As a six-year old hyperactive kid, her parents had no other choice but to keep her busy in various activity classes so that she did not disturb her older siblings.
It was one of these activity classes that developed her interest in the game of chess and then there was no looking back for Tania Sachdev!
The female face of chess in India, Tania recollects how she was a menace for her siblings. “They were academically-oriented and I never let them study. So the only solution to this was to get me enrolled in activity classes. One of these was chess and the day I started playing, I got glued to the game,” says Tania, who could finally be seated in one place!
Then began the spate of chess games at her home which she won at ease. “Everyone in my house was really bad at it so I could beat them,” she says smilingly. But the journey ahead was not easy because the game hadn’t seen a female interest before. “As an eight-year old when I participated in international events it was difficult to cope but I loved to travel, which kept me motivated. My mother accompanied me and by the time I was 15, a lot of parents came upto me seeking advice for their kids who were interested in chess.”
Taking advantage of her anonymity she even defeated people in chess at coffee cafe’s. “Coffee homes in Delhi were the only places where people played chess then. They didn’t know that I was taking formal training and least expected a school girl to be so good at it. So I used to go with my friends to these places and it was a great way to earn pocket money,” she confesses.
She soon took up the game professionally but still remembers, “how hard it was to bring recognition to the game in the first 10 years. Now chess has become so big and picked up so well in Delhi which makes me very happy and excited,” says the City girl when Metrolife met her at the Delhi prelims of Red Bull’s ‘The Battle for the Queen’.
“Cricket has always overshadowed other sports,” rues Tania who feels that the game should be “made a compulsory sport in schools across the country. Chess is the most-widely played sport around the world and a compulsory subject in South India. Then why not make it compulsory elsewhere in the country too? It not only exercises the brain but also develops the analytic and calculative power of the player,” she says listing the benefits.
While most mothers wonder about the diet leading to her intelligent brain, Tania states, “I don’t eat 500 almonds and five tonnes of fish everyday! Only chocolate is my weakness. I love food and eat a lot but for an intelligent mind one needs to start playing chess when young in order to build up the focus and concentration levels.”
Yet, “There is nothing as a perfect player in any sport,” says the Arjuna Awardee who enjoys the adrenaline rush of competing. “I want to cross my present rank and be in the top 20 women world ranking in future!”