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8 Feb, 2010 04:19

Chess wonder part time vendor

Indian chess prodigy aids her mother at the market place to help the family earn its daily bread.

Street vendors are a common sight across India. One of them, Saranya Jayakumar, helps her mother sell plastic knick-knacks on the streets of Chennai. But she’s a teenager with a difference. She also happens to be the best under 14 girl chess player in Asia, and is ranked third in the world. She started playing the game when she was 5 years old.

“I didn’t expect that I’ll play chess itself and that I’ll become the Asian gold medalist. I didn’t expect anything. I just started playing, now everything is coming,” said Jayakumar.

She wants to become a grandmaster, and still improve her game.

“She trains for 8 hours a day. It makes my job as her coach much easier. She is very dedicated, that’s what sets her apart. She strives for perfection,” admired M.A. Veluyatham, owner of Bloom Academy where the young chess master trains.

It has not been an easy journey for the girl. Saranya’s father walked out on her mother eight years ago. Since then, the family has been trying to make ends meet through the street stall.

“Though she’s a successful chess player, she helps me with the stall. I feel bad about it, but I do not have anyone else to help me,” confessed Saranya Jayakumar’s mother.

Saranya sees chess as a way of lifting her family out of poverty. She is now being sponsored by a state-owned oil company, and with more success on the board, hopes to finally give her mother a comfortable life.

“I have to improve her life, so I have to play chess. If I have everything, then she can be comfortable. She can stop working, and just sit. I want that for my mom,” Saranya said.

From the noisy streets of Chennai to the concentrated mind-games of the chess board, this 14-year old is certainly going places. And with her determination to become a grandmaster by the age of 20, she could also become a role model for others wanting to take up the sport in India.