India at the Olympiad: In Conversation with IM Tania Sachdev
International Master(IM) and Woman Grandmaster(WGM) Tania Sachdev is one of the most recognizable faces in the world of chess. She has won almost every title that the game offers for women, including the individual Olympiad bronze in 2012 and the Commonwealth Women Chess Open in 2016. With the upcoming Olympiad in Georgia later this year, one can't resist speaking to the queen of the 64 squares. Here's what she has to say.
1. You have won almost every major title that can be won in women’s chess including the coveted individual Olympiad bronze. So, the question that comes to my mind first is that what makes you continue playing at the highest level for so long? Basically, what keeps you motivated to keep going because I know how hard it is to maintain a professional chess life.
What keeps me going is my love for playing chess. The desire to get better and stronger and the rush of competitive sports. Winning is a big motivator, it makes you want to win more. Even bad tournaments motivate you to work harder and do better. I just really enjoy playing and have a strong innate competitive spirit!
2. Just recently the Indian teams for the Olympiad were announced and surely you have been included in it. This year what makes one elated is the fact that the women’s team looks extremely strong with the highest rated Indian women players ever including the two GMs Humpy and Harika. What do you think about your chances and how do you feel going into this tournament with such a strong team on paper?
This will be my 6th Olympiad and I am really looking forward to it. Playing for the country is an unmatched feeling but this time it’s even more special. Our team has been consistently finishing in the top 10 but we’ve never had a podium finish and that’s a big dream for all of us. This year we have the strongest players on the team, a brilliant coach and all the support from AICF and Mr. Bharat Singh has been invaluable. I am very positive about our chances. It’s Sports so there’s no guarantee of the result but we are all very motivated to give it our best.
3. Apart from your impressive chess playing career, you have had a great record of off the board activities like commentating and speaking at major events apart from a stint at coaching youngsters. How do you balance everything together?
As an active athlete/player, it’s almost impossible to have a work-life balance. The scale will always tip heavily on one side. And It evolves over time. In competitive sports, I think it’s very important to have clear straight priorities or you’ll end up doing justice to nothing. In chess, playing tournaments is my priority and most of my time is spent training and playing. I really do enjoy interacting with people, commentating and being part of the broadcast team but as an active player, I do it when it’s something really special like St.Louis or the Gibraltar chess festival. So at the moment its 80%playing and 20% everything else around the game, that's my balance.
4. How do you prepare before major events? Do you think that you are superstitious before an event? What is your schedule like before the big Olympiad this year?
Before a big event, the training hours increase and about a month before, I start building stamina with some form of physical training. So just continue the same schedule but putting in a little more effort every day leading up to the event. Next couple of months are exciting. I am playing the Commonwealth. Then we have the national training camp. Post that I'll be playing in Biel and then another camp, the Olympiad followed by the Isle of Man. It is going to be tough and fun!
5. Who has been your biggest influence on chess and why?
A lot of people have had a big role to play in my journey. My family who have been so supportive. My trainers who I've worked with. Red Bull has constantly pushed me to become a better player. Air India for their support. I think its very hard to name one person. But if I absolutely had to, it would be my mom.
It's easier to say for chess. Quite a few but the first name that comes to mind is Akiba Rubinstein. His games make chess look so wonderfully logical and easy!
6. Mostly chess is presumed to be an indoor sport without any physical movement. What is your opinion on this?
Physical exercise is quite an integral part of a professional chess players training. Each game is long and it's not a knock out sport, so a tournament can last up to 2 weeks. The fitter your body is, the better you can handle the mental fatigue and pressure. Body and mental fitness go hand in hand.
7. If you remember any particular moment in your career that you think will stand out forever what would that be?
There have been a lot of special moments. Every good tournament win feels special. Getting the Arjuna was a very special moment, I had never seen my family so happy and proud.
8. You were also one of the players in the Delhi Dynamite team for the past two seasons. Can you share some of your thoughts on the league and the team?
The Pro Chess League has been a fantastic experience, both the years. It's a great format, very exciting, competitive and a lot of fun. I really enjoy playing for Delhi Dynamite. It's a strong dynamic team, we have a really good support system, and there is a really good vibe. I'm really looking forward to being back next season.
9. Finally, what message would you like to give to your fans and followers to improve their games?
To those who love the game but don't play professionally and parents who want to put their kids into chess: It is an extraordinary, difficult, beautiful game and it's amazing if you can give some time to it as it develops so many mental skills that will transfer in whatever you chose to do. For those who aspire to play professionally and improve, the number one tip is to play tournaments and analyse EVERY SINGLE GAME.