Last week, when five-year-old Saanvi Aggarwal had to travel to Tumkur, Karnataka, to compete in the 32nd National U-7 Open and Girls Chess Championships, it was for the first time that Saanvi had to stay without her mother for more than 10 days. The young chess player secured the second spot with four points in the U-5 category in the tournament. Shashini Puvi claimed the title with five points. The second place also meant that Saanvi would qualify for the Indian team in the U-6 category for next year’s Asian Chess Championships.
“It’s my first national medal and it is the biggest gift from me to my parents. I told my mother that the four points are like getting adjudged in my school tests. My favourite continent is Asia and I am happy that I will get to play in the Asian Championships. Currently, I have two chess sets and I will now ask my parents for a painting game as my reward for the second-place finish. My favourite pieces in chess are king and queen and this medal is a gift for my two-month-old brother,” shared Saanvi, a student of KG standard at St Stephen’s Preparatory School, Sector 46.
Daughter of businessman Ashok Aggarwal and chartered accountant Divya Aggarwal, Saanvi started playing chess at the age of three on seeing her mother playing the game at home. Divya played for the MCM DAV College chess team at inter-college competitions and Saanvi started taking professional coaching last year. Saanvi won the title in the U-7 category at the Chandigarh Girls Chess Championships this April apart from claiming the second spot in the U-9 category and competing in the U-11 and U-17 categories.
“When she started playing chess, she did not even know how to read words and could not understand the various positions in chess. So, we had to make her understand with slanting and standing lone format. In Tumkur, she was always eager to play against U-7 players and it boosted her confidence,” said 34-year-old Ashok Aggarwal.
Saanvi’s mother Divya has not told her yet about former world champion Viswanathan Anand and the world’s second-youngest Grand Master R Praggnanandhaa of Chennai. “Saanvi used to observe me play chess at home and liked the game. We have not told her about Viswanathan sir and P R Praggnanandhaa but I am sure she will ask about them soon. Currently she practises under her coach for one hour daily apart from practising at home for three-four hours. On weekends, she plays chess for three-four hours under her coach. My younger son is two-month old and I could not travel to Tumkur but she promised me a medal,” said 28-year-old Divya.
Saanvi’s coach and FIDE arbiter Nitin Rathore believes that the little girl stands out for her attacking style of play. “Saanvi won the second spot in the U-7 category in Chandigarh and this second-place finish in nationals will guarantee her spot in the U-6 category Indian team for Asian Championships. Her strength has been playing attacking moves and as she understands more chess games, she will improve,” shared the coach.