Dr Jonathan Rowson wears his impressive chess title of Grandmaster and three time British chess champion lightly. Like the string of degrees he holds from Oxford and Harvard, including a PhD on the concept of wisdom. He is also a widely read author and columnist.
In the City to bond with his Indian in-laws with his wife Siva Thambisetty Ramakrishna (an NLSIU alumnus) and young son Kailash, he talks to Metrolife about his highly successful chess career and other interests.
About the game and his love for it, Jonathan says, “I first learnt chess when I was five from either from my late grandfather Rae, my mother, or one of my uncles. The game has a certain magical quality, and I enjoyed playing for my school until ten. I had begun to read about chess, and then by sheer providence won 250 pounds worth of chess books! I studied them voraciously and that's when I really started to get good. Between 12 and 15 years, the foundations for becoming a Grandmaster were laid. Chess was a welcome escape from growing pains and family complications.”
Jonathan has come a long way since he won those chess books which set him firmly on the path to success. With a 2600 FIDE rating, winning the British Championship, writing three successful books, representing the UK (against China in 2007), he says he achieved what he set out to do and wants to concentrate on fatherhood, writing and academic work while playing good games that he can be proud of.
His biggest ‘wow’ moment was winning the British Championship for the third consecutive year. But how does he deal with losing? “I take time out to analyse the game with my opponent, call my wife Siva, to let off some steam and hear about life outside of chess. I also study the game on the computer to figure out what I did wrong technically and psychologically,” he explains.
He also warns of the dangers of taking mistakes lightly, “In my book ‘Chess for Zebras’, I caution people not to excuse themselves for mistakes easily.” He says one of the most interesting places he has played in was Delhi in 2003. His non chess interests include transcendental meditation, yoga and a leaning towards spirituality. However, superstition and ‘hocus-pocus’ are complete no.
His favourite books and films include Marcel’s Life of Pi and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. “My music tastes vary. When I am working, I like to listen to Hariprasad Chaurasia. I also read and write a lot. And I also like watching cricket, especially Twenty20. I remember watching a televised match in Bangalore where India beat Pakistan. When we won, I felt really proud to be Indian, until I remembered that I wasn’t...” he says.