Tania Sachdev: Queen of Black & White
Tania Sachdev has been a key figure among chess player in our country. Starting her career with the national team in 2008, the 31-year-old woman grandmaster believes that Indian chess has come a long way since she begun.
"When I started for the national team in 2008, I was the youngest player on the team. Now, in 2018, when I will be heading the national team (in Georgia for the women's team chess championship in September), I will be the oldest player in the team. So, it's very clear that young girls are pursuing chess as a sport and there is immense talent in the country for the game," she said on the sidelines of the launch of Brain Duel, a mind sports league.
Despite the development and positive attitude of the All India Chess Federation towards the development of the game in the country, chess needs a spectator-friendly format for the monetisation of the game through domestic franchise leagues.
"Understandably, chess is a little difficult to watch because it's a brain battle. So, the fan following is not there but a lot of sponsors are coming up nowadays and the game has expanded in the country over the years.
"But, it's very important to make the game spectator-friendly because that's how you monetise it. And that is something chess needs to learn from other sports; ways to make it more acceptable to the public for a franchise league to happen," she explained.
Talking about the grassroots development of the game in the nation, the Arjuna awardee said that the game doesn't require any heavy infrastructure but, instead, needs inculcation in the system as a culture to develop among kids from an early age.
"It doesn't really require heavy infrastructure as the game is all about the brain. Players don't need to spend hours on extensive physical training. If you look in the west and Russia, where chess has flourished as a culture, they produce the most numbers of grandmasters. The game is a part of their culture. The game is introduced at the school-level for its corollary mental benefit and not to produce future grandmasters, because the correlation between chess and high academic performance has been proven," Tania said.
However, once the potential of a player is realised and he or she has decided to go professional, the international master believes that proper training, guidance and competence become of paramount importance to nurture such talent.
"After you pick the best players from the country through a grassroots system, you need to provide the infrastructure such as best trainers, providing them with the opportunity to play in top tournaments and not just compete against each other," she said.
Tania is often credited as an eloquent speaker and is highly credited as a chess commentator. The chess athlete said she started commentary because of the challenges it possesses.
"I took up commentary because I like challenges and it is challenging because commentators have to simplify the game for the viewers. Many people follow the game, but sometimes it is hard for a person to understand the move of a world champion because whatever he is planning is inside the grandmaster's mind. At times, it becomes extremely difficult because the level is very high and the game gets rather complex – commentators, then, are on their toes to break it down in easier terms for the viewers. But, I do enjoy doing it and it has been rewarding since I receive positive feedback," said Tania.
The grandmaster concluded by saying that she has let go of her short-term goals of improving her ranking and has started laying emphasis on developing herself as an overall chess player. She firmly believes it is a never-ending process as the sky is the limit when it comes to developing one's brain.