Young Charvi on top of the world

Sep 28, 2022 08:40 PM IST

Showing remarkable composure under pressure, India's eight-year-old wunderkid Charvi Anilkumar bagged the World Cadet title in Georgia.

Aarthie Ramaswamy was half expecting the good news when Charvi Anilkumar called her on Tuesday evening. After all, the 41-year-old Woman Grandmaster (WGM) had put her ward through a rigorous three-week training camp at her famed academy — Chess Gurukul — in Chennai before she boarded the flight to Batumi in Georgia. The youngster will return home as the cadet world champion in the girl's under-8 section.

Charvi Anilkumar PREMIUM
Charvi Anilkumar

Charvi trailed by a point after the penultimate tenth round, making the last round a must-win affair. She duly won it, tying with England's Bodhana Sivanandan at 9.5 points before taking the top spot thanks to a better tie-break score.

In Chennai, Ramaswamy was having a tough time dealing with nerves. So much so, that she stopped following the game in real-time. "I was too nervous. I would log off and log back in...the tension was too much to handle," Ramaswamy said.

Her worries were exacerbated after the Class 3 student slipped to a seventh-round loss. "Despite her being seeded fifth, we expected her to win with a clean sweep. So, the loss was a bit of a setback. But, I trusted her to make a comeback."

When the two spoke after the seventh round, Charvi betrayed no pressure. "She was actually quite happy with her performance while I was under a bit of shock. Those were anxious moments, but she displayed exemplary calm," the coach recalled.

In her nascent career, Charvi has already shown a penchant to keep cool under pressure and mounting comebacks from tough situations. Ramaswamy, in fact, calls it her biggest strength.

"I believe more than technical expertise, it's the ability to work hard and stay calm that makes a champion. I was always impressed by her ability to work. At her age, it is not really a common quality.

"Then, she has shown a tendency to make comebacks from tricky situations, which is what we saw in Georgia. Technically, we have been working really hard on her middle game and endgame skills. To be honest, her endgame has become quite excellent," Ramaswamy added.

For all her chess smarts, Charvi's initiation into the sport was quite accidental. Four years back, when Bengaluru-based techie couple Anil Kumar and Akhila enrolled their hyperactive daughter at a day-care centre, little did they know that the sight of kids glued to the chequered board will catch Charvi's fancy.

"We had no clue about chess, but once she showed great interest in the sport, we picked up the basics through YouTube," recalled Kumar from Georgia.

It was not long before Charvi — who looks up to Indian legend Viswanathan Anand and Hungarian GM Judit Polgar — was enrolled in International Master BS Shivananda's Karnataka Chess Academy. Towards the end of last year, she moved under Ramaswamy's tutelage.

"She was already a state-level player by then and had even won an online event. Most of our initial sessions were online, and after six months she started coming to camps in person. We have done around 5-6 camps so far, but the one we had right before she left for Georgia was the longest. This is the biggest victory of her career so far, and I am sure she will get better with time," the coach said.

There is little time to rest for the world champion though with Ramaswamy having already planned a camp for next month's Asian Youth Chess Championships in Bali. "It's the time to get to work again," she concluded.

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    Shantanu Srivastava is an experienced sports journalist who has worked across print and digital media. He covers cricket and Olympic sports.

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