Chennai, the cradle of Indian chess, now home to family of chess masters
Chennai : When it comes to chess, Chennai, the cradle of Indian chess, has several firsts including being home to India's first International Master (Manuel Aaron) and Grand Master (Vishwanathan Anand).
The latest first is being home to the Ravis -- India's first family of International Masters.
When the 13-year old Rakshitta Ravi was recently crowned the Women International Master (WIM) her family became India's first family of chess masters.
"I want to become the first Women's World Chess Champion from India and the youngest woman player to achieve that. The short-term target is to become a WGM very soon," the soft spoken Rakshitta told IANS.
The eighth standard student of Vellammal Vidyalaya here has credible achievements under her belt to dream big. She became the World champion in the World Youth Chess Championship Under - 10 girls category held in Greece in 2015 and won several other titles.
Two chess players tying the knot is nothing new in India.
However, their offspring taking up the same sport and making a mark is something rare and which is what Rakshitta has done.
Rakshitta's parents -- IM T.S.Ravi and WIM Sai Meera Ravi -- were also promising Indian chess stars once.
Ravi once came second in the National A chess tournament and has represented India in the World Chess Olympiad.
Ravi learnt chess from his two elder brothers and Sai Meera learnt watching her elder sister play with her friends. Both worked their way up in the sport.
Unlike these days, the number of tournaments in the 1980s and the 1990s were less and hence the player's growth was also slow.
Sai Meera got her WIM title after Rakshitta was born.
"When Rakshitta was about four years old, I just wanted to see whether she is interested in the game and set up the chess board. She soon learnt how the various pieces moved on the board," Ravi told IANS.
When asked to compare and contrast his early days with that of Rakshitta's he said: "We learnt from our mistakes. Nobody taught us about knight fork, discovered check and others. When an experienced player plays that we learnt about that aspect of the game. We learnt and improved upon playing at Tal Club."
"Ravi is a gentle and soft-spoken person. But on the chess board he is a tenacious player and will play till the end even though the position is drawish," said R.R.Vasudevan, now a chess coach and who had played with Ravi in tournaments in their younger days.
"Rakshitta has inherited that quality from Ravi. She is a mature and confident player. If Ravi comes out laughing and chatting with fellow players after a game, then I would know that he had lost. In the case of a win he would be calm," Sai Meera said.
Speaking about the style of Rakshitta's game Sai Meera said: "It is a mix of our style -- aggressive and defensive. I am an aggressive player while Ravi is a defensive/positional player."
"With three of us playing chess, the conversation at home would invariably revolve around the game," Sai Meera said.
Ravi said they do not have a cable TV connection at home as it takes out productive as well as family time.
At home, the chess games between them are very competitive.
"I will not give an inch just because Rakshitta is my daughter. I will play for a win and won against her earlier. Now she beats me," Sai Meera said.
Ravi the proud father also said his daughter has beaten him in a lightning game.
Both Ravi and Sai Meera have stopped playing serious competitive chess.
Sai Meera quit her job in Indian Bank to take care of Rakshitta while Ravi is with the Indian Oil Corporation.
"We don't put pressure on Rakshitta to perform. She should enjoy playing without bothering about results," Sai Meera said.
Sai Meera said instead of putting Rakshitta in the age category tournaments, they feel it is better for her to play in the open tournaments so that her rating improves from the current 2,141 Elo points.
But good open tournaments are held overseas and playing in them involves lots of money.
"Rakshitta does not have any sponsor. We don't know how to go about it. But spending several lakhs of rupees to play overseas is becoming difficult now," Sai Meera said.
This year itself Rakshitta had played in open tournaments in France, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands involving significant spending.