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Pune’s Akanksha to skip World Junior for Asian Indoor

The 17-year-old chess prodigy feels getting a medal for country is more prestigious than improving ranking; Akanksha becomes the first Pune player to participate in the prestigious tournament 

pune Updated: Jul 16, 2017 17:42 IST
Ashish Phadnis
Ashish Phadnis
Hindustan Times, Pune
chess,asian Indoor,akansha Hagawane
Aakanksha Hagawane chose to represent India at the Asian Indoor Championship. (Pratham Gokhale/HT PHOTO)

For any sportsperson, national pride comes before individual glory. But that doesn’t happen always. There are several incidents where sportsperson chosen money and glory than playing for country.On this background, Pune’s 17-year-old chess player Akanksha Hagawane has set an example. The city chess prodigy is selected to represent India in the World Junior (U-18) tournament and Asian Indoor Championship (U-23) at the same time. For Akanksha, who is striving to gain Women Grandmaster (WGM) title, the option of playing in the World Junior is more lucrative. However, she has decided to go for national pride than individual glory.

“The Asian Indoor Championship is held after every four years, like Olympics. It’s a very prestigious tournament as only number one player in the country gets qualified for the tournament, and Akanksha being top ranked player in under-23 category, she was invited for this tournament. However, it’s a rapid and blitz format tournament and it won’t help in her rating. A good performance in World Junior would have earned her some good rating, but we decided to go for national pride. If she wins a medal in Asian indoor, it will be a prestigious moment for India, and that’s what we want the most,” said Akanksha’s father Srinath Hagawne.

The Asian Indoor Championship will be held at Turkmenistan from September 21-27 while the World Junior (U-18) will be held in Uruguay from September 16-26. Top Indian players like GM Sasikiran Krishnan, GM Surya Sekhar Ganguly, IM Tania Sachdev and IM Padmin Rout are playing in senior categories.

“Of course it was a tough decision to choose between two. But, we decided to give more importance to Asian as it will be a good learning experience to play against best in Asia. They don’t have donor entries like World tournaments, so it’s going to be a challenging tournament,” said Akanksha.

Schedule ahead

Akanksha, who is currently a Women International Master (WIM) title holder is eager to become WGM soon. For that she will be playing in Riga Open in Latvia from August 5 and then in the next week will participate in another international rated tournament in Barcelona, Spain. After these two gruelling tournaments, she will be playing in the Under-19 National Challenger tournament in India, starting from September 3.

“This is quite a hectic schedule for any player. We don’t want her to get fatigued and exhausted before Asian Indoor, so we might decide to skip national challenger. However, I would personally want her to play that tournament, as it will open the doors to enter Indian senior team and a chance to represent in Chess Olympiad,” said her coach Jayant Gokhle.

Switching the roles

There was a time, when Akanksha was a lesser known name and she earned a nickname as Giant Killer for knocking out big names. She used to study her stronger opponents and prepare some deadly tactics against them. Now after couple of years, she is considered as a strong title contender and lower rated player analysis her games to find a weak spot.

“I have to be alert all the time while playing against lower rated players. Losing against them or even a draw can badly affect my rating. They can study my games, find my favourite opening and how I play in the endgames, but I can’t do the same, as they haven’t played that many tournaments. So I need to be ready for any surprise element and that’s quite a challenge,” said Akanksha.

Know about Akanksha

The 17-year-old is standard XII student of SP College. She is under scholarship from Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. She is a Women International Master and has a rating of 2334. She is current World Champion in Under-16 age group and Asian Champion in Under-18. Recently, she was crowned Under-18 Commonwealth Champion in New Delhi. She had earlier won the gold medal in Under-16 Commonwealth Championships for successive two years in 2015 and 2016.So far she has won 11 international medals, including 8 gold medals, one silver and two bronze medals.

First Published: Jul 16, 2017 17:41 IST