Monday, July 07, 2008

Eyeing the international arena

Chess champ Shyam Nikhil, though having crossed many hurdles in the sport, still fears getting back to school.


“All I want to do, ever, is just play chess” — Bobby Fischer.P. Shyam Nikhil, just 16 years, lives by the American genius’ dictum. The Nagercoil-born teenager has hardly attended classes for the past four years because he has been doing what he knows best — playing chess under the care of trainer Ghouse Kamarudeen in Madurai. He attends school only to appear for the final exams.

Winning streak

Shyam is slowly and steadily beginning to reap the rewards of his dedication and devotion to chess. The triumphs in the International FIDE rating tournament in Pallakad this year and the recent Tamil Nadu State Under-25 Championship have given him the confidence and the will to pursue the sport with more vigour.

The victories have come at the time when he is in need of financial support to make further inroads into the sport. Son of Ponnuswamy, a clerk in State Express Transport Corporation in Nagercoil, Shyam knows he has to play exceptionally well to catch the sponsors’ eye and get better in quick time in a sport where competition comes from all groups — six to 50 years.

Pressures of the game

Shyam relocated to Chennai in March this year to better his chess prospects. , Shyam says he is prepared to face the harsher tests that lie ahead. With K. Visweswaran as coach, he feels he has lost the fear factor and has become more experimental and bolder in positional play. “Earlier, if a player who is an IM (International Master) or was a better player than me, I used to get nervous and make mistakes. And whenever I was the top seed, I used to crumble under pressure. Now, it is not so. I am able to handle everything better,” says Shyam, who claimed the individual silver and team gold in the World Youth (under-16) Olympiad last year.

One aspect that continues to nag him is the fact that he has not been able to become an IM when many of his age have, but he is not overtly worried. “I am keen to get the IM norm by this year as there are a quite a few tournaments coming up — the National *B’ championship, Commonwealth championship in Nagpur and National under-17 and 19 championships.” Quiet and self-effacing, Shyam has overcome several hurdles along the way, but he is still scared of one thing — that of attending school when it reopens. “All along, I hardly went to school, now I have to go to school and make few friends and ensure that I learn from them during exam time!” smiles Shyam.

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