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Exclusive: I want to become a Grandmaster, says WIM Vantika Agrawal

01 Aug 2019, 14:46 IST

Playing for my flag! Source: Google Images

Vantika Agrawal from New Delhi, India, was rated in the 1200 Elo bracket till the end of 2011. In a span of eight years, the 17-year-old has gone from strength to strength and has achieved the prestigious Woman International Master (WIM) title along with two Woman Grandmaster (WGM) norms (as of August 2019).

In 2017, she was also awarded the National Award for Exceptional Achievement by a Child from the then-President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee. July 2019 has been a solid month for the youngster from the Amity International School in Noida as she won back to back silver medals at the Asian Junior Championships and the premier tournament for women in India, the National Women tournament. The latter was also the event where the prodigy secured her second WGM norm.

In an exclusive, we find out what goes through her mind when she plays, how she trains to compete at the highest level, and much more. So, without further ado, let's move on to the questions and answers.

With the Indian Tiger himself! Source: Chessbase India Playing for my flag! Source: Google Images
With the Indian Tiger himself! Source: Chessbase India Playing for my flag! Source: Google Images

1. Hi Vantika. Congratulations on finishing second in the National Women Championship 2019. How do you feel? 

Thanks, Devanshi. I feel on top of the world.

2. Can you share with us what thoughts did you go in with before beginning the tournament? You were seeded 10th. Did you think you had a chance of finishing on the podium before the tournament?

I didn’t think about the podium finish. I just wanted to give it my best and enjoy playing. The prize money was the cherry on the cake and I believe that every strong player playing the tournament must have dreamt of receiving the huge cash award via their final standings.

My lifeline - my mother. Source: Google Images
My lifeline - my mother. Source: Google Images

3. You had also won a silver medal at the Asian Junior in July earlier this year. Can you share your experience of that event?

My experience at the Asian Junior in Indonesia was amazing. The tournament was conducted in a resort and the playing hall was beautiful. Many strong contenders were playing there, and I am happy that I could play well. I won the silver medal on the first day in the rapid format, so it boosted my confidence. Going into the last round of the classical format, I was in a half-point lead. Had I won the last round, I would have become the champion, but after my draw, another girl also had the same points, and with a better tiebreak, she won gold. So, I was forced to settle for a silver.

Awarded with the National Child Award by the former President of India. Source: Deccan Chronicle
Awarded with the National Child Award by the former President of India. Source: Deccan Chronicle

4. Coming back to the National Women tournament, how did you prepare during the championships? What kept you motivated after each round? You had a solid start in the tournament. Do you think that helped you maintain supreme confidence throughout?

I did not prepare much during the championship. In the starting rounds, I played very well and scored a lot of points that obviously boosted my confidence. Till the end of six matches, I was in a joint lead with Bhakti Didi (Kulkarni, the eventual winner of the event), but after my draw in the seventh game, I went to second, so I wanted to at least maintain that. In the 9th round, I had a draw in my hands with Priyanka K, but I decided to play for a win, which was a wrong decision and it cost me the match. However, I was not disheartened, and I came back strongly to win the next one against WGM Gomes Mary Ann.

With my Asian Junior Medals. Source: Delhi Chess Association
With my Asian Junior Medals. Source: Delhi Chess Association

5. You're a twelfth standard student. Can you tell us how you balance both your chess and academics? How supportive is your school? You also had to appear for the board examinations last year. Did that lead to a break in chess or did you manage to find time for both?

I passed my secondary CBSE board exams with 93%. Then, I took commerce along with math for grades eleven and twelve. I study just before the half-yearly and final papers. My school, Amity Noida, its Chairperson, Amita Chauhan ma’am and Principal Renu Singh ma’am, my coaches, and all my teachers and friends have been very supportive from the time I have started playing the sport, and I am very grateful to them.

Last year, I was not keeping well and my brother and I were both appearing for the 10th and 12th board exams, so that led to a break from chess for a few months.

The runner-up crown at the National Women 2019. Source: The Hindu
The runner-up crown at the National Women 2019. Source: The Hindu

6. How do you prepare when you're not playing in tournaments? How do you select what matches to play and when? 

I do a bit of everything every day, including the opening, the middle and end game puzzles and studies. I also play blitz games and watch the games of the top players in ongoing events. I like competing in the Nationals, the Asian and the World Championships. This year, I was selected for the Asian Juniors and the World Juniors. If there is any strong Grandmaster (GM) tournament in India, then I try to play that. Otherwise, I plan for foreign events.

With my parents! Source: Chessbase India
With my parents! Source: Chessbase India

7. You also secured your second WGM norm at the Nationals. What can you say about this? What are your future aspirations in chess and otherwise?

The WGM norm at the Nationals came as a bonus. I want to become a World Champion, and, of course, a Grandmaster.

8. Do you have any hobbies that you like to pursue in your free time?

I like watching movies, playing cards, and going shopping in my free time.

9. Do you have any role models or inspirations that you look up to when you're competing at such a high level?

My role model is World Champion and world number one, Magnus Carlsen.

10. Finally, what advice would you like to give to other girls who would like to follow in your footsteps in the chess world? 

My advice to them would be to enjoy playing chess and not think too much about the results, final standings, and ratings. Just enjoy the game!

A few one or two-word questions:

1. Favourite Books: The Harry Potter Series

2. Favourite Film: Jab We Met

3. Favourite Player: Magnus Carlsen

4. Classical/Rapid/Blitz: All three

5. Your tournament of the year: Yet to come

6. Open tournaments or Closed tournaments: Open tournaments

7. If you were to author your autobiography what would it's title be? The Best Journey

8. Favourite Destination from your chess travels: Solo, Indonesia

9. Training or Playing: Playing

10. Solving studies or tactics: Tactics

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