Chess is one sport that has managed to grab eyeballs and mast its own flag during the ongoing pandemic and lockdowns, with the legacy game a household thing once again, thanks to the chess streamers, players – both casual and masters at every level and more. During the lockdowns, online chess gained a lot of traction, with professional chess players and amateurs using the online medium to practise as well as participate in tournaments. Platforms like Mobile Premier League (MPL), Chess.com saw a lot of traction, with MPL even organising a Covid relief chess tournament in May 2020.
We sat down with International Chess Master V S Rathanvel for a fun little candid session about his preparation en route to his Grand Master norm, his current practices and more about chess.
Note: A is Abhisek, the author and R is IM V S Rathanvel.
A: You completed your IM norms in 2019 and were awarded the title in early 2020. What are your plans for the road ahead? Have you set any time frame for your path from IM to becoming a GM?
R: It depends. I am currently 2445 in FIDE Rating in the Classical format and need just above 50 rating points to enter the 2500 bracket. I was looking forward to taking part in a tournament in Vietnam in March 2020. But, the covid situation has made it impossible to participate in any over-the-board events. We have to wait till the situation clears to get a better picture.
A: Moving on to some casual stuff, what are your favourite openings?
R: As white, I prefer the 1.e4 while opting for the Najdorf opening with Black. But, I vary my openings depending on what my opponent plays.
A: Are you planning to start streaming anytime soon?
R: No plans as of now.
A: What does your schedule look like as far as chess practice is concerned?
R: To be honest, with the tournament situation not really clear, my training during the lockdown phase hasn’t been that hardcore. I just play a few games everyday for practice, solve puzzles and see/rehearse openings.
A: What would be your advice to a casual player looking to improve at the game of chess?
R: The players just need to play regularly and have a penchant, a liking for chess. If that is there, improvement will come gradually.
A: Mobile Premier League had come up with an initiative for chess in 2019 with the Chess Mahayudh tournament, with you emerging victorious out of a pool of over 90,000 players. How was that experience and how did you find the level of competition in MPL compared to the legacy chess applications and websites?
R: Yeah, the tournament ran for over 12 hours and it was a nice experience, with games happening one after another. The prize money, which was INR 5 lakhs, was also sizeable enough to help me in my career. As far as practice is concerned, sometimes I do play games on the MPL app itself as games happen quickly and over time, the average level of the opponents have also improved a lot.