Thapathali Chess Park is undergoing a facelift with an ambitious plan of hosting national and international tournamentsKathmandu Metropolitan City had allocated Rs3.8 million in the last fiscal year for the park’s revamp.
The lone chess club in Kathmandu, the Thapathali Chess park which has produced national and international chess players is undergoing a facelift with an ambitious plan of hosting international chess tournaments.
After continuous lobbying by chess aficionados and chess players visiting the park regularly which includes an array of people—retired army officials to university professors, students, unemployed men and women to sadhus, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City had last year allocated Rs3.8 million to build new infrastructure. Currently, toilets, drinking water, water fountains, a lawn, along with a separate playing area that can accommodate more than 60 chess players at a time, are under construction.
“Now rain and storm won't disrupt the game,” said Bharat Dhimal, who owns a tea shop for players, inside the park. He is also the vice-chairperson of the park committee.
The park, which is spread around five ropanis of land in Sanyashi Aakhadha near the Bagmati bridge in Thapathali, is owned by Kalmochan Ghat Guthi.
The park has been hosting informal chess games for nearly two decades and was officially registered with the District Administration Office in 2018.
“We are going to make it a model chess park in the country. Once the overall construction work gets completed, we are going to host an international tournament here,” said Indra Bahadur Karki, president of the park and a retired army lieutenant colonel.
Every day, more than five dozen people visit the park to play chess. Regular visitors have welcomed the government’s initiative.
“I can see a good transformation of this place because this place has given birth to many national and international chess players,” said Sushil Chaudhary, 25, a computer engineering graduate and a national-level chess player.
Chaudhari says he started visiting the park since he was ten.
"I learned the game from TU professors and retired senior army officials. These veteran chess players regularly come here to play," he said.
WorldLink, an internet service provider, has been providing free internet services inside the park for more than a year so that people can play online.
“When chess boards are occupied, I play online chess with foreigners. This is the most beautiful thing about this park,” said Kshitiz Bhandari, another national-level chess player who has competed in the Chess Olympiad.
The park has produced more than a dozen national chess players - Sumit Panta, Ashish Phuyal, Sushil Chaudhary, Suman Rai, to name a few.
Dhimal said the number of youngsters has gone up in the park in recent times.
“Almost every day, many college students come here to play chess as well as to watch others play,” said Dhimal.
He said that to attract more women chess players, the park has begun hosting chess tournaments for women.
“We have a monthly women's chess tournament here and it has reached the third month. This will, of course, attract more women to play chess,” said Dhimal. The winner is awarded Rs 5,000. The park has also been conducting an annual chess tournament, raising money from the players.
Hira Lal Tandukar, the Ward-11 chairperson said the park beautification work will be completed in two months. “Since this place already has a legacy, both national and international chess competitions will be held here,” said Tandukar. “I have been consulting with Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya, for the allocation of budget.”