Monday, March 17, 2008

Tania Sachdev, Indian Chess Star, Excels at Mind Games

From The Economic Times of India
Mind games are not only for men
16 Mar, 2008, 0144 hrs IST
Amin Ali

Women are good at playing mind games. They can even beat the best of men at it. While some of you smile and start thinking on a completely different tangent just to shake you out of your stereotypes you got to look at Tania Sachdev.

This 21-year old is single handedly keeping the Indian flag high in the chess scene internationally. She is not only one of our biggest hopes at Olympics but has also broken into top 50 player ranking. Though yet to come to scale the towering milestones set by living legend of Indian Chess and her role model Vishwanathan Anand, the girl sure has enough talent to be a force to reckon with.

A casual chat with her and one immediately realizes that just as sharp features she has, the brain is even sharper. And she now rejoices playing a so-called ‘Man’s Sport’ and beating him at it. She knew from the very beginning when her mother initiated her into chess that she had not only had to fight the best brains around but a lot of stereotypes too. She was instantly accepted as a child prodigy when she won Commonwealth Chess title (girls U-8) at Dundee in 1993 when she was not even seven years of age. The most striking of the comments that came her way was “you don’t look like a chess player.” But the girl takes such things in her stride and says, “it is nice to perform well and make people eat their own words.”

Being only the eight Indian woman grandmaster, she knows she has a lot to learn for other Indian counterparts and superior ranked players like S. Vijayalakshmi and Dronavalli Harika to chart a long career ahead. But the girl has been in consistent form for the last few seasons winning the Women’s championship in 2007 without a single defeat, the only player to have registered such a win and was also crowned Asian women’s chess champion in 2007.

Though it has been stardom for the girl at a very early stage in life, it has also meant a lot of hard work to live up to the expectations. Also every ranking she climbs, the competition is only going to get tougher and tougher. But girl is unfazed by the all the attention that is showered on her. She finds recognition and adulation showered on her are a result of lot of hard work and loads of brain storming session while planning every move. But she quickly adds, “being noticed at the airport of being termed as a pretty face has nothing to do with her sport. You just have to keep working hard on your talent. And I love playing chess. That’s the only love I have.”

But talk of Tania and one cannot ignore Anju Sachdev, her mother who has been a pillar of strength all along. She is not just a fellow tourist with her at most of her tournaments but a strong emotional and moral support to her. Ask her about her expectation from her child and she says none. “I don’t want to pressurize my daughter by setting unreal goals. It’s her career and let her plan it. I never planned that by 20 she should have been a grand master and by 25 a world champion.” Though the mother may do her best to ease all the pressures that would surround the genius, the nation whole-heartedly expects a medal from one of the brightest youngsters our country has.

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