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‘Girls can play chess just as well as boys’ says this 17-year-old rising ‘Queen’ 

Janya Kaur, a class 12 student of Apeejay School Faridabad, who has won numerous tournaments calls for breaking down barriers that are preventing women from participating and continuing chess

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Janya recently bagged the 2nd position in the Faridabad District team of U-19 Girls District at the SGFI (School Games Federation of India) tournament held at Millennium World School, Faridabad. She also participated in Haryana State Under 20 Chess Championship 2021 organised by the All Faridabad Chess Association under the aegis of The Haryana Chess Association. She also secured 2nd runner-up position under 15 category in Open girls category in the Smart Girl Fide Rated Tournament held at Manav Rachna International School, Charmwood in 2019. She has won countless other competitions. In an interview, she explains the reasons for the dominance of men in chess, her role models, how playing chess can help build critical thinking skills in kids, and more. Edited excerpts:

How and when did you develop an interest in chess?

My journey started around 5-6 years ago when I started playing chess casually with my father, who is a software engineer. This piqued my interest in the game. Soon, I started representing my school at various competitions and began learning chess professionally.

What fascinates you about chess?

It fosters intellectual development that’s very good for the health of your mind. One learns about making choices and taking risks as well as finding alternatives. The game also helps you stay alert and productive for a longer period. These life-skills that are really beneficial in your daily-life whether you are dealing with any kind of problem or preparing for exams. In fact, I believe every child should learn how to play chess. By playing chess, kids can not only improve their cognitive skills, concentration, problem-solving skills, but learn how to take responsibility for their actions.

Who are your role models?

I am in awe of Bobby Fischer, American-born chess master who became the youngest grandmaster (at the time) at the age of 15. I also admire Latvian chess player, Mikhail Tal. From the current lot, I am a huge fan of Norwegian chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen who is the reigning World Chess Champion. They are all known for their improvisation and unpredictability.

What kind of support have you received from your parents and teachers?

I am lucky to receive full support from my parents and teachers at Apeejay Faridabad. They have stood by me through thick and thin. You can express yourself freely when you receive unbridled support and guidance from all quarters.

Chess is considered to be a male-dominated sport. What can be done to make it more inclusive?

It’s true that males dominate the sports of chess. There are no women among the world’s top 100 players as to date. It’s ironic that in the game of chess, the queen is the most powerful piece, but budding young queens of the chess world are side-lined routinely. As chess is often considered as a barometer for human intelligence, male dominance in chess is seen as a testimony to their superior intellect. However nothing could be farther from the truth. If given the right support and resources girls can play chess just as well as boys. I am positive that things will improve in the future.

What are your future plans?

My focus is to continually improve my skills and better my performance with every competition. I am not thinking too far ahead. I also dream of starting my own business.

Dheeraj Sharma is Asst. Editor (Newsroom). He covers events, webinars, conducts interviews and brings you exciting news snippets. He has over 10 years' of experience in prominent media organizations. He takes pleasure in the small things in life and believes a healthy work-life balance is key to happiness. You can reach him at [email protected]

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