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Chess Coach Parag Raiji  

Chess Coach Parag Raiji - Moulding tender minds

Parag Raiji - To move or not to move...“This pawn stand isolated but still hopes to topple the queen with a do-or-die effort.” says popular chess coach Parag Raiji who has evolved a gentle and impressionable method of teaching chess to young children. Raiji has a tendency to personify the pieces and pawns on the chess board, and guises the progress of the game with a fairy tale story. His tender guidelines on chess makes an enjoyable learning experience for young children. Raiji conducts individual coaching classes for children aged 7 years and above at his residence in Vile Parle. Some of his highly acclaimed pupils include Aniruddha Khandelwal and Lolit Venkateshvallu.

56 year old Parag Raiji took to the game of chess after he witnessed the famous duel between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer way back in 1970. Raiji jocularly remarked that the tantrums of Fischer attracted him to chess at the age of 30. Born and brought up in Mumbai, Raiji completed his matriculation from Pupil Own school in Khar and majored in economics from M S University, Baroda. Raiji is a bachelor, who earns his livelihood by investing in shares. He also loves to spend time at his farmhouse in Palghar.

Being a book lover, Raiji scanned through the works of Irving Chernev and Fed Reinfield, which helped him to become a self-taught exponent of chess. He exercised his cerebral powers in the Bombay selection tournament in 1973, and 1974 when he locked horns with some of the best rated players like Vinod Solanki, Mohammed Ayub, Abhay Thipsay, and Satish Thipsay. Raiji was quite modest in his self-appraisal... “Chess has changed a lot and with the introduction of new techniques. Even today, I am essentially a learner of the game rather than a coach.”

Parag Raiji practices chess on a computerVoicing his thoughts on the game, Raiji said, “Chess is a different kind of mental exercise; it teaches us that we must not underestimate our opponent. We should make calculated moves with considerable patience and confidence to win the game.” Raiji also adds, “Indians can take a leaf from Russian schools, which encourages chess among the children and thus helps them to face the challenges of life.” He feels that Indian schools should also organise competitive tournaments in large numbers for the young children to showcase their talent.

Raiji thinks that chess is blessed with generous sponsorship in India as corporates like Zandu Pharmaceutical, Lignite Corporation, TISCO, and public sector banks like Central Bank and United Commercial Bank have regularly patronised the game at the premier level.

About world champion Vishwanathan Anand, Raiji said, “Anand had won the World Championships which was boycotted by Garry Kasparov and Kramnik. So I think, Anand has a point to prove as he had lost to Kasparov on a previous occasion. Even if he defeats Kramnik, it is as good as beating Kasparov. However, it must be admitted that he has certainly made an impact in the country by winning the World Championships as Indian sportperson are not known to be great achievers at the highest level.” 

Raiji has witnessed a spurt in the expectations of the parents who want their children to trail the footsteps of world champion Anand. Raiji exudes a youthful charm when he packed a punch in parallel excitement and said, “I want at least one of my students to be mad about chess just like me.”

By: Wasim Siddiqui

Photographs: Vinayak Prabhu


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