The people of Marottichal, a sleepy little village in thestate of Kerala in southern India, have a ratherunusual passion for chess. Believe it or not, they'reall chess enthusiasts. Their love for the game is suchthat even when they're not playing, they're talkingstrategy all the time.
But villagers weren't always interested in thecheckered board game. Back in the '60s and '70s, their passions lay elsewhere – mainly in thelocal liquor that they made for a living.
Many of the residents were addicted to the cheap brew, with disastrous consequences for thewhole community. Things got so bad at one point that a few villagers actually requestedgovernment authorities to raid the village and get rid of some of their liquor stock.
But things began to change when one villager – a 10th grade student named C. Unnikrishnan –decided that he wanted to learn chess. Inspired by a news report about American legendBobby Fischer, Unnikrishnan traveled to a nearby village to attend classes and learn the gamehimself. And once he got the hang of it, he made it his mission to get everyone in the villagehooked.
So he started giving free chess lessons at his house to anyone who was willing to learn, andto his delight, the chess bug spread through Marottichal like wildfire. Not only did they graspthe nuances of the game, they also developed a deep passion for it.
As Unnikrishnan puts it: "Chess is my passion. Once I start playing, I forget everything."