Meet Chennai’s chess ace who’s trying to take game to underprivileged children


Express News Service

CHENNAI: Chess, hailed as the ‘game of kings’ due to its royal roots, has become one of the most popular sporting pastimes on the planet. And now, a former professor is keen to take the ‘game of kings’ to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Meet 32-year-old R Raghavan, an engineering graduate, teacher and an international-ranked chess player. The son of a retired MTC bus driver and homemaker mother, Raghavan cites Viswanathan Anand as his inspiration and is a self-taught chess ace. He has been playing the game for over seven years.

“I have attended chess tournaments across the country and my job had helped me fund the expenses. It helped me get the international rating,” says Raghavan, who worked as a professor at a popular private college before losing his job two years ago.  

However, the job loss helped him focus on what he loves the most – taking chess to children. Raghavan once came across an interview of a six-year-old Sakthivel from Arakkonam, who excelled in chess but couldn’t afford proper coaching. Raghavan approached the family and travelled to Arakonam mostly during weekends to mentor the boy. A year later, the boy achieved the UNICO World Record. It was a new journey for Raghavan as well.   

“I’ve now started to travel to Thiruvanmiyur and Korrukupet to teach children from orphanages and other disadvantaged backgrounds. While the travel from home itself takes about three hours, I teach them for over an hour,” says Raghavan who lives in Avadi and has taught over 200 children. He also adds that several children have been asking him to visit every day but he hasn’t been able to. 

After the lockdown, Raghavan couldn’t travel and started taking his sessions online. He teaches disabled children too. “Disabled children are very gifted when it comes to chess since their brain works marvellously. I start with teaching the basics, coordination and move on to gameplay,” says Raghavan, who in November 2019 created a UNICO World Record by organising a tournament with 200 participants who played 2,000 rounds of chess in 75 minutes. 

Speaking on his own chess ambitions, the chess ace says he wants to become a Grandmaster, just like his idol Viswanathan Anand. He is seeking sponsors to achieve the goal. “With no financial aid to attend tournaments, many opportunities are slipping out of hand. If I can become a GM, I can take chess to more children free of cost,” says Raghavan.

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