Tania in The Telegraph

by Frederic Friedel
12/2/2017 – It is not often that chess players gets serious attention in the straight press. Luckily we have some great ambassadors for the game. Like IM and WGM Tania Sachdev, who is not just a successful player, but also a much sought after commentator at top events. Last weekend the London newspaper Telegraph devoted a whole lot of space to the media star who is currently doing live video commentary for the London Chess Classic. She talks about the discrepancy between the sexes in a sport that should offer more scope for equality than most. The article remarkably includes a number of glamour shots and details about the exact cost of her attire.

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Tania in the Telegraph

The author of the very substantial Telegraph story start off by showing an early YouTube video of Tania Sachdev, one which we have also used on occasion.

This is how Alex Preston describes the seven-year-old Tania in the video:

She’s a bouncy, energetic little girl, shown combing the hair of a Barbie that’s seen better days, then prancing joyfully along to a Bollywood soundtrack, her arms a dizzy whirl. You see it even then, though, the change that comes over her as soon as she sits in front of a chessboard. She grows suddenly still, focused, her large eyes solemn and unblinking.

Alex met Tania Sachdev in a Notting Hill café twenty-four years later:

I half-recognise her from the YouTube video: there’s still some of that boisterous energy, her smile and winning laugh bubbling up throughout our conversation. In a sport whose players are not known for their social skills, Sachdev is a striking exception. She speaks fluently and intelligently about the game and has carved out a side career as a commentator and talk-show guest in her native India.

Tania is in London to work as a commentator for the London Chess Classic 2017, which is being held at Google’s DeepMind HQ (and continues at the regular Olympia venue). In the Telegraph article she tells Alex Preston how she started playing chess at five, when her father taught her the rules. She needed two or three days to start beating him. It was basically the beginning of a chess career that Tania has pursued ever since.

Tania, who for many years now has been consistently ranked in the top 50 women's list, is 2400 in the overall chess players rankings. Preston notes that this is "a stark illustration of the discrepancy between the sexes in a sport that one would think offered more scope for equality than most." Is chess simply more suited to the male mind, with women operating at a deep intrinsic disadvantage? Tania attributes it to centuries of conscious and unconscious bias, combined with a contemporary chess scene that is riddled with sexism. She recognises the toxic atmosphere has prevented many girls from taking up the sport in the first place, and will have persuaded many already in the game to give it up

A lot of women players have probably quit because they don’t want to deal with this negativity around them. It’s really sad. But of course it happens in other workplaces, and the women who make it despite these things have a real strength of character.

The game itself is notoriously unforgiving:

'There have been months in which I haven’t had a good tournament. It’s there, and suddenly it isn’t. Even today, after playing chess for 20 years, it’s damn hard. You don’t get to sleep when you’ve had a bad game. It’s like a scar. It’s a very solitary game in many ways because you’re absolutely on your own in your head.'

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The Telegraph article is remarkable for the pictures (by Kate Peters) that it includes. Or, to be more precise: by the captions to these pictures. They list the clothes Tania is wearing, the makers and the prices. And we were just about to order some dress shirts here.

Styling: Sophie Goodwin. Hair and make-up: Jess Summer Buckley at S Management.

Read the full article in The Telegraph

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Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.


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