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The Sanskrit teacher keeping the family's chess flag flying for more than 25 years

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The Sanskrit teacher keeping the family's chess flag flying for more than 25 years

<br>The tournament is held in memory of her grandfather Dharma Kesari Solar K.S. Subramaniya Iyer, termed by the city’s older chess players as the "Father of Madras Chess".

If Madras, which is now Chennai, is the cradle of Indian chess, a good amount of the credit should go to the Solar House or Solar Chess Club that was located on the South Mada Street in the Mylapore locality.

It was from the Solar Chess Club or Solar House that many chess players emerged in the 1970s who later strengthened the foundation for the game’s growth in the city with the formation of Mikhail Tal Chess Club.

Musing about the challenges she faced over the past 28 years in holding the chess tournament, Ramani said during the eighth edition of the tournament, Tamil Nadu Chess Association officials had tried to put a spanner in the event by threatening banning the young boys and girls participating in the event.

"The officials threatened us saying that the tournament is unauthorised, though there was no legal ban on anyone from holding a chess tournament," Ramani said.

"The association even pasted notice on the compound wall of the Padma Seshadri School to the effect that the tournament is unauthorised. We approached the courts and got a caveat order and conducted the tournament," International Chess Arbiter V.Kameswaran told Ajit Weekly News.

Interestingly Kameswaran was the chess arbiter for all the chess tournaments held by the Solar Chess Club.

"After that, the association officials didn’t threaten or trouble us," Ramani said.

The All India Chess Federation (AICF) and its various state affiliates used to ban chess players who had played in tournaments organised by others who did not pay the recognition fee to them.

The AICF also got the International Chess Federation or FIDE to revoke the hard earned Elo rating of such players.

But who was this Iyer, termed the Father of Madras Chess?

Born in Madurai, Iyer took to business at a very young age owing to the family’s economic conditions. Later, he came to Madras and prospered in a paper business and diversified into printing.

The Solar House and the printing press owned by Iyer were the hub of chess activity in the bygone era.

Iyer learnt chess when he was in late twenties and got very much interested in that. He was also a good footballer and had joined the city police force and later quit as he was asked to cut his tuft.

"His printing press had space and people used to play chess there. I too saw some people playing chess and joined them. Thus began my long association with Solar House and the Solar Chess Club. Later the playing venue shifted to his house that was nearby," Kameswaran mused.

At times, the players drew the squares on the floor and played.

Soon notable players of the 1960s and 1970s started emerging from the Solar House like A.Sundaram, Ravikumar, R.Vijayaraghavan, R.Raghunathan, Kameswaran and others.

Interestingly two chess champions too emerged out of Iyer’s family – Ramesh, a national junior champion and Suresh, a national level player.

A philanthropist, Iyer helped several poor girls get married and others which got him the honorific Dharma Kesari.

Iyer passed away in 1985 and his house later became a residential apartment from where his granddaughter continues to keep the chess flag flying.

Ramani said Iyer’s grandsons are doing well in life and with their contribution, she is able to hold the chess tournaments all these years.

She said that for a couple years TCS contributed a good sum and there are a couple of individuals like P.B. Ramanujam, P.B. Balaji, Mrs and Mr Gopalan who have been donating money for the tournaments.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be reached at [email protected])

–Ajit Weekly News<br>vj/vd


News Credits – I A N S

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