Beat­ing Odds

Chess player Ta­nia Sachdev on what keeps her go­ing


Un­like chess, there is no black and white in Ta­nia Sachdev’s life when it comes to win­ning and los­ing as fail­ures give her the power to push her­self more. She holds the FIDE (Fédéra­tion Internationale des Échecs) ti­tles of in­ter­na­tional mas­ter and woman grand­mas­ter. In­tro­duced to chess at six, the 32-year-old Ar­juna Awardee win­ner, who is also a Com­mon­wealth Women’s Cham­pion and Red Bull ath­lete, seeks re­pose in mu­sic when her mind is mud­dled be­fore a tour­na­ment.

How did you get in­tro­duced to chess­ing?

I vividly re­mem­ber my fa­ther teach my brother chess from a hand­book be­cause he did not know how to play him­self. We had been gifted a chess­board and I re­mem­ber stand­ing at the door and watch­ing him teach my brother the rules. I was very in­trigued to see what this game was about be­cause it was not like play­ing ball or in­volved run­ning around. It also looked in­ter­est­ing be­cause it wasn’t like any other board game be­cause I would see my brother and fa­ther de­lib­er­ate be­tween ev­ery point. I wanted to learn it as well. I don’t think my brother was in­ter­ested so he left but I sat there, lis­ten­ing to in­struc­tions. That ended there but af­ter a cou­ple of days I went up to my fa­ther and asked him if we could go back to the game

and play an­other round. He was quite sur­prised be­cause it was an un­usual re­quest com­ing from a six-year-old. I was a com­pet­i­tive and cu­ri­ous child so, he sat me down and we played again.

A fool­proof tip for women to suc­ceed at the game

The skills that you de­velop if you spend half an hour play­ing the game are es­sen­tial. It forces you to pull your­self out of the com­fort zone and de­velop skills such as the abil­ity to visu­alise, cal­cu­late, to log­i­cally come to a de­ci­sion, to un­der­stand what’s go­ing on and to per­ceive the sit­u­a­tion bet­ter. I can tell you about that the only fool­proof tip is to work re­ally hard at the game. Chess is a very dif­fi­cult sport be­cause you’re con­stantly chal­leng­ing your mind.

What are the things one can fall back de­spite fail­ure?

The one thing I have learnt to fall back de­spite dif­fi­cult tour­na­ments is my in­ner, men­tal strength. I be­lieve that there is a lot of power in ad­ver­sity and fail­ure. Play­ing teaches you that you will lose, you will fall, and you will miss the ball and get run out. Th­ese things will hap­pen but it doesn’t mat­ter as long as you stand up and fight it out the next day again. Your weak­est mo­ments go on to make the strong­est ver­sion of your­self. You have to learn from your mis­takes. The un­ders-tand­ing that there is so much good in what we term as fail­ure, it gives peo­ple the power to move on.

How has chess con­trib­uted to your growth and per­son­al­ity?

I had to miss a lot of school and col­lege, and I didn’t have a nor­mal growing up years. At that time, it seemed hard be­cause you miss not hav­ing many friends and not be­ing out as much. You spend a lot of time prac­tis­ing but when I look back, I feel it was the best ed­u­ca­tion to deal with good and bad games. My per­son­al­ity is built upon the skills I have de­vel­oped out of the game, the ex­po­sure I have got, and the way I have learnt to deal with peo­ple. You’re an ath­lete but you also are a pri­vate per­son and you have learnt to build this wall so that things don’t dis­tract you while you’re play­ing. What­ever you be­come is the re­sult of the way you’ve grown up. I love ev­ery­thing about the game and what comes with it.

Pho­to­graph by RA­JWANT RAWAT

Win­ning keeps Sachdev al­ways mo­ti­vated

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