the Chesscom - Bangalore Chess Club partnership.”


Huge thanks to all our partners and supporters. Our team strives to share the love of chess with the masses. See you at our next event!

Simul in progress

Final game of the Simul: Rakesh is an exchange down and decided to play on clock taking 1'+2" with opponent having 3'+2"

BCC Team, Rakesh, Chidambar and some players


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About the Author

Merwyn D'souza is a chess enthusiast who picked up the game during the lockdown and can't put it away now. When he is not sneaking away from work as a Learning Designer, to play blitz online, he is listening to audiobooks and writing articles for Bangalore Chess Club.

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