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A fateful dodgeball game - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

A fateful dodgeball game [Jan. 24th, 2011|01:46 am]
Arvind Narayanan
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Some time in '95-96, when I was about 14, I was in Sivakasi participating in a chess tournament. Yes, I played tournament chess back in those days, and aspired to be a 'professional' when I grew up, with little understanding of what the word meant.

Sivakasi is an utterly godforsaken town known primarily for being the locus of India's firecracker industry, and was once notorious as a hotbed of child labor. There was absolutely nothing to do there. We could get a whole plate of idlis for Rs. 7 (about fifteen cents) but even a fat kid can eat only so many idlis. Which is why a few of us young chessheads found ourselves playing dodgeball outside the tournament hall one afternoon in spite of the scorching heat.

We were mean. We only let other kids into the game if we thought they were going to be chess stars, like we clearly were. I did have my claim to fame, and had no trouble getting into the group, but I'll save that for another post. Far more interesting is the story of one of the kids we wouldn't let in, an eight-year old girl called Humpy Koneru.

She was clearly uncool, because she was coached by her dad instead of a professional coach. Even though she'd recently won the national under-8 championship, it was just a fluke. I mean, jeez, under 8. Besides, her dad had made ridiculous statements to the press, such as claiming she was a child prodigy. And finally, her name was Humpy. No, there was going to be no letting her into that dodgeball game.

Humpy Koneru said a big fuck you to all of us and went on to be the youngest woman to ever become a grandmaster (at 15), and the second highest rated female in history.

Another kid in that dodgeball game, Magesh Chandran, also went on to become a grandmaster.

As for me, I dropped out of chess the following year.

There isn't really a moral or even a point to this post. Yes, I was mean, and that was wrong, but so are most 14-year olds. I have many tales from my chess-playing days, and I simply want to record them for posterity. If nothing else, I will read these posts when I'm old and half-senile, and smile at the bittersweet memories.


[User Picture]From: kadambarid
2011-02-02 07:11 am (UTC)
I will read these posts when I'm old and half-senile, and smile at the bittersweet memories.

You aren't already? [grin, duck, run for cover]

Nice post :)
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