Monday, July 15, 2024

The Blind Indian Chess Prodigy: A Conversation with Darpan Inani – Chess Player

Priyal Dholakia – Enigmatic Horizon Staff (Assistant Editor)

In the world of chess, Darpan Inani is a force to be reckoned with. As one of India’s top chess masterminds, he is the living epitome of what it takes to master the inner game. His success exemplifies the fact that winning is all about vision, not visibility. Going against all odds, he has carved an unparalleled path for himself.

In this conversation that Mr Inani recently had with Enigmatic Horizon, we talk about his incredible journey, his rise to the top, and his unique take on life and the game. Join us as we unfold his inspiring story from the first square to the 64 squares of the chessboard.

EH: Hello Darpan! It is great to have you with us for an interview. Let us begin by talking about your foray into the world of chess. How did you first get interested in the sport? And what motivated you to pursue it further?

DI: I got interested in chess at the age of 13. It was not by choice, but rather by chance. I was studying at a normal school where everybody used to play outdoor sports. But I could not participate in them due to my visual impairment. So, we were looking for some games in which I could take part with other students. Then we happened to chance upon this specially designed chessboard for blind players. My father taught me the basics, and that is how I got interested in the game. Within some time, I took part in district tournaments and won prizes as well. So, that proved to be an incentive for me to pursue it further. Furthermore, chess is the only game where a blind player can compete with a sighted one on an equal footing. So, that is the peculiar thing about chess. No other sport in the world offers this opportunity to a visually impaired person.

EH: We know that you compete in open-sight chess competitions. So, are there any specific strategies you follow there?

DI: Yes, most of my tournaments—about 90% of them—are against sighted opponents. Hardly 10% of the tournaments I play are in the visual impairment field. Well, there is no special strategy I follow to compensate for my challenge. I just have to put in extra effort as far as the preparation goes. Because a sighted person can see numerous positions at a glance. They can just take in the game through their visual input. But that is not the case for me. As far as strategy goes, I simply try to prepare well and play to the best of my ability. Having said that, I keep practicing a lot to continue getting better at the game.

EH: How important is the role of technology in all this? What aids and equipment do you use that help you in your game?

DI: There is no special technology I use during the game. I have screen-reading software that reads out the chessboard for me. I mainly rely on chess software on my laptop for practice and preparation. So, that is about it. I leverage screen reading and chess software to master my game. 

EH: You are currently the highest-rated visually impaired chess player in India. Can you share some particularly memorable moments of your chess career so far?

DI: Well, what readily comes to mind is a moment from 2018 at the Creon International Open in France. I won the first prize in that tournament in my rating category. I was the only blind player there, and all the others were sighted. So, winning the first prize there at an international level was a big deal for me.

EH: Can you throw some light on your professional goals and aspirations?

DI: I would definitely like to continue playing chess as my professional goal. I aspire to become an international master in chess one day. If I am able to do so, I will be the first one to achieve that feat in Asia. Besides that, I would also like to pursue some other endeavors on the professional front. I hold a chartered accounting degree. So, I am looking to put that to good use as well. Right now, I am dealing in the equity markets, managing my investments and those of my family. In addition, I am preparing for the Reserve Bank of India exams too.

EH: What hobbies keep you hooked in your leisure time?

DI: I like reading self-help and non-fiction books. I am somehow disinclined towards reading fiction that much. Non-fiction is what captures my attention and interests me more. I also like to keep myself updated with all the current affairs and happenings in every sphere of the world, especially news relating to finance and stock markets.

EH: What advice would you give to specially-abled individuals who wish to pursue sports?

DI: If somebody wants to pursue a career in sports, I would suggest that they take it up at an early age. That is more advisable. But somehow, if one is unable to do so at a young age, balancing academics with sports is the right way to go about it. In India, I do not see much scope in sports other than cricket. But the situation is improving gradually. As far as life goes, I would like to give a piece of advice. Disability and inability are two different things. So, neither should be confused with the other. Specially-abled people only need the right kind of support. And most importantly, the right kind of mindset. With the right mindset, you can overcome any challenge that come your way. Of course, it is not easy to do so. It is a herculean task in itself. But anything that is not killing you is only making you stronger. So, that is the kind of mindset you need to have.

EH: Thank you, Darpan! We appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. Our readers are sure to gain some amazing insights from this conversation. We wish you the best for your future and hope you keep excelling.

DI: Thank you very much!

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