When her daughter was in UKG, N. Nagalakshmi sent her to chess coaching to prevent her from spending her evenings watching TV.

“She had to wear spectacles at such a young age. I was worried, and I felt she was more interested in chess and drawing, than music or dance,” she said. 

What followed was a seven-year-long training in chess once her coach discovered her aptitude for the game.

“We spend over Rs. 5,000 on her coaching every month. But we know she will be a world champion some day,” said Nagalakshmi, as she waited for her daughter R. Vaishali, an Asian chess champion, and a class VII student of Velammal School, to finish a four-hour game at the Women Grandmaster Tournament that began in Chennai on Wednesday. 

Nearly 120 participants, including five grandmasters and over 93 internationally-rated players from 10 different countries, have assembled in the city for the tournament — an event being held alongside the World Chess Championship.

“This tournament is being held in the city for the first time. Thirty years ago, Tiruchy had hosted it,” said M. Muthukumar, chief arbiter of the tournament.  

Players from Serbia, Russia, Malaysia, Armenia and Uzbekistan are participating in the tournament. “The age group is varied too. There are women in their 50s and also some who are barely 12,” said Mr. Muthukumar. The tournament is scheduled to go on till November 14.

One of four players from Georgia, Keti Tsatsalashvili said this was her second visit to Chennai. “I had come before for a junior competition and I loved Marina beach then. I like how people are hospitable here, but chess is taken far more seriously in my country,” said the 21-year-old. 

Prathyusha Bodda, a national champion from Andhra Pradesh, is barely 16 years old but has been to Chennai at least 15 times to participate in various competitions.

“I have been living in a chess academy for four years now. I miss home and watching television. To focus better, we don’t watch T.V. but listen to soft music and meditate after four hours of playing,” she said.

This visit was special, she said, adding she would want to take tips from Marian Gomes, a famed player from West Bengal. “She is one of the most consistent of players I know. She draws even the toughest of matches. That is how I want to be,” Ms. Bodda said.