A kid brimming with talent

A kid brimming with talent

Chess : In just a short span of time, Shefali has been making waves with her brilliant exploits

A kid brimming with talent

“Once you are a chess player, you spend a lot of time thinking about the game and you can’t get it completely out of your head,” Magnus Carlsen, the world number one and the current world champion, had once said. For A N Shefali, who idolises the Norwegian Grand Master, this saying holds strikingly true.

Ever since she first started playing chess at the tender age of four, Shefali has shown enormous amount of passion towards the game. An introvert by nature, the rising player from Karnataka has climbed the ladder of success in a short yet promising career with sustained hard work. The eight-year-old from Mandya district has delivered consistently in the State and National circuits and her achievements at the international stage are encouraging.

In the Commonwealth Chess Championship earlier this month in New Delhi, Shefali clinched the gold in the under-8 category. Scoring six points from seven rounds, Shefali not only annexed the crown but also defended her title that she had won in Kalutara in Sri Lanka last year. The triumph in Delhi has earned her a chance to participate in the World Cadets Chess Championship in Brazil next month.

“I want to win more medals and make my country proud. Magnus Carlsen is my inspiration and I want to become a Grand Master at a very young age like him,” says Shefali, a class four student at Santhome Public School.

Shefali’s accomplishments at the global level were on expected lines, given her dominance at the State and National championships. She bagged the under-7 State gold in 2015 and 2016 and finished runners-up in the State under-9 meet in Mysuru this year. Shefali scripted a memorable 2016 for herself by becoming the under-7 national champion in Puducherry. With her Commonwealth double, she has increased her international medals to three. She earned her maiden podium outside India with her silver-medal show at the Asian School Girls (U-7) Championships in Singapore in 2015.

What started off as a daily habit of observing her brother Divij A N play the game at home, chess has become Shefali’s world now and her proud parents are ready to back her passion to the hilt. “She would just sit with her brother and watch whenever he would play chess at home. Gradually she picked up the game and we enrolled her at the Mandya Chess Academy. We are pleased by her consistency and we want her to keep doing well,” says Shefali’s father, A P Narendra who is a businessman.

Shefali now trains with Jayaram R in Chess Shoots Academy in Bengaluru. The first thing that caught Jayaram’s attention was Shefali’s grasping power. “Before she could join my academy I had an evaluation activity in which I realised that she was different from the rest of the players. She is very curious to learn and has an uncompromising style of play. She doesn’t settle for a draw even in equal positions and aims for a win every time she plays. Also, children of her age cannot sit on the board for a long time without distractions but Shefali’s concentration is excellent,” he offers.

Jayaram feels Shefali has it in her to become a Grand Master in the future. “She has the potential to gain the Grand Master title but for that to happen she needs to work harder and improve her game further. Shefali needs to learn the theories of chess and I am working on it. Her technique, especially in the middle and end games, needs to be much better. Most of the knowledge gained by her is from computer but she will have to play more national and international series tournaments on a regular basis to strengthen her skills,” he explains.   

Success at a young age can be tricky to handle. While she is hungry to do well, she is being slowly taught to take defeats in her stride, says her mother H B Nirmala, a home-maker. “While she doesn’t bask on her past laurels too much, odd defeats do hurt her.

In the Commonwealth Championship this year, she was so upset after losing the third round that she refused to eat anything the whole day. We made her watch the Kannada film Beladingala Bale in which Anant Nag plays a Grand Master. She was inspired by the movie and went on to win the gold. Even if defeats do disappoint her, she has never disrespected the game and her never-say-die attitude helps her win tough battles,” she notes.

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