Chess player Tania Sachdev goes out of her way to calm her nerves after a match. Quite literally so. While most players in a team would prefer to stay and watch the remainder of the games, the 27-year-old prefers to go out for a long walk. If logistics provide for it, she enjoys covering mileage in the swimming pool or on a bicycle. This trait was conspicuous in the national chess champion’s recent travel with the Indian team to Tabriz, Iran. Walking was the option provided this time around, albeit, given the conditions in the host nation, she was required to cover her head. “It was a bit difficult to go out for fresh air this time, but I still managed on a few occasions,” she says.
Sachdev featured in the Indian team that participated in the Asian Nations Cup in the Northern Iranian city that won the gold in the Blitz format and silvers in the Rapid and Classic forms of chess. The team played in the finals against Vietnam after defeating China in the qualifying round. “Beating China and winning medals, this was the best performance we’ve ever had in this tournament,” she asserts.
The 2009 Arjuna Awardee is now looking to replicate that same form in the second Maharashtra Chess League (MCL) in Pune where she will play for the Thane Combatants. Purchased at last month’s auction for Rs 52,000, the Delhi girl reckons her team has a good mix of players. “We have some good players. But then again, so do the other teams,” she says. Sachdev played for the Ahmednagar Checkers in last year’s edition, finishing third. “It was a lot of fun. Everything was organised professionally. Every country has a chess league. This is ours and it has set the standard for budding players,” she adds.
Currently the holder of the International Master and Women’s Grandmaster titles, Sachdev has been in the game for over 20 years, being introduced to it the age of six. She asserts that the motivation to continue in the game has always been the love for the competition the game provides. “It gives you that rush which eventually becomes an addiction. The travel and playing time is exhausting, but if I have a bad tournament, I get inspired to work and improve my record,” she states.
Apart from targeting a winning run at the MCL, Sachdev is aiming for the elusive men’s Grandmaster title, the highest honour in the sport. “It’s been my dream for the past five years and I’m hoping to get to the required 2500 ELO rating soon,” she says. As it stands, her ELO rating in the classic format is 2422.
The pursuit for the top-title has tightened her daily schedule. Yet she still manages to venture in other avenues. Sachdev has also worked as a commentator, being called in to describe the 2013 World Chess Championship between Magnus Carlsen and Vishwanathan Anand. “There are just a few tournaments which have commentators, and fewer still with women on the mike. It was an excellent experience and, if given the chance, I’d love to do it again,” she claims.
Since returning from Iran, she hasn’t found much time to prepare herself for the upcoming Pune event. Pre-tournament preparation for her normally involves a two-week self-imposed training camp in which she practices for five hours every day. She will rely on the fortnight she had to prepare for the Iran event. And while in Pune, she will bank on the availability of a swimming pool or a bicycle. “If not then a walk will do just fine,” she concludes.