Indian chess champ on city streets

by ChessBase
10/24/2009 – She is thirteen, rated 2132, and won the Asian U-14 title in Delhi last month. With her chess career she has made her country proud. But Saranya's childhood is anything but a bed of roses. Her father deserted the family five years ago, and her mother sells small items made of plastic and mud on the pavement of Thiruvottiyur (near Chennai) to eke out a living. Someone must help this girl.

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Chess champ on city streets

Saranya at nine [photo Arvind Aaron]

By Julian Rodrigo

CHENNAI: Just a few years ago, J Saranya was like the girl next door. A resident of Thiruvottiyur in north Chennai, she was a student of Corporation school. Too small to understand things she just accompanied her elder sister for tuition everyday.

When the classes were on, Saranya used to go to the first floor of the building, where the Bloom Chess Academy was functioning. Initially she was just a spectator but quickly learnt the nuances of the sport. Saranya’s journey in chess started there.

She started winning tournaments in and around the city in quick succession. She became a national champion in the U-13 category in 2008. Saranya went one step ahead by winning the Asian U-14 crown in New Delhi last month.

Within a short span of time she has made the country proud. Saranya has the potential to make it big one day. For the thirteen-year-old the passage to the top has not been a bed of roses. Her childhood has been a difficult one. Saranya’s father deserted the family about five years ago and his whereabouts are still not known. Her mother Thangam sells small items made of plastic and mud on the pavement in front of the Vadivudai Amman temple at Thiruvottiyur.

J Saranya at 13, Asian U-14 gold medalist and rated 2132,
helping her mother sell plastic on the streets of Chennai

“There are about 25 pavement sellers and I’ve got to depend on the crowd that comes to the temple everyday," says the mother of the Asian champion. "I sit there from 4 pm and there is a good number that turn up for worship only on Fridays. Wednesday is a lean day. And I’m badly hit on a rainy day.” The family lives in a ramshackle house and the money earned from this pavement selling is just good enough for hand-to-mouth existence.

The game of chess needs a lot of exposure. Playing tournaments abroad and competing against tougher players helps one in honing skills. But with such a plight how difficult it would be for Saranya to go up the ladder? Moving over from Corporation school to Velammal Matriculation Higher Secondary School has done a world of good to this upcoming youngster. “The Velammal school management has given free education to both my daughters. Saranya’s trips abroad are more often taken care of by the school. Teachers give special coaching classes to Saranya to compensate for the classes missed owing to tournaments.

As a good gesture many of her classmates from well-to-do families have pooled in money to send her for other tournaments in the country,” says the mother.

Saranya was spotted by M A Velayutham, who runs the Bloom Chess Academy. She has been under his tutelage right from the beginning. “Saranya is a dedicated player and quick learner. Despite the financial crunch at home, Saranya has not allowed her concentration to waver,” said the coach.

Saranya benefited from the onemonth stint in Spain where she played three tournaments and made her first WIM norm. “My victory over Starostitsilmar of England and Arosidhzelevan of Greece in the Spain tournament gave a big boost to my confidence. I will become a WIM soon and then strive hard to go higher,” says the softspoken Saranya.

Saranya rates her win over Priyanka Kumari of Jharkhand to lift the U-13 National title as one of the best moments. Saranya, who is studying in 9th standard, will be taking part in the National Women B, followed by the age-group Nationals in Mumbai before taking off to Turkey for the World U-14 Championship from November 10 to 18. She has the potential to go places but the need of the hour is a sponsor.

With many reputed industrial establishments like Madras Refineries Limited and Petro Chemicals Industries housed in Thiruvottiyur one hopes someone will chip in to help this unassuming lass.

Source: Express Buzz. We hope to meet this talented young lady at the World U-14 Championship in Antalya, Turkey next month.

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