As a young boy, R. Ganesh Bhat frequently used to land up latefor chess tournaments. He was a newspaper boy during his college years and whenever the paper van arrived late, he was late for games.
“I’ve missed many games at the Cusat Open as I had to travel a longdistance from my home in Mattancherry to play there,” said the 31-year-old. “But the condition at home was difficult, being the eldest of four children meant that I had to shoulder a lot of responsibilities. Playing chess was not easy.”
Ganesh won his maiden Kerala State senior title at Payyannur the other day. The achievement stood out, for he had virtually been away from the active tournament circuit for nearly five years.
“I had played just about ten tournaments in the last five years,” said Ganesh, who will be leaving for Kolkata on Monday to play in the National Championship.
“I started coaching players a few years ago to make some money and going to tournaments meant missing five or six days on the trot frequently. Also, managing the expenses on the circuit was not easy. So I stayed away from tournaments.”
Fell for chess at 16
Ganesh came to chess by accident at 16. He was a decent cricketer and badminton player during his school days. “I used to play badminton at a friend’s place near the Cochin College where I studied. One day, the shuttle fell in a neighbour’s house and when I went there to retrieve it, I saw a couple of youngsters deeply engrossed in a game of chess,” he said. “I fell for it instantly, it became a passion”.
He borrowed chess books from friends, exchanged moves and ideas, and later, played some close games with his younger brother. He climbed the Kerala chess ladder, winning the district honours and in 2002 finished runner-up to K. Ratnakaran, a former Asian youth bronze medallist and currently an International Master, in the under-25 State championship.
A couple of years later, he started giving chess lessons to young children, first going from home to home and then to schools. Now, he runs his own chess academy in Kochi.
“Children in Kerala have a lot of potential in chess, only, they are not willing to work hard,” said Ganesh. Chess is a struggle of sorts, a mental struggle but children these days are not keen to slog, to make sacrifices.
Meghna, his best trainee
His brightest trainee, C. H. Meghna, won the under-8 World schools championship silver last year. She also won the under-10 bronze in the Asian youth championship in New Delhi on Saturday.
“She is my best trainee, I also got the Central Government’s cash award for her performance,” said Ganesh. “Now, Yohan, another youngster, is showing a lot of promise.” Still, Ganesh rues missing some of the crucial years of his playing career.
“My big regret is that I couldn’t concentrate fully on my game, those five years could have been my best years. Coaching, for sure, has helped me settle down in life but since the results have not been very big, at least not in number, the pain is more.
With G. N. Gopal, the State’s first Grandmaster, and International Master Ratnakaran taking Kerala chess to a new high, Ganesh feels that by skipping tournaments, he has been pushed out of the big race.