Chess in Nepal - chess monks in Kathmandu

Rochade Europa Schachzeitung - FM Jens Hirneise / jeffforever

Chess in Nepal - chess monks in Kathmandu

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Chess monks in Thapathali Chess Park

Chess in Nepal


While most tourists flock to Nepal to climb the numerous 8,000-meter mountains, the Asian country also has a lot to offer in terms of chess.
The most famous player with Nepalese roots is probably known to most of you, namely super grandmaster Anish Giri, whose father is from Nepal and his mother from Russia.
Anish's family moved to the Netherlands in 2008. He still lives there - in The Hague - with his family: his wife IM Sopiko Guramishvili, whom he has been married to since 2015, and their two sons and a daughter.

Monks playing chess in a chess park with a monastery

In the middle of Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital, in the center of Thapathali Chess Park, you can meet chess players as well as over a hundred monks who live here in peaceful harmony with chess players and visitors.

At the Thapathali Chess Park you are welcomed by chess pieces.

I was also told that the monks themselves all know the rules and occasionally play chess. A few of them also watched the ongoing blitz games. The park is financially supported by the government. If the weather is bad, you can also play in a warm building. The park is open around the clock and you will be greeted in a friendly manner when you visit in person. Some speak fluent English, so it is easy to strike up a conversation. There are occasional prominent visitors, for example the Austrian GM Andreas Diermair played a simultaneous exhibition against the locals two years ago.

Chess players are surrounded by monks who understand the rules of chess well and occasionally play games themselves!

Blitz games with Nepalese FM Bhandari & chat with Dr. Karki

During my visit, I was first greeted warmly by Dr. Indra Bahadur Karki, a now retired physics professor, who now likes to spend his free time at the chess park. After several games, at the end of my visit I was able to play a few blitz games against the Nepalese FM Kshitij Bhandari, the second strongest player in the country. Bhandari is also planning a visit to Germany soon, where he will play in an open, among other things; we hope he enjoys it. A Nepalese delegation is also expected to take part in the upcoming Chess Olympiad in Budapest in the summer. Nepal is in the grip of chess fever: there are also regular nationwide tournaments, which are well attended, sometimes with over 150 participants. In total, there are over 3,000 players in the country, and at least a few always in the extraordinary Thapathali Chess Park.

In the center of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu is the Thapathali Chess Park, where over 100 monks live and are surrounded by chess players during the day. In the picture: your reporter in a duel with FM Kshitij Bhandari (with the White pieces).

5 Facts About Nepal

  1. Nepal is the only country in the world with a non-rectangular flag.
  2. Nepalese have their own calendar, currently dated 2081.
  3. Nepal is the home of Kumari – the only living goddess in the world. It is said that gazing at the goddess brings good luck and success.
  4. Nepal is the birthplace of Buddha.
  5. The highest peak in the world, Mount Everest (8848 m), is located in Nepal.

In the centre of Kathmandu, in the Thamel district, you can find chess pieces and chess boards in a special shape on some corners.

Note that this article was first published originally in German in the July 2024 issue of the German chess magazine Rochade Europa.