Not until G Akash upstaged his senior counterparts to claim the U-25 Tamil Nadu State Chess Championship in 2010, did he make a concerted effort to improve his game. But two years hence, he was crowned the youngest national champion in the country. He was 16 years and 14 days when he sealed the national championship in Kolkata recently, a few months younger than Viswanathan Anand and Dibyendu Barua when they claimed their maiden national titles. The achievement was unprecedented, least of all for Akash. “I didn’t consider myself as a serious contender. My first target was to acquire an IM norm. But after the seventh round I thought I had a chance and started playing aggressively,” he said.
While he was always reckoned a competent player in age-group competitions, his triumph came as a surprise. By his own admission he isn’t obsessed with chess, and isn’t the one to surf the Internet analysing thoroughly and assimilating the moves of world champions, present and past. Neither does chess magazines figure pre-eminently in his subscription list. He would rather bury himself in comics or get glued to the Cartoon Network.
The class XI student of Jawahar Higher Secondary School was a relatively late starter. Though he enjoyed playing with his father Ganeshan, an amateur player, on weekends, formalised training began only when he was 10. Within a couple of years, he became the state champion in U-13 and U-15 tournaments. “That’s when I really started focusing on picking up my game,” he said.
His parents’ consequent worry was academics. But Akash ensured he didn’t falter. “Academics is my priority. But I managed to find time for both and learned to make the best use of time. The key is to spend time qualitatively and I managed 84 percent in my board exam,” said Akash, who aspires to procure a degree in computer science.
Having acquired a GM norm in the tournament, he hopes to be a GM soon. “I want to complete the norm as early as possible and compete in World Cup. I know I have to put in a lot more effort,” said Akash, coached by GM RB Ramesh, who rates him as a special talent. Perhaps Akash’s success lies in that he isn’t obsessed with the game. Perhaps, he is too talented that he doesn’t need to follow the set pattern.