'We need more sponsors'

Published : Jul 07, 2001 00:00 IST


SHE loves challenges and quells them without much fuss. S. Vijayalakshmi, the most dominant woman player the country has seen in the past four years, is hungry for more, but of a different kind.

Vijayalakshmi has already had a series of firsts. The first Woman Grandmaster of the country, the first Indian lady to achieve the men's International Master title, the first to win the top-board silver medal in the Olympiad, the first Indian woman to cross the rating of 2400, and the first to win the National title for the fourth year in succession.

Vijayalakshmi, who loves to set records, is now seeking another first - the first woman to gate-crash into the men's National 'A' championship. Considering her present national ranking of 13, it should not come as a surprise if Vijayalakshmi qualifies from the National 'B' championship at Nagpur.

Vijayalakshmi has this knack of remaining motivated. But for her dismal performance in the Asian zonal in Colombo in May, Vijayalakshmi, perhaps, would have given the National 'A' championship a miss. After Colombo, she had a point to prove.

"This title means more to me now, than what I thought it to be a couple of months back. Initially, I was not very keen to compete in the Nationals but after Colombo (in the Asian zonal championship) where I lost very badly, I was keen to do well again. This time, I was not only concentrating on my performance, but also on the quality of my play. At the same time, I tried to remain cool and composed. I played really well, I think," says the champion, whose score of 10.5 out of 13 just about helped her maintain her rating of 2424.

Now Vijayalakshmi feels the time has come for her to move ahead. "I would like to make it to the men's National 'A' and not return to the women's National championship. That is one record that I'd love to make. It doesn't matter what others expect of me but my father is very keen that this time I should make it," says Vijayalakshmi.

Time has also come for the All India Chess Federation to consider allowing exemptions to Vijayalakshmi and Koneru Humpy, the two WGMs, from playing the National championship, just as it did in the case of the first two GMs. It may be recalled that after Viswanathan Anand, in 1988, it was Dibyendu Barua who enjoyed such an exemption till 1998 after becoming a Grandmaster in 1991.

For now, Vijayalakshmi's priorities are clear. "Having completed the men's International Master title, I am supposed to go for the men's GM-norm. But to go for the next stage, I need some different kind of preparation. Till now, this preparation is okay but to move ahead, I have to prepare a lot. I think the coaching camps we had with Vladimirov or Salov (last year) were really good and the results actually showed that. But now there is need for camps, where it is more for an individual and not a group. When you have a big group, a coach cannot concentrate on an individual's weaknesses, no matter how hard he tries to help. If there is a coach for me, my sister and may be a couple of more players, it will really be helpful." Further, Vijayalakshmi feels that help from the sponsors is the need of the hour. "We need sponsors. We cannot be expected to put in our money every time we go overseas. It becomes very expensive. And when we spend our money, the pressure on us to perform is much, much more," she says.

Vijayalakshmi owes a lot to her employers, Indian Airlines, for making things a lot easier. "Indian Airlines has really been helpful for the last three years. I don't have any monetary problems now. With their support I am flying every where, which is very good. Even overseas, they give the tickets. They also gave me a promotion, last year, after I became a WGM," says this 20-year-old Assistant Manager (Finance) from Chennai.

Vijayalakshmi's attitude remains her biggest asset. "I think, when I lose a match or more, I don't lose heart. The fire burns even more. That is, perhaps, my strong point. Every time I lose a game, I am keen to win all the remaining games. But then, that has cost me a few times. I think, at this age, I should play for a win, not play safe and go for a draw. May be when I am 40 or 50, I don't know. But at present, I really want to enjoy my chess." After all, more than anything else, a champion enjoys winning.

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