Checkmate nerves in championship endgame – Calcutta teenager conquers enemy within on way to breakthrough international title

Arpita Mukherjee, who won gold in the under-20 Commonwealth Chess Championships in Delhi this month. Picture by Mayukh Sengupta
@Byline: Debraj Mitra

A 16-year-old Dum Dum girl has made a career gambit out of a “distraction” once employed by her parents to get her to swallow her medicine.

Arpita Mukherjee won gold in the under-20 Commonwealth Chess Championships in Delhi this month, an achievement pieced together after several years of dominating performances in state and national championships across age groups. A Class X student at Shahid Rameshwar Balika Vidyamandir in Dum Dum, she sees her first international victory as the turning point in her career.

“I had been losing crucial matches from favourable positions. Not being able to hold my nerves is a failing that I seem to have finally overcome,” said Arpita, whose father Partha gives chess lessons to children for a living.

The teenager looks up to chess stalwarts Magnus Carlsen and Judit Polgar for inspiration and trains at the Dibyendu Barua Chess Academy. Her top goal is to become a Grandmaster.

“There was never any doubt about Arpita’s talent. But she had a confidence problem. Winning the Commonwealth gold will settle her nerves,” Barua told Metro.

For Arpita, this competition had been all about not crumbling under the weight of expectations. A few months before the Commonwealth Games, she had started meditating to get into the right frame of mind. She finished the tournament undefeated, winning five games and drawing two.

“I won at least a couple of close matches that could have gone either way. My concentration did not slip,” Arpita recounted.

Arpita’s first big year in chess was 2008, when she was just seven years old but skilled enough to defeat several higher-seeded players at the Telegraph School Chess competition. The same year, she won the state championship in the under-8 category.

In 2009, Arpita won silver at the Asian Youth Championships in Delhi. A bronze in the under-9 section of the national championships in Chennai followed. Since then, she has consistently earned medals in successive state and national tournaments, including bronze in both the under-17 and under-19 categories of the 2016 nationals.

Arpita, much more confident after her Commonwealth success, aims to become a Women International Master (WIM) soon. “I have one WIM norm. I need two more to get the rank,” she said.

Arpita attributes her success to her father, with whom she plays “mind chess” after dinner every day. Having Grandmaster Barua as a mentor has also been a big advantage. But getting sponsors is proving to be difficult.

The teenager had been selected to represent India in the under-20 Asian Championships in Tehran in May but could not go. “I needed to arrange more than Rs 1 lakh, which I could not do. Arpita had to cancel her trip,” Partha said.

A relative gifted her a laptop last year. “It has helped me a lot – playing with the computer regularly,” she said.

What message do you have for Arpita? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / Friday – July 28th, 2017