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King of the 64 squares

Success at an early age comes at a price that few are willing to pay

education Updated: Jul 06, 2011 10:38 IST
Gauri Kohli

Hobby turned into passion
I started playing chess just for fun at the age of five. Regular sessions with the 64-square board then turned into my hobby. After I started winning prizes in competitions I realised that it was more than a hobby. It had turned into my passion.

First success
My first success came in when I won the Asian Youth Under 10 Championship. It was my first-ever national or international title. The turning point came when I became the second-youngest ever Grandmaster in the world at the age of 13. This was also my first personal high. I also became the youngest Indian International Master before winning the title of Grandmaster. Another milestone was when I got my first Grandmaster norm in the UK at the age of 13. This was a time when I didn’t have too many expectations of getting there so soon. Last year, in December, I also became the first-ever national champion from Delhi and also qualified for this year’s World Cup, to be held in Russia. I now look forward to excel at the World Team Championships to be held in China where the world’s top 10 teams, including heavyweights such as Russia, Ukraine and the US, will participate.

Champs I look up to
I looked up to Viswanathan Anand because he was the only Indian to reach such heights in chess. I was also inspired by Andre Agassi, especially after reading his autobiography titled Open, where he has described how he took up wins and losses and how he kept himself motivated in every situation. My first coach, GB Joshi, and my current coach, Chuchelov Vladimir from Belgium, have played a key role in my success.

My success mantra
I believe in dealing with situations the way they are. I change my focus depending on the situation and try to motivate myself all the time. It’s harder to motivate yourself when you don’t get what you want. Each time I win a game that could have gone either way, I feel special and that becomes a big achievement for me. I also spend good time in conditioning myself mentally to strengthen my focus and concentration that my sport requires. I’m only 18 and there’s still a lot to be achieved. My next aim is to reach 2,700 ratings. I’m currently at 2,642.

Coping with failure
Like every other person, I feel bad when I fail. But I try not to think about it too much. Instead, I focus on the next task and if I don’t find another task to focus on, I create one. I prefer to invest in the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Ayn Rand. My favourite books, movies and singers include The Dark Knight, 100 Years of Solitude and Eminem. When I am not playing chess, I just like to relax by either reading or watching a movie.

Balancing work and play
I was fairly good in academics and it was never really a problem managing studies and chess. I practise for at least 6-7 hours daily depending on the preparation for upcoming tournaments. I take a day off every week to relax and unwind.

Words of wisdom
Chess is an easy game to start with as it does not require too much equipment or space. All you need is a chess board. My advice to youngsters is: don’t think too much about making it big. Have smaller, immediate goals and try to achieve them. This will take you a long way ahead.

I believe in dealing with situations the way they are. I change my focus depending on the situation and try to motivate myself all the time. It’s harder to motivate yourself when you don’t get what you want.
Parimarjan Negi, chess champ



Interviewed by Gauri Kohli