About R Vaishali, the youngest chess champion from Chennai
Born to banker Ramesh Babu and homemaker Nagalakshmi, Chennai girl, Vaishali, quiet and soft-spoken, all of 22 years is making waves in the chess circuit. This brainy lass schooled at Velammal Matriculation Higher Secondary School and has a bachelor’s degree in commerce from the MOP Vaishnav College.
When I asked her how she got into playing chess, Vaishali quipped, ‘’I got into chess by chance. As a kid, I used to be glued to the television during my free time. So In a bid to wean me away from television, my parents enrolled me in Bloom Chess Academy where I learned my first moves from coach Thiyagarajan.” After training there for 7 years, she and younger brother Pragg who followed in her footsteps and is now a Grandmaster joined Chess Gurukul and are training under the dynamic tutelage of Grandmaster R.B. Ramesh.
Vaishali’s current Elo rating is 2500. She won the World Girls Under 12 Championship and also the Girls World Youth Chess Championship for the Under 14 category. She is now a Woman Grandmaster (WGM). She completed her final norm at the Riga Technical University Open Chess Tournament in Riga, Latvia on 12th August 2018 when she was just 17. Even though Vaishali has won numerous awards, she says ‘’One of my most memorable moments was when I received the National Child Award for Exceptional Chess in 2015 from the former President Pranab Mukherjee.”
In December, during the IV El Llobregat Open Tournament 2023 held in Spain, Vaishali surpassed the 2500 Elo rating mark, securing her Grandmaster title and marking her as the 84th grandmaster in India and the third woman to achieve this milestone. With her younger brother Praggnanandhaa, they are anticipated to become the first sister-brother grandmaster duo in the world.
Besides this, she has also won several gold medals in the Asian Youth Chess Championships and the Commonwealth Chess Championships. In a jovial note, She says, “I have actually lost count of the number of medals I have won so far.”
Vaishali also received the Best Asian Achiever Award, 2015 and the Youth Girl Player of the Year 2016 Award from the Asian Chess Federation. She won gold and the women‘s title in the Asian Continental Blitz Chess Championship held in China in May 2017. Vaishali says “my ambition is to become the woman World Champion and a Men’s Grandmaster and I am working very hard in that direction. I have already won my first GM norm at the Xtracon Open Chess Championship held at Copenhagen in July 2019. Now I need two more norms to get the GM title”.
When asked to name a player she idolizes, pat came her reply “Vishy Anand Sir”. Vaishali prefers to keep the look simple and prefers Jeans and a top. Her favourite colour is black and she just loves chicken biryani. When asked how she unwinds this is what she says “I love listening to music and I play table tennis too though I am quite bad at it.” She does not have much time to watch movies but if given a choice, she prefers comedy films. “ I also like to do a bit of gardening when I get that rare free moment,” she says.
Many people have contributed to the success of Vaishali. She says “If I have come this far, the first credit goes to my parents. My mother accompanies me and brother Pragg to almost all tournaments both in India and abroad and that allows me to concentrate fully on my game as she takes care of everything else.” Next comes her coach Grandmaster R.B. Ramesh who has been instrumental in her success and has been her guiding light.
Her school and college to have a role to play. “I have very fond memories of my school which not only provided me with free education but also were very lenient when it came to attendance”. Only due to this, she was able to travel to various parts of the country and abroad to participate in tournaments. When asked how she manages to cope with both chess and studies, she again has a word of praise for her alma mater.
“My teachers were so cooperative that they held special classes for me during the board exams”. She further quips “actually I am studying only to please my parents. My personal choice is to improve my rating in chess.” Vaishali is extremely lucky that her college supports her in the same way.”I hardly attend college, maybe just 1 or 2 days a month. I get the notes from my friends and cope up that way” says Vaishali.
At Chess Gurukul where she has been training since 2014, there are daily classes and monthly camps as well. Classes are held from 10. 30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Both Vaishali and brother Pragg train together. Vaishali is sponsored by Ramco Systems. She said, “ when Ramesh Sir is free, I attend classes at Chess Gurukul, otherwise I train at home with brother Pragg.”
Her coach Grandmaster R.B. Ramesh has a lot of praise for her. He said that” Vaishali is a very talented and hardworking girl and she is working hard to achieve the title of Men’s Grandmaster. So far only two Indian chess players Dronavalli Harika and Koneru Humpy have the title and I am sure that Vaishali can achieve this feat”. He also said that as they travel most of the time, when they are in town, they have classes from 10.30 a.m to 5.00 p.m.
This hardworking lass is sure to go places with all her grit and determination. We at JFW wish her all the best to achieve her goals at the earliest.