When Saanvi Aggarwal from Chandigarh won the second position in the Under-5 category of National Chess in 2018, she underlined the potential of chess players in North India.
Though presently Himanshu Sharma of Haryana is the only Grandmaster from North India to figure among the 66 GMs of the country, the game and level of chess players have improved manifold.
International Master (IM) Himal Gosain may soon be the first Grandmaster from Chandigarh. At 27, he already has two of the three mandatory norms required to win the title.
Tarini Goyal, who already has one international norm in her kitty, is all set to become a Woman International Master. Jalandhar’s Dushyant Sharma, barely 17, got an IM norm last year.
Arvinder Preet from Ludhiana, working with the Railways, won the FIDE World Amateur Chess championship in the Under-2300 rating category in 2018.
Shaurya Kumaria of Chandigarh won the prestigious Delhi Open tournament (Category C) in which more than 1,300 players took part.
Before that, Baij Nath and Abhinandan Vohra, both trained Himal Gosain, and Naveen Bansal, who coached Tarini Goyal in the initial years of her career, had made a mark on the chess scene.
The brother-sister duo of Punjab women’s chess champion Shweta Rathore and Nitin Rathore run Chess Mantra coaching club in Mohali and Chandigarh. The duo came into limelight after the two appeared on TV show Kaun Banega Crorepati, hosted by Amitabh Bachchan. Nitin has coached Saanvi Aggarwal. “There are at least 1,000 active players in the region,” said Nitin.
Indicating the growth of the game, former Uttar Pradesh champion Ram Parkash has opened a coaching club in Chandigarh. Mohammad Ibrahim, a prominent player from South India, has also set up base here.
Though Himal Gosain and some other players got jobs on the basis performance in chess in the Railways and banks, lack of support from the governments in this region is seen as a dampener.
Gaurav Bansal, who runs the Chandigarh Shatraj Parents Association, rues that Chandigarh does not recognise chess as a graded game. “Players have to often travel to New Delhi and beyond if they want their child to reach a achieve a good level. This requires time and money,” he says.
Juhi Goyal, mother of Tarini, did exactly that. “Juhi was working as a vice-principal with a prominent school in Chandigarh. She quit her job when she saw potential in our two daughters, Arunima and Tarini,” says Ashish Goyal, her husband. He later became president of the Chandigarh Chess Association.
According to coach and international arbiter Naveen Bansal, to make a chess champion, the right kind of combination is a must. The foremost is the child’s passion for the game, then comes the dedication of the parents, besides finding the right trainer with a good experience. It is important that he should have an in-depth understanding of the game.
“Making the parents understand the game and performance is more challenging than training the children,” Bansal insists.
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