S.P. Sethuraman made India proud in the year 2010 by becoming the then youngest Grandmaster of the nation. His lean frame and humble demeanour stand out even today. With a brain which works faster than most of the brains in the country put together, he has won several international chess tournaments representing India. With his recent victory at the Hyderabad International Grandmasters chess tournament, he has proved to India and the world that he is one of the best in the business. In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Grandmaster Sethuraman shares his memorable experiences and his journey to success..
Q: As a kid, what was the driving force behind you taking up chess?
Sethuraman: My father being a Fide rated and national level player taught me the moves and the rules of the game. My father was my first coach and we used to practise playing chess every day. Winning in chess made me very happy and that’s how I became fascinated by the game of chess.
Q: Who was your greatest inspiration (role model) as a youngster?
Sethuraman: Robert James Fischer from United States, World champion during the 1960-1970s, and Viswanathan Anand were my greatest inspirations. I learnt a lot from their games and the new ideas employed by them. Apart from chess skills I also learnt from the two great players how to cope with pressure and several other things.
Q: Which tournament was the turning point in your chess career?
Sethuraman: The World Youth Chess Championship U-16 at Anatalya, Turkey (2009) was a major breakthrough in my chess career. Battling with other players of the same age from all over the world with great scores gave me huge confidence and the motivation to work harder. It made me believe that I have the ability to reach greater heights in my chess career if I continued to work hard.
Q: In the year 2010 you became India’s youngest Grandmaster. Tell us how you felt on being given the title.
Sethuraman: Grandmaster is one of the major titles which gives you an identity of being a world class player. To achieve the Grandmaster title one has to score three Grandmaster norms – you have to meet required number of grandmasters from various countries and score against them. Then you get one Grandmaster norm. Like that, you have to achieve three norms and reach 2500 FIDE Rating points.
I achieved my first Grandmaster norm at Parsvanath International Open in Delhi in 2009, winning against Grandmasters from other countries. I achieved my second and third norms at Paris International Open, France in July 2010 and Voivoda Cup, Poland in December 2010 respectively. It was great feeling to be a Grandmaster since I was then the youngest Grandmaster in India.
Q: You won the second International Grandmasters Chess tournament in Hyderabad (December 2013). How was your preparation leading up to the event? How did it feel like to win the tournament?
Sethuraman: I made some preparations before the event with my fellow Grandmasters from India and that helped me a lot. It was my second major international tournament victory in the year 2013 with a lot of strong Grandmasters from various countries like Georgia, Russia, Serbia and Armenia participating in it. My starting seed was 12th and to win the tournament in India was something special. Since tournaments in India are considered to be stronger than in Europe, I gained 20 ELO FIDE rating points which made me really happy.
Q: You finished in second place in the International Chess Championship held in Chennai along with Ukraine’s Neverov Valeriy. Tell us your experience about playing with some of chess fraternity’s finest players.
Sethuraman: It was an interesting experience for me since I started this tournament with a score of 3.5/6, losing two games in the first half. In order to catch up with the leaders of the tournament and improve my ranking I had to win 5 /5 games outright which is always a difficult task in chess. But I managed to score 5/5 in the second half against some of the strongest Grandmasters in the tournament which helped me to finish third in one of the strongest international events in India. It was like magic!
Q: What are your future plans? What is your long term goal?
Sethuraman: Right now my FIDE RATING is 2574. I want to improve my rating and reach Elite level (2700+) as soon as possible and to qualify for the World Cup (2015).
Q: How does the future of Indian chess look like to you?
Sethuraman: Chess is enjoying a boom period in India thanks to Vishy Anand’s achievements; I see a lot of youngsters taking up chess as their profession gaining inspiration from him. Also, we should be thankful to the All India Chess Federation and the Tamil Nadu Chess Federation for promoting chess in a global way by organising many international events. There is a great future for chess in India. Magnus Carlsen, the current world champion, believes India will be the strongest chess nation in 10 years’ time.
Q: Any words words of encouragement for the youngsters who plan on pursuing their career in chess?
Sethuraman: ‘Enjoy the game and work hard’ is a simple formula for achieving success in chess.