NFC talk- Intersection of chess,art and nft community

MJ
8 min readJan 16, 2024

I wanted to share about my talk at NFC Summit 2023

Before I start, I wanted to share that I was pretty nervous that day, and I let my anxiety curate the parts I share on stage So this thread will also include the stuff I missed. Before this event, I have only done public speaking about my wins, some concept or project. This was my first time talking about my failures irl. But if anything, art has taught me to go out of my comfort zone, be strong to share your life and love yourself for who you are.

And I am glad I did that! The feedback was great, I felt like I shared something I have always wanted to but couldn’t

Okay enough with building up for my talk content , and let’s start…

I started with a small intro of myself- I am doing art since I have memories, I loved playing with colours and drawing but never really won awards in my school days. I am playing chess since the age of 10. And I am in NfT since early 2020

I have always loved this analogy of Life as a jigsaw puzzle. Where we all are trying to connect all the pieces of our life to create something beautiful out of it. So that every piece makes some sense, has a reason

And one of the biggest reason we stop or give up with our puzzle is when we start thinking we don’t have all the pieces that’s needed. But we always have everything, it’s just we are finding it at wrong place or stop believing in ourselves. My case was something similar and I learnt a bit hard way haha. The two pieces of my life were chess and art. They didn’t make any sense together, not going anywhere, so it felt all chaotic. But obviously I was wrong and I just needed a middle part for everything to make sense

Chess came in my life when I was 10 and was bunking my class, coz I didn’t like studies. But VP was on round that day, so I found the noisiest room of the school which happened to be a chess room. Some trials for team were going on, and student with most points get in. I didn’t know chess at that time, and a player noticed that and challenged me. I was just hiding from Principal so I agreed and said I don’t know how to play though. He said “just see my moves and you will learn”. So he would play knight, I would learn how it is played, then rook then other pieces. He explained me check when he gave me one, and then I asked about checkmate, and he said when a king is in check and can’t be saved. So I played a move and asked if that’s a checkmate. After a min of awkward silence, the team captain saw and smiled “it’s, you won” And that joy at that moment!!! The feeling of defeating someone who thought we are nothing was so real and new, I wanted it more

But I knew, that this wont happen unless I learn this game and practice. So I spent all my time practicing and studying chess from whatever resources I could find.

I had a very good start with this game. Started winning state championship since the day I participated, made to many nationals, won a car at the age of 14. Life was super perfect. I started believing that it is what I am made for :) my purpose. I felt I was something

But the graph doesn’t always go up, there are times you just start performing bad, or you don’t see any growth. Like every player, I had that phase too. But I didn’t really know how to deal with it. I thought I would practice more and my result would improve, but it didn’t.

The more I was putting time in it, my results were getting worse. I didn’t know the concept of burn out. I always heard about wins so I thought winners are never supposed to lose or take breaks. And I started being so harsh on myself.

And when we are failing, we learn a lot- especially about people. Think of me as a human version of nft project- as long as price is up, those hate voices are low. But the moment price starts dropping or doesn’t move, all you hear is fudders. Everyone was somehow pissed at me, and they were not even investors. Everyone started telling me what’s wrong with me, what could I have done instead, and how I have no future. My whole worth seemed to be attached to the trophies and prize I win

At those time, often, we just need one voice to tell us that we are loved for who we are and not because of what awards we bring. We deserve respect and love unconditional to our achievements. I unfortunately didn’t have that voice around me for years. It might sound weird but I started thinking I was the reason of everyone’s problem. So I started running on autopilot, playing. I would win, but there was no happiness, i even managed to find reasons to feel bad about my wins- “i could have played this move, why did it take time”

The joy was gone! It became work. But, I was just a kid trying to make people around me proud.

(Don't be sad though, it all has a happy ending and bigger meaning in my life)

Fast forward to college days when I was attending my finance class and the professor was talking about how if holding something starts hurting you, it is OKAY to let it go.

Though she was talking generally, this statement hit my nerve and I passionately disagreed with her saying “quitting is for weak, if you are already 80% hurt, the most you can be hurt is 20%. Better to give it a shot” I was a degen back then too

She smiled and continued with the lecture. But after class she told me “Mehak you aren’t weak if you let something go, but instead you are confident that you won’t be empty handed for long.” This might sound something normal but these words gifted me a new perspective

But I have always felt I owe everything to chess, it was the reason I was even in that college. But it was hurting me, a lot, so I gave myself a chance. One thing I have loved about chess is its pure. You good at it no one can stop you, and if you are bad you need to improve. It felt controllable. I decided to play nationals that year. And if I win and qualify for world (my childhood dream) I would take it as a sign to continue chess. And if I lose it, I might stop playing.

And tada, that year I won and qualified for world amateur women u1700. But I was wrong when I thought if you good you get it. The association decided to not pay for anything, and I unfortunately could not afford to go for world. I did write to many organisations that might sponsor, but I couldn’t reach right people in time. So with that dream gone, I decided to let chess go too.

It didn’t take me long to hold brushes in those hand. I was so tired of staying strong that I desperately needed a place to express myself. And art was that secret place for me. No one cared to understand it, which was nice in a way. I didn’t want anyone to know my feelings too

And then beta.Cent came in my life. A random stranger on my art page told me about crypto. I was fascinated to know about nft. I started talking there, no one knew me, i knew no one. It was like a second chance at life without anyone’s judgement. I made friends, I discussed those works I was scared to talk about. I found home, I guess.

Cent had this incentive mechanism where people can give cents to their fav creators on posts. So I started posting a lot there as well, sharing chess strategies, lessons etc. I also created a mini business there haha, where I started organising tournaments. A fee% I would keep for organising and rest distribute to winners.

That’s how I was able to sponsor my first art mints

And then I decided to create a chess piece for winner of the tournament. 2 editions Vibrant Knight- this piece talks about how a knight is so strong when in centre and so weak when in corner. Does that mean a knight is weak? No! It means, it is not at a best position.

So is with humans, we aren’t weak/useless, we are just not at a right place. If we are given a good environment we can be the strongest, so our purpose, like in chess is to keep moving in a way and keep creating for ourselves a place where we could contribute to our best potential

The piece was bought by Vizique and it then became a symbol for me to appreciate my chess journey. Every time I sold a chess piece it felt like my chess life wasn’t a waste, that it was something…

I started creating chess works sharing the similarities of the game and life. And most got sold immediately. My latest chess series on @AsyncArt -Chess players was a growth for me as it accepted anyone on chess board as a chess player, the term I avoided calling myself for long

Let me share an incidence

When I was a kid, some players were playing group chess. The purpose of that style is to play best moves by discussing openly. Player A suggested to sacrifice a bishop, player B argued that it is the strongest piece on board, why would you sacrifice it? To which player A said…it is strong because it could be sacrificed and help your other pieces to be much stronger.

I like to think of my chess life as the sacrificed bishop. Though it is not part of the board, it is the reason my other pieces in this life are stronger.

A lot of people ask why you are in this space? And while preparing for my speech I found the answer to it. And that would explain why I shared the story of me as a chess player at the start.

This space is the place where when I needed that one voice, I know I would have had many. If I were part of this community during my world tournament, I would have reached right people. This world is that position for me where a pawn like me feels stronger than a queen

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