Praful Zaveri, founder of Indian Chess School and author of the breakout hit, The Chess Course, is one of the finest chess coaches we have in our country right now. He has over 25 years of chess coaching experience and has played an integral part in the growth of chess in our country.
In addition to chess coaching, he is also the author of “The Chess Course”. The chess book has now sold 100,000+ copies, making it one of the highest-selling chess books ever.
Praful is also a fan of Chesslang and uses the coaching management platform to enhance his chess coaching academy with the latest technological tools. The Chesslang team recently found the opportunity to chat with him, and we talked about chess, Chesslang, and everything in between.
Here is the interview with Praful Zaveri.
I would begin this interview with your chess origin story. So, how did you discover chess, and what are some of your earliest chess-playing memories?
So it is a fascinating story. When we were kids, like every Indian, we were all obsessed with cricket, and we used to play cricket every day and then in the evening (after the games), we would gather around a house near the cricket ground. We would just while away the time, doing nothing in particular.
And it was at that time when one older person took note of us and introduced us to this game. I remember that he said, “all of you just don’t waste your time like this! Instead, I will introduce you to something very unique”. And then he gave us the chessboard, so that was our first tryst with chess.
After that, chess became a routine for us. After the usual hour for cricket, it was all chess! Sometimes the games continued even beyond midnight! And it just clicked, suddenly my friends and I fell in love with the game.
How different was the level of popularity of chess from when you were growing up to now?
Yeah, indeed, it has been a vast, massive boom in chess in the recent past. Anand was the first person to make an enormous revolution in chess. Whatever support and popularity chess has reached in India today can be attributed to his stunning successes and incredible domination of the chess world (by first winning the world junior championship and then the world championship) over the more significant part of two decades now. So, it triggered a mass revolution of the sort in the chess scene.
Additionally, initially, when we used to play, the number of chess enthusiasts was minimal. But now, with the advancement of technology and the massive boom in popularity, we can finally say that chess is a mass game now! We had some difficulties finding the right resources and guidance to improve at that time.
And one last thing that I would like to add here is that we Indians are promoting mind games like chess, and that is also one of the reasons why so many new people are starting their chess journey each day.
So you said that you played a lot of chess games when you were a kid. Growing up in the chess scene, did you have any idols of top players that you admired or whose games you tried to emulate?
No, you know we were very raw at that time, and only much later, when I played for regional level tournaments, I was introduced to Pravin Thipsay (Mumbai’s only grandmaster). He became an icon and idol for all of us.
There is one small anecdote here that I would like to add. We found our first significant supporter in the form of Zandu pharmaceuticals. The company had a canteen for their factory workers, and after the factory shut down at around 5 530 each day, Zandu allowed us to play chess tournaments inside the canteen.
The games would often run late into the night, and they had to force us to end the games constantly! But that was our first contact with chess tournaments, and it introduced us to the competitive element of the game.
You have been teaching chess for more than 25 years now. You have helped, so many bright young chess players get stronger at the game with proper training, but did you have any teachers or mentors growing up?
No, you know, at that time, there was no such thing as coaching, and hence we had to rely on books, and most of us were self-made chess players.
Talking about books, do you remember some of the books that played a critical role in helping you improve your understanding of the game?
Yeah, I remember winning my first chess tournament around 1981-82, and at that time, they awarded me the book my 60 memorable games by Bobby Fischer. That was possibly one of the earliest chess books that I have read, and I still have that book, and I can still say that it is one of the best chess books I have ever read.
Let’s talk a bit about your academy, Indian Chess School. Could you please share the inspiration behind starting a chess academy?
Okay, so as I said, we used to play at the Zandu canteen, and it also started serving as the office of Bombay Chess Association. One of the secretaries of the Chess Association first suggested that we should start a proper chess coaching academy to help the new players with the right approach toward the game. He suggested that we join in as trainers and start coaching with all the knowledge and experience we have gathered thus far. Of course, at that time, we did not have any prior experience in chess coaching, but we all loved the game, and we wanted it to grow, so we just decided to start it. We started it from a relatively small scale, and as it started gaining momentum, I fell in love with training and the teaching process.
Do you think chess should be made compulsory at every school, at least at elementary levels?
Definitely, and you can also see that in the countries that have incorporated chess in their schools like Armenia and Russia, you can see that these nations are doing well in chess. And I think that there would be an enormously beneficial impact on elementary and primary level education once chess is made compulsory in schools. All India Chess Federation is also trying to put chess in schools, and they have developed an excellent program for the same. This initiative will create a significant change in the Indian chess scene. And it will grow by leaps and bounds.
Okay, so here is one that I really want to ask! Do you have any particular chess coaching philosophy or approach?
Well talking about the chess coaching approach, I believe that you need a syllabus to train effectively. In my academy, we use our book as the primary coaching material. And even when we are using Chesslang and coaching our students via the online platform, we still implement the hybrid model of training where my students solve the problems on the physical copies of my book.
Then we discuss the issues during our online coaching sessions, and I feel like that philosophy and idea have made a big difference. So if I had to sum it up, my main book, “The Chess Course,” is what we call the parent book, and we also have six supplementary workbooks that cover all significant aspects of the game.
Continuing with the theme of chess academies, how did you first hear about Chesslang?
We had one student, Priyadarshan Banjan, and he introduced me to Chesslang in 2017, but at that time, Indian Chess School was more focused on offline training, so at that time, I did not show much interest in this. But when the pandemic hit, and we had lockdowns and all, I figured that we should put greater emphasis on this virtual platform.
That is how I came into contact with Arun and Raghu, and they immediately showed me the demo. And noting how this had the potential to be the perfect platform for training made me instantly fall in love with Chesslang! The pandemic made us realize that the students should have access to online and offline resources, and Chesslang was created at just the right moment.
And slowly, we also witnessed the evolution of the platform. They added the super helpful tournaments, simul, and online assignments. Today the platform has everything that a chess coach can ask to start an academy.
Part 2 of this interview will follow shortly. Coming up: we talked about some chess coaching tips and the impact of the recent pandemic on the chess world. Make sure you follow us on our social media platforms and check our website for updates on part 2 of this interview.
As Chess continues to grow in popularity and many new players begin their chess journey each day thanks to the various online playing platforms, chess coaching has become a viable career option for many chess players. Chess coaching is a great way to earn money through chess and at the same time help the next generation of players by sharing your knowledge and experience with them.
If you are also thinking about starting your chess coaching academy, then Chesslang is the ideal platform. Chesslang is the world’s first chess coaching and management platform that rapidly enables chess academies to expand their reach thanks to a virtual platform. Our automated management tools ensure that the daily operations of your academy run smoothly, allowing you to focus on teaching chess.
You can Request Free Demo Access Now to know more about all the amazing features of Chesslang.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
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A. Chesslang is a fully decked chess coaching and management platform with a built-in video calling facility, interactive chessboard, and a centralized database that allows chess coaches to store and use thousands of games and custom chess positions.
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