The Chess Village

We often hear chess has benefits like development of cognitive skills, increased concentration and patience, etc but how often do we hear that chess helps in reducing addiction?

The Chess Village is proof.

In 1970s, around 50 years back, Marottichal, a secluded village in the Southern Indian state of Kerala, everyone was hooked on alcohol and illegal gambling. So much so that it even led to physical abuse and domestic violence. Many realized the repercussions but no one knew how to get rid of it. The locals asked the excise officials for help to prevent illegal brewing by raiding the village. They started Madhya Nirodhana Samiti to eradicate illicit liquor brewing, that was crushing many families. The agitation was a success only because the women of the village participated actively. They secretly told about their men indulging in the trade and the Samiti would call the excise officials to make a raid on them. It reduced the illegal brewing, however it was of little help in preventing addiction as people didn’t know how to cope with it.

Mr.Unnikrishnan a restaurant owner, decided to help them in coping with addiction. He knew the game and was inspired by Bobby Fischer. He decided to introduce the black and white board game to the people. He taught them the rules of the game and soon people started to enjoy the game and realized it’s resemblance with life. Mr.Unnikrishnan believes, “On a chess board you are fighting, as we are also fighting the hardships in our daily life. Chess helps us overcome difficulties and sufferings.”

The game spread like a wildfire and soon everyone in the village started playing the game. They realized that when they played chess they wouldn’t think about alcohol at all. All they focused about was the game. Their mind was engaged with chess thoughts and calculations. As a result they soon reduced drinking. After all playing chess required a stable mind and to win the game they had to stop drinking.

After learning about the love and passion for chess among the villagers, Viswananthan Anand himself congratulated them. The village is visited by people from all over the world to learn chess and holds an Asian record for 1000 people playing chess simultaneously.

The people love the game so much that it has become a way of their life. Now the people are addicted, but to chess. A population of 6000, and almost everyone plays chess. Be it an eight year old or eighty. At least one person in every household knows the game, no wonder its called the chess village.

This story tells us about how chess can help to break the shackles of alcohol and how it’s benefits are not limited to just cognitive skills. With teenagers taking up alcohol habit and turning into addictions, chess could be a way to prevent that. Chess is kind of addictive, when you play it, you forget about other things, one of the prime reasons why playing it helps with concentration. Often, when the focus of an addiction is removed, the addict simply replaces the object his devotion with another. It could be used efficiently to change an unhealthy addiction into a healthy one.

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