At the age of three she begged her father to teach her to play chess, and now it’s paying dividends.
Kriti Lalla, 10, of Gordon Road Girls’ School in Durban, was awarded South African colours in chess after she won in her division at the South Africa Junior Championships in Johannesburg last year.
This led to an invitation to the South African Junior Closed Chess Champions, where she once again emerged victorious and was awarded Chess South Africa’s Woman Union Master title in April.
For the Grade 5 pupil, winning the title – which is awarded for life – is one of her proudest achievements.
“If you played very well in the South African closed tournament you get a title. As you go on, you get new titles and I am hoping for the biggest, the Grand Master title.
“I feel really proud of myself because at my age I have this title and it’s really hard to get them.”
Now Lalla will jet off to Zambia in August to represent South Africa in the All Africa Youth Chess Championship and then to Brazil in November for the World Youth Chess Championships.
A very excited Lalla said she was looking forward to the experience and would be going with her parents, Adhir and Sandhya.
She said she watched her father play when she was younger. “I asked him to teach me the game. I find it interesting because each person has a different playing style.”
Last year she won 15 out of 16 games she played at the junior championship.
“I was nervous because it was a tough tournament. There were lots of players, with different styles. You get an aggressive style and a calm style. I like playing a balance (of these) but I like to attack. I’m not much of a defender.”
Lalla, who is also involved in classical dancing and gymnastics, said her strategy was to think three steps ahead, adding it helped her save time.
“If you think just one move ahead you will be wasting a lot of time. So that is why I think ahead and I think what the other person’s move will be.”
Adhir said he was “immensely proud” of his daughter and never missed a game, adding that she had worked hard to get to where she was.
Gordon Road Girls’ School has produced three South African chess players. The school emphasises the importance of the game by incorporating it into its maths lessons.
Chess coach Jikiyela Mthembu (JR), who sits on the National Schools’ Chess Committee, said they were proud of Lalla’s achievement. “Chess includes skills such as focus and discipline.
“I regard it as a way of life,” he said.
“Before you make a move you have to think, and it helps with the skills used in maths.”