Saturday, January 15, 2011

A South African Chess Princess

From the
Little chess miss becomes a master
Jan 15, 2011 11:11 PM | By SANTHAM PILLAY

Outwitting her fellow chess competitors for the past four years has paved the way for a Durban teenager to participate in an international tournament.

Tasnim Amra, 2008 Commonwealth
Chess Championship (India).
Tasnim Amra, 14, took top honours in the under-16 South African girls' chess champion category at the SA nationals in Johannesburg last month.

Winning in the group means Tasnim automatically qualifies to represent the country at the World Youth Championships in Rio De Janeiro,Brazil, in November this year.

Despite having competed in tournaments throughout the world since she was eight, Tasnim said she was still thrilled by her win last year and the pending trip to Brazil.

"I am very excited. I enjoy playing the game because I love going overseas and meeting new people."

Reg Hoddinott, president of Chess KZN, said Tasnim was one of the most dedicated players. "I have no doubt she will continue going from strength to strength. She is dedicated but also humble. She hasn't let her many achievements go to her head and we are extremely proud of her."

For Tasnim, who will enter grade 9 at the start of the new school year, chess began as a simple after-school activity.

"We were being offered extracurricular activities and it was computers or chess. The computer class was full so I had to join the chess club."

Tasnim's mother, Amina, said aside from the travelling opportunities that chess provided, it had also made a difference academically. "Her maths marks are excellent. Overall, her marks are very good and I'm positive chess had a lot to do with that."

The Fédération Internationale des Échecs, or World Chess Federation, awarded the Northlands Girls' High pupil the title of Women's FIDE Master in 2009. The title is a prestigious ranking.

"Sometimes I still don't believe that I have that ranking; it's unbelievable," she said.

Though she possesses the ranking and an impressive resumé, which includes her three previous national wins and representing South Africa at the 2008 Commonwealth Games in Nagpur, India, Tasnim says it's doubtful she will make chess a full-time job once she's completed school.

"I want to get a degree in actuarial science or become an engineer. I'm not sure where I'll go with chess. I'll always play but I think it will be a hobby. Unless I can become a Grandmaster - that might change my mind."

I checked Tasnim's FIDE rating:  1571.  By way of comparison, this is approximately 1,000 ELO points lower that the higher-rated female players in the world.  The top three female players in the world all have ELOs above 2600, with GM Judit Polgar at 2686.  I wish this young lady much luck in her career as an actuary or engineer -- she said as much herself.  So, you see what happens to our most promising young female chessplayers. They are very practical and move on to careers that they are more confident will yield them a living than professional chess. 

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