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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Disney fan is chess champ

At 16 years and 14 days,G Akash is youngest to win the title.

Written by Raakesh Natraj | Kolkata/new Delhi | Published: October 17, 2012 2:48:06 am

At 16 years and 14 days,G Akash is youngest to win the title.

For most professional chess players,their association with the sport starts almost as soon as they learn to clasp the pieces. G Akash,however,was a ripe old 10 when he started taking chess seriously. Six years later,he has become the nation’s youngest national chess champion.

When Akash drew with Grand Master Deep Sengupta in the final round of the National Premier Championship in Kolkata on Sunday,he was 16 years and 14 days old,a few months younger than Viswanathan Anand and Dibyendu Barua when they claimed their first national titles.

Even a few months back,when the Chennai boy finished third in the under-17 nationals,Akash was seen as talented,but in his own age category. The record -breaking run has left him surprised too. “My initial target was to acquire an IM norm. But after the seventh round,I felt I had a chance and played aggressively,” Akash,who also gained his first GM norm in the process,told The Indian Express.

“He had previously held his own against players rated around 2300,the tier-III players of the country. He has not played better players consistently before and when he was doing well mid-way through the tournament,I remember telling my wife he might actually pull this off,” said coach GM RB Ramesh.

If the success story sounds incredible,there are a few sobering facts too — the premier chess tournament does not attract the top-rung players and the leader for most parts of the tournament,GM MR Venkatesh,was penalised for arriving late for a round and ended a solitary point behind Akash.

Still,that takes nothing away from the journey of a boy who,till a few years ago,was more likely to be found sitting glued in front of the television,watching Disney Channel’s Art Attack shows back to back.

“I am a small-time chess player and used to play with Akash as a kid,at home. We used to discuss moves but it wasn’t very serious. When he was 10,I took him to a chess academy and that’s where it began,” said father Ganeshan.

Within a couple of years,he became the state champion in U-13 and U-15 tournaments. “When he won the state U-25 event,competing against much older players,I realised he is special,” Ganeshan said.

Akash manages to juggle his studies with his tournaments. The next step would be balancing college with his chess,which his coach admits would be tricky. “My priority is to acquire a degree in computer science. I also want to become a grand-master as early as possible and play in the world cup. But chess comes second (to academics),” said Akash.

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