Chess coach Venkatachalam Kameswaran shares his recollections of a young Viswanathan Anand with Liffy Thomas

Venkatachalam Kameswaran and his son Visweswaran Kameswaran have built up an impressive collection of chess memorabilia: a chess board inspired by Star Wars, 300 chess stamps, books, cut-outs of actors playing chess, articles and photographs of top-seeded players.

But their interest in chess runs deeper. Both Venkatachalam and his son are national-level coaches, with the former all set to complete 50 years as chess player and 25 years as coach of Children’s Club, Mylapore.

As a coach, he has worked with prodigies Viswanathan Anand and Krishnan Sasikiran. Venkatachalam has seen a 10-year-old Anand wipe the floor with opponents twice his age.

“I stumbled upon Anand at the House of Soviet Cultural Centre (now Russian Centre for Science and Culture). He would come for practice classes at the chess club operating at the Centre. Playing games together, I built a rapport with Anand,” says 69-year-old Venkatachalam, flipping through an album crammed with black-white photographs from competitions in the past.

For nearly a year, he was Anand’s official coach. He would meet Anand at his house and provide guidance in the chess.

“Anand was popular at the club. He would sit for hours together defeating one player after another,” he says. “Speed being Anand’s strength, he was called the ‘lightening kid’. He never repeated his mistakes.” Venkatachalam saw Anand go from strength to strength. When a 15-year-old Anand went to Finland for a tournament, Venkatachalam accompanied him. Since then, the chess king gone places but the two still stay in touch. “When he won the World Juniors, he gifted me a computer,” says Venkatachalam.

From a national player to a celebrity coach to a freelance journalist to an organiser, this retired Income Tax officer has donned many roles. At present, Venkatachalam and his son Visweswaran spot and groom young chess talents through Grassroots Chess Promotions. Visweswaran, a FIDE trainer and a full-time coach for the last eight years, has coached the Indian team that went on to win the first World Youth Olympiad (2007) and has helped produce eight Grand Masters for the country.

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