Jaipur, Apr 8 (PTI) A 64-square chequered board changed the life of several children living in urban slums of two districts in Rajasthan after they were introduced to the game of king, queen and pawns.

Deepak Sevta, a 14-year-old minor living in an urban slum of Hanumangarh district, is one such prodigy among the hundreds of children living such slums, whose life transformed after they hooked to the mental sport on an 8×8 chessboard.

“Chess has changed my life. I feel more patient and focused in studies and my result (has) improved significantly. I started playing in 2014 and, since then, I have been a consistent player,” said Sevta, whose father works at a saw machine in Hanumangarh, around 400km from Jaipur.

Suraj Indora and Bajrang are two other children, who have started utilising their free time in playing chess, than being part of any wrong company.

“I secured 58 per cent in Class IX and then 64 per cent in Class X… I am expecting 70 per cent in 11th exams. Chess has played a role in improving my concentration in studies,” Indora said, who has played over a dozen district-level, two state-level and one national tournament.

In 2013, P C Kishan, the director of elementary education, took the initiative while being the district collector in Hanumangarh and Sri Ganganagar. The district administration launched a campaign to ensure that children living in slums get access to education and overcome bad habits.

Kishan said they had opened libraries to inculcate reading habits, but the initial response was dull. Thereafter, they introduced the children to the chess board.

“The initiative raised curiosity among students. Children started coming to learn chess from experts we had. We saw a change in their outlook in life, as well as education. These students have participated in various levels of tournaments,” he said.

To instill sporting spirit in the children, Bhatner Shatranj Vikas Samiti in Hanumangarh encouraged students in understanding the game and started organising chess competitions at various levels.

“Nearly 5,000 children learnt playing chess and about 300 are experts now. They play tournaments under various age-groups at district, state and national level organised by the Samiti. These students outperform rated chess players of other states, said Kusumakshi Sokhal, the samiti president.

Unfortunately, the Rajasthan Chess Association have remained suspended for the last 15 years due to alleged irregularities. Chess tournaments are mainly organised by chess associations, managed by non-profit organisations and bodies managed by a few enthusiastic parents.

“National federation had suspended Rajasthan Chess Association 15 years ago. We have been fighting for it since long. After long years of wait, we started organising chess tournaments of state and national level for chess prodigies,” said Ajay Ajmera, the president of the Rajputana Chess Association.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.