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The Rediff Interview/Aarthie Ramaswamy
'My immediate aim is the men's IM title'
February 10, 2003
Till last month, S Vijayalakshmi was the queen of chess in India. After remaining at the top for a record five years, her reign was finally broken in January by former world junior champion Aarthie Ramaswamy.
At the National 'A' chess championships held in Mumbai, Aarthie and Viji tied for the first place with 9 points each. What turned the tables in Aarthie's favour was her first round encounter with the reigning champion in which she had shocked Viji.
If Aarthie started the championship with a superb win over Viji, she finished in style, putting up excellent defence against Viji's sister Meenakshi. When Aarthie drew against Meenakshi, it was curtains for Viji's long stint at the top.
In an interview with Shobha Warrier in Chennai, Aarthie talks about the 'A' championship and her plans for the future.
How do you feel about dethroning a five-time champion?
I feel great. It was all the more sweet because the title came to me immediately after I became a Woman Grandmaster. I beat a person who has been champion for the last five years!
Your first round match was against Viji, the reigning champion. Were you tense about facing her in the very first round?
No, I was not tense. I knew that my performance in the championship would depend on the first game. Basically, I wanted to start well. I had a slight advantage because I was playing with white, I did well with white pieces than black last year. This time also I wanted to do the same. So I was a bit cautious, and played my normal game.
Your game against Viji was described as a feast ...
The game was over in just 24 moves which is quite fast. I think we were equal till the 17th move. Then, she made a fatal mistake and immediately after that, her position collapsed. I was also giving slight pressure from my side by not making mistakes and waiting for her to commit them.
Did you expect the match to get over so fast?
No, I didn't, because normally she is a very good fighter. If she gets into a bad position, she tries to push on and on and convert the bad position to her advantage. But this time I tried the same tactic and waited for her to make mistakes. But I didn't expect to finish the game so soon.
You had lost to Viji many times previously.
Not many times. Roughly we are equal, I think. I beat her in 2000 National 'A' with white pieces, and I drew with her last year in National 'A' with black pieces. In 2001, I played with her in another tournament with white and lost. Then I lost to her in 2002 with black pieces. So, you can say she has two and a half points and I have one and a half points from our encounters over the last three years, which is roughly equal.
You were leading most of the time in the tournament. Were you expecting to win?
Yes. Once you beat the reigning champion, you become more confident. After I beat Viji, I felt I really had a chance to win the tournament.
Except for two rounds, I was leading throughout the tournament. But towards the last rounds, Nisha Mohota was behind me by only half a point. But I had hopes because Viji was going to play Nisha in the last three rounds. At that time, I thought if Viji can beat Nisha, I will have a better chance to win.
Your last game against Meenakshi also was quite crucial because you needed a draw to snatch the title from Viji. Were you tense?
Actually, I was very calm. I had decided earlier itself that I would work it out on the board. I thought whatever has to happen will happen, and there is no point in getting tense. So I concentrated fully on the game. It paid off because I was in a bad position but I kept on fighting to hold her to a draw. I like that game.
Which would you describe as your best game in the tournament?
The same one [against Meenakshi] because I was in difficulty in that game. I don't know how I got the spirit to play. I didn't think of anything else except the game. More than the way I played, I liked the psychological aspect of my game, the way I handled the pressure. I was very composed and confident. Such high degree of concentration very rarely happens to me!
The one I played against Viji was a perfect game.
Was it your dream to become the National champion?
Not exactly. Till I beat Viji I didn't even think about it. But after I beat Viji, I thought, OK, I want to win the national championship this time. Till then I was thinking more about my WGM title.
After I achieved it in December last year, my mind was a bit blank. What next, was the question on my mind. Then I beat Viji, and suddenly I had a goal to achieve!
After you won the World Junior title, you had not been performing that well. Why?
After I won the world junior title I was making my WGM norms which did not get much coverage. That's why everybody feels I was not performing well. The truth is, I was performing for norms and not for titles. I had to complete my three norms to get my WGM title.
And I was really working hard in 2000 and 2001.
Were you trying to improve any particular aspect of your game?
I wanted to develop my entire game. I worked really hard, and that has helped me now. Maybe not in 2002 but in 2003, I got the results of my hard work.
You thanked your parents and coach R B Ramesh after you won the title. In what way have they helped you?
I look for psychological support from my parents. Even if I am not playing well or not feeling confident, they are there for me, supporting me and not putting any pressure on me. You play your game and don't think of the results, they always tell me.
Ramesh has been helping me from 1999 with my openings and preparations.
Is it not ironical that he coached you to win the title but played rather badly at the tournament himself?
He was not exactly coaching me; he was helping me in my openings. Before leaving for Mumbai, we had decided on the various openings I was going to try out. Since he was also playing in the tournament, he could hardly spend half an hour daily for me.
And then, there is a big difference between women's chess and men's chess. He needed to put in a lot of hard work for the kind of competition you have in the men's section.
What are your plans for the future?
I am looking for a job now. Currently I am on a scholarship from Wipro but I feel it is better for me to shift to a job now.
What I want to do immediately is complete my men's IM title for which I have to make two more norms. That's my immediate aim.
Does it mean you want to enter the men's field like Humpy?
Yes. I don't want to completely ignore the women's section but I want to try my hand at the men's section too.
The last time I interviewed you, you said Anand was your hero. Is he still your hero?
Not Judit Polgar?
Judit Polgar is my heroine (laughs).More Interviews