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Playing Chess in Kochi

Kevin Singer at a spontaneous chess match in Kochi | Student Photo: Stephanie Lessens, University of Maryland

According to board game history, chess originated in India during the 6th century. Fast-forward 1500 years and chess is still king of the board games, drawing students and professors alike to the Deck 6 lounge on the MV Explorer at all hours of the day for a classic brow-furrowing study break.

Kevin Singer, from UC-Berkeley, is among the students who recently started the chess club on the ship and, thanks to Semester at Sea, he can now boast an international chess career. In Kochi, India, Singer spotted the familiar grid of a chessboard on a city park bench just outside the ruins of Fort Cochin. After a quick introduction, the Indian men jumped at the opportunity to challenge an American competitor and readily scrapped their game, resetting the board for Singer to join. “The game took about an hour,” Singer detailed, “and by the end of the game there were 15 people in a semi-circle all around us watching the game.” After a back-and-forth battle, Singer eked out a victory maneuvering rooks and knights outside the crumbling castle of Kochi. Checkmate.

Chess has expanded into a global game since its inception in India, and the chess club founders have been feeding the growing interest on the ship by acquiring boards from around the world. Now, on any given night, multiple students are spotted pondering their next move on intricately designed chess boards from India, Ghana, and South Africa. The collection is sure to grow as the MV Explorer heads into Southeast Asia this month.

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