It's for her love of the game

ANILA SHAH is featured in these columns not because she's a great player. Which she isn't.

It's for her love of the game that this spirited lady, who became a grandmother recently, is known in the women's chess circles in the country. She's been a regular at the National women's `B' for many years.

Earlier Anila, who turned 57 last month, used to accompany her daughter Arpi, a former National women's `A' player. She came alone to Kozhikode, because Arpi is taking rest these days, after becoming a mother in February.

She is of course a far more accomplished player than her mother, having played in the National women's `A' once, in 1992. She also did well in age-group competitions.

Her mother has no such achievements to boast of. She's happy if she gets to score four points from a tournament (she scored three at Kozhikode and finished 92nd in a field of 104).

Anila, though, is proud that she had played at the National women's `B' not as a donor entry, but as a qualifier from the Gujarat State championship (she herself would tell you that her State can't pose a serious threat to Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu, with little kids like Dhyani Dave and Kajri Choksi being the top seeds).

Her understanding of the game is not that deep. She's often seen as an assured full point, if you are a decent player. Her most famous victim is Riti Shah, a National under-10 champion. "I beat her after she won the Nationals you know," she was quick to remind you.

Bhagyashree Thipsay, whose first round opponent at Kozhikode was Anila, said she admired the old lady for her spirit. "It's good to see a player coming all the way from distant places just to play chess, even when she knows she has no chance of doing well. I guess it's her love for the game that takes Anila to tournaments."

Anila loves the game so much that she even goes abroad to play tournaments, like the British championship. "I like to play in as many tournaments as I can," she said. "But my employer, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation doesn't grant me leave."