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Gold for the champ

Rohit has proved his mettle by winning a gold in the World Youth Chess Olympiad recently. At this point, a good coach and stable sponsorship will help him get his IM norm, writes V.V.SUBRAHMANYAM.

WELL DESERVED: Rohit gets his due.

NOT LONG ago, he was one of the many schoolboys more interested in watching movies and whiling away the time rather innocuously. But, the success stories of Pentyala Harikrishna, India's youngest Grandmaster, and World junior champion Koneru Humpy, had a major influence on Rohit . Once he developed interest in the 64-square board, his parents ensured that it didn't diminish over a period of time. Interestingly, one of the main reasons for Andhra producing such outstanding, young talent in chess is the number of former National players taking up coaching for their own livelihood. And to their delight, the parental support complements the youngsters' unbridled enthusiasm. It is not an exaggeration to point out that almost every alternate household in the Andhra region would love to have their `own' chess champion of international repute.

For the 13-year-old Gogineni Rohit, winner of the gold medal in the World Youth (under-16) Chess Olympiad in Kuala Lumpur last week, it can well be the beginning of a new chapter. This gifted youngster from Guntur "only expected to win a medal but not the gold.'' For the record, India finished fourth with a silver and Rohit's gold in its kitty.

Yet, the focus is not just on the creditable performance of the immediate past. But, on how to find another sponsor to join hands with Rohit, the only support coming now from Hero Honda by way of the Rs. 4 lakh annual grant. "Perhaps, the time has come for us to look for a prospective joint-sponsor or else, there is a serious threat of landing no where,'' says his father Gogineni Rama Rao. The matter of fact is that Rohit will have to take part in as many International Master tournaments as possible to realise his first objective of getting the IM norm. Experts feel that since Rohit is a very good attacking player, this is the time he needs the services of a qualified coach like Sherbakov who is now training in Kolkata. "A 40-day camp with Rohit will do the youngster a world of good,'' says V.R.Bobba, secretary of Andhra Chess Association.

Interestingly, it was after a one-month training stint with double GM-norm holder D.V.Prasad in Bangalore that Rohit has won the titles in all the four events he took part starting from National under-14 in Chennai to the latest gold in Olympiad. `I would love to have him as my coach but he is busy with his own preparations for the GM title,'' says Rohit. "He taught me opening preparations and I was really happy with his approach,'' says the youngster who first won his National title in the under-7 section in 1996, the year when Harikrishna clinched the World under-10 championship in Greece.

What is important is that Rohit defeated a much better player, Uzbekistan's Imanov in Sicilian Opening in the Olympiad. Recollecting that, the ninth standard student of Vignan School (now settled in Hyderabad just for the sake of coaching) says once he sacrificed a pawn in the opening, Imanov's slipped into a minus position. "After that he never recovered. Somehow, I liked the way I could manoeuvre the pieces,'' he added. In fact, before the Olympiad, Rohit attended a 24-day coaching camp with Russian Lissenko, who has been training young talent from Andhra, in Eluru. "My confidence level shot up after I outwitted him in the simultaneous chess he played against 14 of us,'' he added.

This boy, coached currently by Kesavananda Krishna, is without doubt a potential champion from the State and has now become the only player from Andhra after Pentyala Harikrishna to win a gold in the Olympiad. He has an amazing record of winning a medal in all the events he took part in the last four years. After the Sub-junior Nationals in Hyderabad, his focus shifts to the World Youth championship in Greece. "By year-end, we are going to get a clear hint of where he is heading for,'' says his father.

That is the reason, why he is keen of a positive attitude from the authorities and the corporate sector to ensure that this gifted talent doesn't drift away for want of adequate support. It is pertinent to remember here that both Harikrishna and Humpy could achieve so much because of the corporate support complementing their talent and then of course the State Government showering on them generous cash incentives.

Photo: Mohd. Yousuf

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