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Subbaraman uncle as I knew him

by Nisha Mohota - 14/08/2019

Back in the 90s Nisha Mohota and S. Vijayalakshmi were arch rivals trying to beat each other to win every national title. However the rivalry existed only over the board. Off the board they were good friends and one of the primary reasons was Vijayalakshmi's father who always used to motivate Nisha and her family. It's been 12 years since A.S. Subbaraman, Viji's father passed away, but his actions and words still live on. In this article Nisha Mohota speaks about Subbaraman uncle and how he was instrumental in giving India's first WGM Viji the confidence that she possesses today. Here's a memoir by Nisha on the eve of the 1st A.S. Subbaraman Memorial Blitz Rating event.

The man behind Viji's confidence

By IM Nisha Mohota


When we think of Indian Women's chess, the first name which comes to all our minds is the name of S.Vijayalakshmi. Viji, as she is called by all of us, has achieved everything a woman chess player can ever dream of achieving! Behind every successful man, there is a woman and I would say that behind every successful woman, there is a man! Viji was groomed to be a champion by her father, Mr. Subbaraman and I was a clear eye witness to the grooming of a champion!

Subbaraman uncle on the right with aunty on the left on the moment of Viji becoming India's first WGM 

I have many interesting and fond memories of uncle, Viji's father. I met him first at the age of 8 when I played my first Nationals in Ooty in 1989. I stood second behind Viji, who was the only one to defeat me. I lost to her after a long fight and I still remember uncle telling my parents "no one has ever fought so long with Viji! Nisha will go far!" Viji who is just a year elder to me was already a strong player, having started the game at an early age. In today's generation I see that many people do not like the nearest competitors of their kids but uncle actually encouraged me and my parents! Viji and I have been friends since then and we have also been roommates many a times!

Can you recognize me and Viji in this pic? | Photo: Archives of Swati Mohota 

Uncle was Viji's only coach and Viji was uncle's pride and I would say, she was uncle's world! The confidence he had on Viji and the faith he showed on her was remarkable! In Viji's chess career, her mental strength and her fighting spirit have played an important role, and I have seen very closely how uncle used to develop that. We all spend a lot of time in opening preparations and that's what we mostly do just before our games. But uncle would always make Viji ready for the battle, not just for the moves! One of the techniques he used was, he would make Viji see the lost games of her opponents. This would pinpoint the opponent's weaknesses and give a lot of confidence to Viji that her opponents were all beatable! Many years later I understood the importance of this method of preparation and nowadays all my close friends know that I too use and preach this technique of seeing lost games of opponent and gaining confience just before the game!

Our friendship cum rivalry continues! This one is in 1993 at the National Sub Juniors | Photo: Archives of Swati Mohota  

Viji, Meenu (WGM S. Meenakshi, Viji's younger sister), uncle and I stayed together in National Women B in Kalpetta in 1997. Subbaraman uncle knew the importance of physical fitness and he would take us for morning walks everyday. On the way we would drink tea. I remember that uncle was very energetic and fast. He would waste no time and he would drink the hot cup of tea in seconds and would continue his walk. I would literally struggle to sip through the hot cup and keep pace with him!

Always active and full of energy and life 

I cannot forget one important sentence of uncle which he would often repeat to Viji just before her games - "force your opponents to make mistakes!" If you think of it, you will realize that it was a very powerful sentence! Force did not mean kick your opponent or disturb him! It meant your moves, your confidence and your aura should be so powerful that opponents just can't help going wrong! Viji actually developed this powerful aura - uncle had made her into a very strong fighter and she would keep on playing equal positions and somewhere or the other her opponents would collapse! Uncle's mental grooming made Viji such a strong fighter that she would take on the world with her fighting quality and confidence. It was funny but many a times we would start some analysis – Viji on one side and many on the other side trying to defeat her in the analysis. She would take the weaker side and say that it is winning for the weaker side! We would get annoyed but we could never prove her wrong. She somehow would always manage to show that the losing side was actually winning! Those were the days without engines and one had to prove white is better or black is better on the board!


When Viji would win, uncle would proudly say "Viji won" and when she lost, he would just blame it on the stars! In uncle's eyes Viji could never be wrong! That was the love and confidence of a father and a coach! Uncle is no more with us. However, the confidence that Viji has today is that part of uncle which will live with her forever!

1st A.S. Subbaraman Memorial 2019

Viji is organzing the 1st A.S. Subbaraman Memorial blitz rating tournament on 15th of August 2019 in IIT Madras. Already 450 players have registered for the same. There are also some of the best GMs of Indian chess taking part - Aravindh Chithambaram, N. Srinath, Shyam Sundar, Karthikeyan Murali, Sethuraman, Vishnu Prasanna and others. We also have India's super coach R.B. Ramesh who will be seen in action, WGM R. Vaishali is also taking part. National Bhakti Kulkarni will be travelling from Goa for the tournament and IM T.S. Ravi has come out of his retirement for this event!


Players list as on 14th of August 2019

1GMAravindh Chithambaram Vr.5072786IND25464039TN
2GMNarayanan Srinath5018420IND25264223TN
3GMShyam Sundar M. ??5019141IND2502
4GMKarthikeyan Murali5074452IND24814553TN
5GMSethuraman S.P.5021596IND24734107TN
6GMVishnu Prasanna. V5030692IND24624738TN
7GMRamesh R B5002109IND23376552TN
8FMRathanvel V S25002112IND233348s4TN
9WGMVaishali R5091756IND2324w4031TN
10Ajay Krishna S5096430IND22804287TN
11WGMKulkarni Bhakti5019516IND2275w4270GOA
12IMRavi Thandalam Shanmugam5000238IND22235955TN
13Sai Vishwesh.C5081670IND22224553
14WIMPriya P.5013550IND2206w1147TN
15Haribalu V.5015189IND22004618TN
16Karthik Rajaa25035215IND21984044TN
17FMRohith Krishna S46617051IND2132U154279TN
18FMVinoth Kumar M.5011574IND21324146
19Siddharth Sabharishankar ??25068563IND21264280
20Shankar A.5004241IND21154129TN

Complete player's list

If you too would like to be a part you can register from the link given below:

Register for the tournament

Download the circular from ChessBase India calendar

Official website

Facebook page of Queens Chess Academy

Related news:
A tournament in the memory of the man who created India's first WGM

@ 05/08/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
India's first WGM Vijayalakshmi turns 40

@ 25/03/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)