Steady climb up the ladder

RAKESH RAO

BLESSED with a friendly smile and a fierce desire to succeed, P. Magesh Chandran and Y. Pratibha are just the kind of chess champions Tamil Nadu is known to produce.

Magesh has truly come a long way from the humble beginning he had made as a seven-year-old. -- Pic. R.V.MOORTHY-

Just when it seemed that Magesh was getting busy with his academics after gaining entry into the University of Texas and Dallas as a scholarship student of Telecommunication Engineering, came the triumph in the Asian junior championship and it should help in strengthening his resolve.

The added nine-game GM-norm should help Magesh in staying on course for joining the country's Grandmasters club, besides raising the possibilities of gaining an enhanced scholarship.

Magesh has truly come a long way from the humble beginning he had made as a seven-year-old. After learning the basics from his father, Magesh won the State championship for under-8 in 1992 and consolidated his claim as a budding talent by winning the State under-10 championship twice in succession. A bronze in the National under-8 in 1995 was his first prized possession outside the State. The same year, Magesh claimed the second spot in the National under-12.

The next two years saw Magesh win the National under-16 title and surely, the coaching under V. Hariharan was beginning to produce noteworthy results.

Magesh finished a creditable sixth in the World sub-junior championship in 1997 and the very next year, he won the prestigious Tamil Nadu senior title. In 2000 and 2001, Magesh claimed the National under-18 and under-19 titles before qualifying for the National `A' by finishing third in the National `B' at Nagpur.

He represented India in the World junior championship in Athens and returned with his maiden International Master's norm in 2001.

Though Magesh's maiden outing in the National `B' at Nagpur in January 2002 was not a great one, results began pouring in soon after that. In the Asian Open at Bikaner, Magesh made his second IM norm. A few days later, in the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister's GM tournament at Raipur, Magesh was declared as having completed his IM title norm. But in reality, one technical requirement was not met. Magesh moved from Raipur to Kolkata and continued his irrepressible form to make another IM norm in the Goodricke International and removed all doubts over his gaining the IM title.

Y. Pratibha is one among the many Tamil Nadu girls trying to emulate some of their more illustrious Statemates-

Since then, India has not hosted a single GM tournament and players such as Magesh have waited in vain for the norm-opportunities to come their way. Though Magesh narrowly missed regaining the National junior title at Nagpur last year, he still earned the right to represent the country in the World and Asian championships. The World championship did not prove a very happy experience but the Asian proved a perfect antidote for the disappointment.

Currently, with a rating of 2419, Magesh is ranked 20th in the country. Gradually, Magesh will have to enhance his rating to 2500 without which he cannot be granted the Grandmaster title even if he completes the stipulated norms.

Nowadays, Magesh finds it tough to play tournaments in the U.S. and also lacks practice-partners. Though he has GMs Yuri Shulman, Kempinski and IMs Amon Simutowe and IM Dmitry Schneider as his teammates, Magesh is still not pleased with his preparations. He has started training with IM Rade Milnovich and hopes to become a GM in two years.

Unlike Magesh, Y. Pratibha took to chess rather late at 13. Born in Coimbatore, Pratibha learned the game from her friend S. Archana before taking serious lessons from coach V. Ravichandran. Today, she trains with Ravichandran as well as C. Natarajan.

Pratibha's achievements at the National level include silver medals in the National under-16 championships in 1998 and 1999. Again in 1999, she won a bronze in the National under-18 and improved it to silver in 2000. Her international medals include silver medals in the Asian under-18 and Asian junior championship last year.

At the senior level, Pratibha has been a consistent performer. She has qualified for the National `A' for the past three years.

The Woman International Master title and the nine-game WGM norm is a huge bonus for a girl whose rating is a low 2186. She has to work a lot harder in future, to boost that rating in order to gain the WGM title.

Lest the Asian junior title should give any misleading picture of her potential, it must be made clear that more than anyone else, Pratibha herself knows that she has a long way to go. She is one among the many Tamil Nadu girls trying to emulate some of their more illustrious Statemates. With the State providing the right kind of ambience, players like Pratibha can always look forward to making it big.