Marottichal: He makes everyone feel at home on the 64 squares. C Unnikrishnan, affectionately known as Unnimaman, taught the villagers of Marottichal in Thrissur district to make the right moves on the chequered board. And now, Unnikrishnan and his chess village are hogging the headlines worldwide.
Many chess aficionados from across the globe are reaching this sleepy village tucked away in the hills to meet this chess master. His fame has spread far and wide and the Solomon Islands, a country near to Australia in South Pacific, has even released stamps honouring Unnikrishnan and the Marottichal chess village. A chess championship that was conducted here, in which 1,500 players vied for honours, is an Asian record for the biggest tournament. International broadcasters such as CNN and BBC also documented his achievements resulting in many chess lovers from European countries visiting the village. To date, nearly 300 foreigners had dropped in to meet Unnikrishnan.
As many as 4,000 people of 1,400 families spread across 3 wards at Puthur panchayat in Marottichal know how to play chess, and the chess learning center is Unnikrishnan’s tea stall. He has also built a small shack, which can accommodate 30 people, near his home for the chess players to hone their skills.
Unnikrishnan got hooked into chess at the age of 15 after hearing the exploits of American chess legend Bobby Fischer over radio. Unnikrishnan learnt the basics of chess at Thalori, which was 25 kms away from his home. He taught his friends the nuances of chess and started playing with them after making chess boards out of wooden planks. Later, he formed a friends’ club and started training more people and organized many chess championships. He also trained students of the nearby schools.
In a bid to enter the record books, training was given to many people at their homes under the aegis of the club. Around 750 tables were arranged to a distance of 1.5kms to conduct the tournament. Unnikrishnan is now eyeing to make Marottichal village the first hamlet in the world to be fully chess literate, for which he needs Rs 20 lakh, and enter the Guinness Book of World Records. Unnikrishnan and the residents of Marottichal village are making the right moves to earn that achievement.