While the entire nation prayed for the Olympic contingent at Rio, there was double delight waiting for them at Colombo.
29-year-old Tania Sachdev bagged her maiden gold at the Commonwealth Chess Championship while former world junior champion Abhijeet Gupta managed to retain his title.
Tania, who had bagged a bronze at the Glasgow Commonwealth Chess Championship in 2014, was elated as she spoke to HT shortly after lifting her coveted title.
“I was going for gold from the very beginning as I had missed out on it a few years back. I was one of the players with a higher ranking and hence didn’t want to settle for bronze,” Tania said. “It was a really competitive event and there were quite a few good chess players in the tourney. It was a good feeling as I grew in confidence as the tournament progressed.”
Tania had also bagged gold and two silvers at the Asian Team Championship in Tehran in 2014. “Representing India is always special and so is winning. The win will help me prepare for the upcoming Chess Olympiads in Baku. I will also take part in the Abu Dhabi Chess Festival later this month. Such victories give you a lot of confidence,” she added.
Tania, who finished with five victories and four draws, said she never felt she was on the back foot. “I always felt I had the upper hand in all the games but then there were a couple of mistakes I committed that let the games slip away. Those are the areas I need to work on and improve before the upcoming tournaments,” Tania said.
Though Tania has won a number of tournaments over the years, failures drive her more than successes. “When I was just five and a half years old, I had lost 0-7 in my first tournament. I didn’t lose heart but wanted to play again. I don’t get bogged down if I lose badly. I just want to improve and reverse the feeling,” Tania chuckled, as she recalled her drubbing two decades back. “It feels good to win a tournament as you look forward towards the next one immediately.”
Tania had won the Arjuna award in 2009 and has been a part of the Indian national team for the past nine years. However, Tania is anything but just a chess player. As someone who has been in love with the game since her childhood, Tania has involved herself whenever she has had an opportunity, including commentary. Yes, besides playing matches, she analyses them too. She has commentated in several games, including one between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen. Besides being invited to sing the national anthem during a game between Dabangg Delhi and Patna Pirates at the Pro Kabaddi League 2016, Tania also loves modelling.
“I want to promote every aspect of the game and take part in anything and everything that helps me achieve it. I also hosted the Gibraltar Open and Millionaire Chess in Vegas. Whereas most sports demand the physical aspect from a player, chess is an exercise for the mind. I really want to promote the game in a big way and want to take it to the masses. Every child should play the game,” Tania added.
Well, for the multifaceted Tania, the mind needs peace. And, Tania has strange ways to achieve that. “I play other sports,” she said laughing, realising that wasn’t the answer anyone expected. “I play table tennis, go around the city, and do things that have absolutely nothing to do with chess. In Colombo, we were in a lovely resort and the city’s beautiful as well, so it helped to get sleep at the end of a tiring day and relax your mind.”