KOCHI: Sixteen-year old S L Narayanan comes out as a reserved and unassuming personality. It is hard to get words out of the recently crowned national junior chess champion. But when he does speak, it is with an air of confidence and you realise this is a boy with a clear mission statement.
“The objective is to achieve rest of the Grandmaster norms in the next few months,” declares Narayanan, who needs two more favourable results after achieving his first norm at the World Junior Chess Championship held in Pune in October.
The 7th Chennai International Open Grandmaster Chess Tournament starting December 30 and the 13th Delhi International Open Grandmaster Chess Tournament in January 2015 will serve as platforms for the youngster to try his hand at doing so.
Narayanan will also have to improve his current FIDE rating of 2,437 to 2,500 to get hold of the coveted title. If successful, the Thiruvananthapuram lad will become the state’s second Grandmaster, after G N Gopal.
Having made a statement of intent winning the national junior crown, Narayanan came flying out of the blocks at the world championships, staying in joint-lead until the sixth round and upsetting a few, before fading out.
Impressive as he was, Narayanan feels his performance left a lot to be desired.
“I did well in the first half, but couldn’t keep up in the later stages,” he says with an air of disappointment and an urge to better himself.
“I don’t feel any pressure when I am in front of the board. I try to carry on playing my game irrespective of the opponent,” Narayanan says.
His father Sunilduth, who quit his government job to build his son’s fledgling career, says Narayanan can now avail the services of the world’s best coaches.
“We have talked to a few of them who are willing to train him,” the father says. But money, as is often the case, is the problem. The family has spent a lion’s share of `13.7 lakh, awarded to them by the Kerala government earlier this year, on coaching.
“The next two years are going to be very crucial. It is important that Narayanan gets the best in coaching and participates in as many quality tournaments as he can during the period,” Sunilduth says. “But entry fees for tournaments... and also hourly fees for online coaching... are very high and no sponsors have been forthcoming,” he says. “We have had invites from other state governments, but we want to him to represent Kerala,” Narayanan’s mother Lyna interjects.
The parents lament that, while chess masters from other states get hefty private sponsorship cheques, Narayanan - who is arguably the brightest prospect in the country - fails to attract any.
“Infosys’ Kris Gopalakrishnan was impressed with Narayanan and funded his travel to Turkey for World Championship in 2013. That was the only time help came from outside,” Sunilduth recalls.