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Competing online and winning a chess scholarship to Webster University: In conversation with WIM Priyanka Nutakki

Playing Online in the SPF Invitational 2020! Credits- Priyanka Nutakki Archives
Playing Online in the SPF Invitational 2020! Credits- Priyanka Nutakki Archives
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Modified 07 Jul 2020, 23:07 IST
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Priyanka Nutakki from Andhra Pradesh in India is a Woman International Master in chess. She has won multiple age-group National, Asian, and World titles in the mind game.

Apart from these championships, she has also clinched prestigious prizes at the top level, including the Best Women's Trophy at the Riga Technical University open in 2018. Recently, she won the first place at the Susan Polgar Foundation Girls' Invitational Tournament, which took place online this year.

The premier tournament for school-age level girls, the event had a huge prize fund including scholarships to Webster University, which is one of the leading universities sponsoring chess as an athletic sport in college.

With her win, Priyanka Nutakki won both a cash prize as well as a scholarship to Webster University. In the interview, we catch up with her to find out more about her victory and her overall career in chess. So, let's move onto the questions now.

1. Can you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background in chess?

I am Priyanka Nutakki, and I currently hold the Women International Master (WIM) title.

It was due to my parent’s interest. They enrolled me for a chess class when I was 7 years old. In no time, I started winning tournaments. I loved the trophies and appreciation that followed. 

2. How were your early days in chess?

I was primarily into academics and my parents wanted me to take up some extracurricular activities for a change of mind during the summers. With each passing day, the game interested me more and was improving my capability of thinking. Small achievements started coming my way in the form of the District and State Championships.

So, since an early age, I wanted to give it a try by making chess my primary goal in life and my parents supported me throughout, till date. I was lucky to realize what made me happy at such a young age and to have such parents who believed in me and valued my passion. I owe them a lot for every bit of my success.

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3. When did you decide to take your career in chess seriously?

Chess was just another activity until I became World Youth U-10 champion in 2012. My parents also realized my potential and supported me a lot. Success and failure are not in our hands, but hard work and dedication definitely are.

I want to give every tournament the best shot and emerge as a better player. I am glad that I chose something unique for my life and have made it to a point with a lot more to go.

4. What was your journey like to become a WIM?

The rough phase could be a part of any player's career, and I am no exception. I had a tough time coping with the losses that I had to face, and there was a time where I thought to quit, as I was unable to handle the stress.

However, my family supported me throughout and helped me believe in myself and made me realize that these are just passing phases and nothing is permanent. We usually need 3 norms to achieve the title.

It took me so much pain to get the first Norm, but after that it was a bit easier to get the other two. Instead, I got 5 norms, which helped a lot to boost my morale.  

5. You have won quite a few international tournaments. Can you talk about these victories?

My first international achievement was a big one in my life. It was the U-10 Asian Youth Chess Championship held in Sri Lanka, 2012. There were 3 tournaments held namely Blitz, Rapid, and Standard, and I won all the three with a Gold Medal. I won the Gold in all the three tournaments as a part of the Team prize. I had also won the U-10 World Youth Chess Championship in the same year.

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I clinched a few Gold and Bronze medals in other Age groups as well in the following years. I played in open tournaments worldwide with considerable achievements and good rating improvements. I went for a 2-month trip to the US where I played 4 tournaments, and I won a Gold in one of them with a good cash Prize. All these are some memorable and proud moments for me. 

6. Recently, you won the Susan Polgar Foundation event for high school girls. How did you decide to participate in this event and what went in your mind during this online tournament?

My Coach, Swayams Mishra, told me about the tournament, and he thought I should play this. I normally don't prefer online tournaments as integrity is at stake in such tournaments.

However, considering how the organisers took care of everything to avoid cheating, I decided to give it a shot. Since it's been a while since I played a chess tournament due to the pandemic, I was skeptical initially, but once I started it, all I could think of was about the game and how I can turn it into my favour. I enjoyed playing it throughout, and it has been a different experience altogether.

7. Let's talk more about the SPF chess tournament. How was the experience of playing this event online different from the others?

The entire world is going through a tough time now and accepting the fact that there could hardly be any tournaments this year has been sad.

I am at a crucial point of making my career considering my academics are also at a crucial juncture. During this time, such a chess tournament has definitely been a bit soothing, and winning it definitely made me feel so much better.

8. With your win, you also secured a huge scholarship to Webster University. Can you speak about your current and future academic goals?

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I am currently pursuing my +2 and I would say that this scholarship has come to me at the right time for both my chess and academic careers. I am thankful for this opportunity and am willing to take this chance and make good progress in my academics as well besides going forward in chess.  

9. What are your career goals for the near future?

My goal, overall, is definitely seeing the chess Grandmaster (GM) title before my name, but my mission for the near future has to be to obtain the Woman Grandmaster (WGM) title followed by the International Master (IM) title.

10. What advice can you give to other girls who aspire to become better chess players or pursue their respective individual careers in other fields?

Don’t be scared to make few faces frown in order to raise many eyebrows! It’s the trying that matters, and to make the best with what you’ve got.

When we choose something out of-the-box as a career, there is some extra hard work and dedication needed and once we are ready for it, it gives immense satisfaction in life. Best wishes to everyone who wants to give their passion a shot!

Celebrating the victory online! Credits- Susan Polgar
Celebrating the victory online! Credits- Susan Polgar
Published 07 Jul 2020, 23:07 IST
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