From Robert George to Raghunandan Gokhale, Indian sport has seen husbands inspiring even coaching wives to glory. Robert coached Anju to the long jump bronze in the world championship and Raghunandan helped wife Anupama to a chess national title.
For Sriram Jha though, qualifying for the World Cup merely underscored a woman being behind every successful man. The international master said a large portion of credit should go to his wife of four years, former national champion S Vijayalakshmi.
On Monday in New Delhi, Jha won the Asian Zone 3.2 chess championship to qualify for the World Cup, to be held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, from November 20 to December 15. The title also fetched him a second Grandmaster norm.
“My wife (Vijayalakshmi) has been motivating me and has helped improve my game. She has completed two GM norms and her experience too came in handy,” Jha told HT over the phone from New Delhi.
In a career spanning over a decade, Jha won some open tournaments and the National B championships twice but also saw youngsters stealing a march over him. His consistency though has improved over the past few months. Jha, whose rating is 2459, won the Asian zonal meet with 10 points from 12 games and was unbeaten in the 13-player competition.
Though some top Indian players like Surya Sekhar Ganguly, Krishnan Sasikiran and Sandipan Chanda skipped the event having qualified for the World Cup, Jha's victory is noteworthy because he finished ahead of higher-rated players like Bangladesh GMs Ziaur Rahman (2538) and Reefat Bin Sattar (2486) and GM Deepan Chakkravarthy (2506).
In Monday's final round, Jha beat Ahmed Ashraf of the Maldives while his close rival K. Rathnakaran lost to Tunveer Gillani of Pakistan. GM Praveen Thipsay finished second with 9.5 points.
“This is a very important result and a big morale booster. Now that I have qualified, I will prepare well and do my best at my first World Cup,” Jha said.
So what worked this time?
“Playing at home was a big plus as I was very comfortable. Lady Luck too smiled on my on a couple of occasions, which has not been the case in the past. Like in the game against GM Neelotpal Das where my position was terrible but I managed to defend well to force a draw,” he said.
“I am especially happy with the quality of my games against GMs Pravin Thipsay and Rahman.”
Jha's next aim is to complete his final GM norm and cross the 2500 mark in ratings.