Meet Nandidhaa, the small-town TN girl who grew up to become a chess champion
It was an exciting final round at the World Junior Chess Championship for PV Nandidhaa, all of 20 years old and hailing from the small town of Sankagiri in Tamil Nadu. Although she had lost the gold in the previous round, she was determined to bag the silver. But facing her was former champion, Nataliya Buksa from Ukraine.
“I was upset as I had lost the gold because of one mistake, but I was very focused that I need to get this silver medal,” says Nandidhaa, who managed to clinch the win and the silver medal in the girls’ category.
Before she went to the World Championships, Nandidhaa had already won a gold at the Junior Commonwealth Games and a silver at the Junior Asian Games.
Nandidhaa has certainly come a long way since she began playing chess in Class 4, by sheer chance. “I used to play snakes and ladders, there was a chess board on the back. I began playing that,” she explains.
That one chance event changed her whole life. By the time she was in Class 5, she was participating in school-level and inter-school competitions and later went on to participate in district-level and state-level championships.
Today, chess is her life. “Chess relaxes and calms me. I feel very free while playing chess, except in the final rounds in tournaments,” she says.
Coming from a small town of Sankagiri, she feels proud to represent her district and state at the national level and even the country in the recent World Championships.
She has been training for the last year under Deepan Chakravarthy, a professional player from Madurai.
Nandidhaa says that all this has been possible for her because of the support she receives form her family. “My father M Venkatachalam, and mother Sumathi used to take me for all the competitions, even if that meant they had to take leave from work,” she says.
But it is her grandmother to whom she dedicates the silver medal in the world championship. “She was the one who always encouraged me. If she were alive today, she would have been the happiest person to see me getting this medal,” said Nandidhaa.
Among her role models in the sport, she says, her favourite is Richard Rapport from Hungary. “I like his style of playing and the aggressiveness he has in the game,” she says.
With many wins already under her belt, Nandidhaa, who is currently pursuing a degree in Engineering at the Anna University in Chennai, dreams of becoming the top player in the country. “I want to become No. 1 woman chess player in India,” she says, adding that she feels opportunities in India are growing with a lot of encouragement for players and numerous platforms for more players to take up the game.