"Sometimes you need to feel, not see," is what Soundarya Pradhan firmly believes in. He may not be able to watch the chessboard but his inner eye took him to third place in the 10th AICFB National 'A' Chess Championship for the blind in Vasai on Monday. Coming from Boden in Odisha, the 15-year-old was the youngest of the 13 participants in the tournament.
The success here also ensured his qualification into the 13th IBCA World Individual Chess Championship for Blind and Visually Impaired Chess Players 2014 to be held in Katerini, Greece in May. He will accompany Kishan Gangolli, Darpan Inani and Krishna Udupa who finished first, second and fourth in this tournament respectively.
The notion associated with blind and visually challenged chess players is that they form a mental image of the game being played. But Pradhan feels he needs lots of practice to reach there. The element of touch holds the key for the lad.
"It's not about memory, I still have to reach that level where I shall rely on it rather than touch. It's my dream to play a game blindfold. (a form of chess play wherein the players do not see the positions of the pieces or touch them. This forces players to maintain a mental model of the positions of the pieces) In the start, my mind is fresh, thus calculations in the mind can be made. But as the game goes on, I end up touching the pieces," says the eighth standard lad from SSD Government High School.
His plus point is that chess is his family sport. It was introduced to him by his 17-year-old elder brother Prachurya, who gave him company in this tournament finishing eighth. And Pradhan spends hours on his laptop listening to move notations on Skype dictated by his uncle who is his coach.
"There has been a lot of love back home. My school has been the biggest backbone," says Pradhan who shifted from a blind school to a government high school in the sixth standard. He uses a writer for his exams.
He's been to Spain and Serbia, but the Greece outing will be one of a kind for him. "Those two events were team events. This time I shall wear the Indian flag on my shirt as as individual participant. There won't be a better feeling," adds Pradhan, who is not a fan of a Magnus Carlsen or a Viswanathan Anand like every other Indian.
"I prefer the classical approach shown by Bobby Fischer and José Raúl Capablanca," he asserts.