• Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Sport

Bodhana Sivanandan, 9, aims to become youngest grandmaster

Bodhana is set to join the women’s team at the Chess Olympiad in Budapest this September, a milestone she describes as an honour.

Bodhana, from Harrow in northwest London, became the world number one girl under ten in March. (Photo credit: @FIDE_chess)

By: Vivek Mishra

“I HOPE to win,” says nine-year-old chess prodigy Bodhana Sivanandan, who will soon become the youngest person to represent England internationally in any sport.

Bodhana is set to join the women’s team at the Chess Olympiad in Budapest this September, a milestone she describes as an honour. She is also clear about her long-term ambition: “I want to become the youngest grandmaster in the world,” she told The Times.

Bodhana, from Harrow in northwest London, became the world number one girl under ten in March. Malcolm Pein, manager of the England team, and chess master Leonard Barden have praised her as a remarkable prodigy.

Her parents, Sivanandan and Lakshmy Priya, are puzzled by her talent, as neither they nor her twin sisters play chess competitively. “We never forced her to train; it all came naturally,” her mother Lakshmy told the newspaper. Her father, Sivanandan, added, “She was just drawn to it.”

Bodhana first encountered chess at age five when a family friend gave her a chess set. During the Covid-19 lockdown, she began watching chess videos online, rapidly advancing her skills. “My husband found free videos for her to watch, and she finished them within a week,” Lakshmy said.

In July 2021, she played her first tournament. By March 2022, she won a silver medal at the European Youth Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships. Last December, she became the youngest girl to avoid defeat against a grandmaster in a competitive game at the European Rapid and Blitz Chess Tournament in Croatia.

Bodhana stays calm during games. “I just try to stay calm to find the best moves,” she said. Her mother noted that her expression remains unchanged regardless of the outcome.

Bodhana met former prime minister Rishi Sunak last August and inspired her school, St John Fisher Catholic Primary, to set up a chess club.

Bodhana also plays the violin and piano, excels in maths, and links chess with pattern recognition and calculation, reported The Times.

She trains for an hour daily and competes in tournaments on weekends. The English Chess Federation provides her with weekly online training.

Bodhana hopes to inspire more girls to play chess, where currently 69 per cent of players in the UK are male. “A few more girls are starting to play, but I would love to encourage more,” she told the newspaper.

She faced over 40 amateurs on Sunday afternoon at ChessFest in Trafalgar Square.

At the event, her father told BBC London: “We don’t want to get too excited or carried away, but quietly entertain her chess passion.”

ChessFest is the UK’s largest chess event, catering to anyone who loves chess or wants to learn to play.

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