By Gordon D’Costa | Opening Doorz Editorial | March 30, 2017
Suhaani Lohia, Mumbai’s new young chess queen, is upbeat and high on confidence as she sets off to Tashkent, Uzbekistan to participate in the Asian Youth Chess Championship starting from Saturday, April 1 to Sunday, April 9, 2017. Suhaani will be representing India in the Under-8 category and will compete in a strong field of over 40 contenders from more than 20 Asian National chess federations.
However, the seven-year-old Suhaani, a student of Dhirubhai Ambani International School, who became the first Women Candidate Master from the city believes that she will have a great tournament and is confident of returning with flying colours. “Overall, I am happy to be representing my country and aim to make India proud. I am excited to be playing in this tournament and at the same time a little nervous. But I am going to give it my best shot and hope to enjoy every match,” revealed a confident Suhaani, who has an ELO rating of 1120 points, when we met her on the eve of her departure for the tournament.
Suhaani, who trains with the South Mumbai Chess Academy (SMCA) under renowned coach Balaji Guttula, who is a FIDE Master, has been practicing daily for three to four hours. “I have been working hard with coach Guttala and we have focused more on the Sicilian and Kings Indian defense. I feel that I have prepared well enough and look forward to the competition,” the young Suhaani responded to a query on the time spent on the chess board.
Coach Guttula is satisfied with her preparations but did not want to make any prediction about her chances in the tournament. “Suhaani won the bronze in the Asian Schools Championship last year. But in Tashkent, she will be up against an extremely strong field where the top three players from Asian countries will be competing. Since all are very young it’s not possible to anticipate what’s going to come out from the competition. However, she has been working hard and has the potential to finish on a high,” said Guttalla.
Guttula also pointed out that her strengths have been her patience, focus and commitment. “She is very mature for her age. She is very patient and composed during her matches and not aggressive. She patiently waits for the opportune moment and is quick to capitalize on the errors of her opponent. Once she seizes the advantage she goes for the kill,” Gutulla revealed.
- Silver Medal (runner-up): National Schools Championship, Nagpur, January, 2016.
- Bronze Medal (3rd place): National Chess Championship, Pondicherry, September 2016.
- Bronze Medal (3rd place): Asian Schools Championship (Under-7 category), Tehran, Iran, July 2016.
Sheer curiosity and inquisitiveness while watching her elder brother participate in chess tournaments sparked her interests in the sport. Her mother Sheetal revealed that Suhaani would accompany her with elder brother Siddhant, also a chess player, for tournaments across the country and she would always try to find out what was going on inside the tournament hall. “She would keep peeping through the glass windows or panels to find out what her brother was doing and gradually she began to understand what was going on and soon developed an interest towards the game and started playing the sport much before she turned four years (in 2013) and she has already started doing well.”
“It’s so automatic that she got attracted to the game. She enjoys playing chess competitively and is quite motivated. It’s a proud feeling for her and for us that she is representing the country and also because she is doing well in a sport which requires focus, hard-work and discipline,” beamed the proud mother.
Suhaani earned the Women Candidate Master norm following her bronze-winning effort in the Under-7 category of the Asian Schools Chess Championship, in Tehran, Iran last July.
It will now depend on whether Suhaani can make the right moves, which would ensure her a medal in Tashkent and fulfill her hopes of making the country proud.
(Gordon D’Costa is a senior sports journalist. He has worked with the Free Press Journal and the Hindustan Times. He now focusses on highlighting young talent from across schools, apart from ensuring local sports gets its due coverage in the media)