At an age when most boys of his age are glued to cartoons or comic books,eight-year-old Ruhaan Mahindru toys with the Sicilian Defence and its more exotic sub-variations of Sicilian Dragon,Scheveningen and Najdorf or setting out on a Ruy Lopez – all popular openings in the game of chess.
A student of Std II at Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai,the current Maharashtra state champion is part of the team which is representing India in the U-8 world youth chess championships,to be held at Al Ain,UAE,in December. He will also represent Maharashtra in November this year at the U-9 nationals in Chennai.
He started training at South Mumbai Chess Academy (SMCA) since he was four-and-a-half-years-old and was playing local tournaments and winning,which is when we realised he had the aptitude and potential for the game,and that we needed to move towards serious coaching. He started undergoing more rigorous and one-to-one coaching since last year, says Neetu Mahindru,his mother.
Ruhaan started the year with an ELO rating (a rating system in chess) 1494,which placed him as the second highest player in India and the highest in Maharashtra. He participated in the first all-India international FIDE rating chess tournament in Mumbai in July this year,where he won the top spots in the under eight and under-10 categories simultaneously.
Winning is very important,but I dont get discouraged by the losses either. It motivates me to do better the next time, says Ruhaan,who also loves playing football,reading Enid Blyton and watching back-to-back movies.
A supportive school has helped him maintain a healthy balance between his studies and his chess tournaments. He is a bright child and can pick up things very fast. The school has also been very supportive. If he misses a class,the school ensures the worksheets are sent home. And once he goes back to school,the teachers make sure he picks up from where he had left off. Its his desire to excel in everything that he does,which makes things easier for us too, says Neetu.
Admitting he does feel nervous sometimes,Ruhaan says he concentrates on preparing the openings before each tournament. While he puts in at least six hours of practice daily before a tournament,he spends two to three hours on an average on chess when there are no tournaments.
And does he feel like he is missing out on regular things that a child of his age does? I dont think so. I have the best of both worlds (academics and sports) and I can balance all aspects well. Moreover,it is a great feeling to represent the country, he said.