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Chess Is Cool Again

By Palmer White l February 5, 2021


This year, Ansh Khurana’s 12th birthday celebration took place in the form of a virtual chess tournament. In lieu of birthday presents, he requested donations be made to the nonprofit organization Feeding America.


Khurana, a sixth grader at Montgomery Lower Middle School, is a member of the Interact Club—a student branch of the Rotary Club. Members work to serve the community, following the motto: “service above self.” He also belongs to the science club, plays travel basketball, enjoys solving Rubik’s Cubes, and has a keen appreciation for the game of chess.

Ansh Khurana and his little brother, Anay, practicing their chess skills.

Khurana’s father, Kapil Khurana, introduced him to the game of chess. “I started playing chess when I was young, with my dad,” he says. Chess soon became a shared interest that connected father and son.


Khurana’s family moved to Montgomery when he was in third grade. He says he quickly joined the chess club at Village Elementary School, where he continued to hone his game and make friends. In December, Khurana says he started to notice all the community-oriented projects that were being completed around him. He admired the ways people helped others, and was inspired to do the same.


As an avid chess player, he was drawn to the idea of virtual chess. So, on December 7 (his birthday), Khurana hosted a two-hour virtual chess tournament, which acted as a birthday celebration and doubled as a fundraiser. During the first 30 minutes of the event, Khurana shared some chess “tips & tricks” he has learned throughout the years.


Montgomery Mayor Sadaf Jaffer also joined during this time to offer opening remarks and introduce both Khurana and the chess tournament. He says he wished for the mayor to speak at his birthday since he started to plan the event.


During the virtual chess tournament, participants played a series of 15-minute games against each other using the online chess server lichess.org. There were a total of 40 people who played in the tournament, which was far more than anticipated.


Khurana says he worked in collaboration with Lisa Romano, the Lower Middle School vice principal, to create a video regarding the tournament. The school shared the video during morning announcements. Khurana says he is “extremely grateful” for Romano’s help, especially because it allowed him to inform all of his classmates about the event and encourage their participation.


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Hopefully, he says, it inspired others to complete similar projects. Khurana—alongside his parents— chose to donate all of the tournament proceeds to Feeding America. This is a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing Americans with food through their nationwide network of food banks. They selected this specific organization because COVID-19 has limited many Americans’ access to food. Donations were not required by all participants; however, they were both surprised and impressed by the size of their final donation—$1,000—to Feeding America.


Khurana's little brother, Anay, even donated the money he had recently received from the tooth fairy. Khurana is pleased with his tournament. In fact, it may have only been the beginning of his virtual chess work as he now wants to create a virtual chess club. He would like to create a group in which members share tricks and play games, and he hopes to ultimately incorporate a donation element as well.

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