As she watched Viswanathan Anand taking on Magnus Carlsen at the ball room of Hyatt Regency a couple of days ago, S.R. Radha made a few moves down memory lane.
“I remembered this young, cute boy who never vacated the winner’s seat at the Tal Chess Club,” says Radha, one of the earliest queens of Tamil Nadu chess.
“There were not many chess clocks at the time and there was this rule at the club that only winner could play with the clock. That boy, Anand, rarely left that seat.”
She says she was convinced that he would become the world champion one day and she was right — Anand went on to win the world title on five occasions.
“It wasn’t just me — everyone who saw Anand play at Tal Club knew that he was going to be a great player,” says Radha, who won the silver medal at the Asian championship in 1987.
“Anand was a sensation then, winning the national ‘A’ championship and then the world juniors. I remember that in my job interview, more questions were asked about Anand than me!”
She recalls that opportunities for women were very limited in her time.
“Though P.V. Nirmala, who played for India in two Olympiads, and I, were the earliest international women players from Tamil Nadu, we did not have it easy. There were no coaches or tournaments for us,” says the 53-year-old.
“I remember nobody at Tal wanted to play with me until I won the Tamil Nadu State championship in 1987. Men those days did not think highly of a woman’s skills in chess,” she says.
Ms. Radha is happy that things have changed drastically since then.
“Now you see so many young girls play chess and are fully supported by their parents,” says the ONGC deputy manager. “And now along with the world championship, we had a Woman Grandmaster Tournament. I could not play in it because my mother fell ill. It was disappointing to miss out on that opportunity,” she says.