CHENNAI: Despite being a child prodigy in chess, Karthikeyan Murali is under immense pressure to do well in academics. For someone who has travelled the world and faced the best players in the circuit, Karthikeyan sees his upcoming board exams as more of a challenge than winning a national championship. Garnering maximum marks is more of a task than accumulating Elo ratings!
Winner of the recent ONGC 53rd National Premier Chess Championship in Tiruvarur, he had to come back from losses in the first two rounds to clinch the title, scoring 8.5 points after the 13th and last round. With his Class 12 boards coming up, the 16-year-old will be fully focused on acing his exams. “Yes, it’s a crucial phase and my father wants me to do well, so I’ll be shifting my full focus on the board exams,” the Velammal Matriculation School student says.
Having tied with Vidit Gujrathi after the last round, Karthikeyan was adjudged winner as he had beaten Nashik-born Grandmaster Vidit in the 10th round. “I don’t know what went wrong in the first two rounds, maybe I was nervous. But I knew there were 11 rounds remaining and if I could win all, then I would be crowned winner. So I took it game-by-game thereon and did not think of any outcome,” said Karthikeyan.
Asked how he got into the sport, he says it was his parents playing each other that piqued his interest. “My mom and dad used to play each other a lot, so that’s how I got interested. When I was seven, my dad took me to Bloom Chess Academy, Thiruvottiyur, and I trained under MA Velayudham, my first coach. Under him, I became an International Master, after which he suggested I join K Visweswaran, who has been my coach ever since. It was under him that I won the World U-16 title in 2013 in Al-Ain (UAE),” he revealed. Karthikeyan also achieved the norm in December 2014 at the World Youth Chess Olympiad.
It’s anybody’s guess how he kept himself occupied during the rains — playing chess and studying, of course!