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Off the Board Tales #15 - Rohan Rao

by Avathanshu Bhat - 05/09/2021

'Off the Board Tales' is a series by ChessBase India, where the premise revolves around people who are passionate about chess despite it not being their career. An emotional and short story is what you're up for, so read on for tales of joy, tales of aspirations, tales of sorrows, and tales of success. Rohan Rao is a Data Scientist & 17-time National Champion of India in Sudoku. He has represented India internationally every year since 2008, & still actively plays chess online.

The story of how a love for chess helped make a Sudoku champion.

From an idle hobby in a hospital bed to a career in machine learning, Rohan has seen it all through Sudoku and Chess.

A fractured hand and a long hospital stay when I was 7 left me super bored with little to do. My parents didn’t like when I watched too much TV, and so my father got a chessboard to teach me how to play. I was obsessed and wanted to take it much further. But I remember one day in 2005 when my father registered me for a sudoku tournament. I had no idea what sudoku was and solved just one to understand the rules before taking part in it. So, it came as a surprise to me when the next day I stood 1st among thousands!

Rohan was an ardent chess lover, and still is to this day, however, even he knew when he started taking sudoku seriously that it would remain a hobby.

Fast forward to the next year and I became a FIDE-rated player with an ELO of 1933, in the same year that I attended my first sudoku national event. It became apparent very quickly that I would have to make my choice, and chose sudoku. I became a national top 10 player very fast, and it was obvious to me that it’s what I’d do. Both chess and sudoku are mind sports that help the development of the brain. It certainly helped me in many ways. It improved my concentration, planning, and competitiveness during my youth. It helped my strategic thinking, overcoming failures, and problem-solving during my latter years when I pursued Machine Learning. It's the foundation for my career interests and my daily activities.

Over the years, Rohan found more time to put into playing chess, and is considering a tournament spree after a very long time!

Chess is always in the back of my mind, however, and I was set to play some tournaments in 2020. COVID forced me to cancel them, but I’ve stayed active via online chess, and play every weekend for a couple of hours. I don’t really regret my initial choice over chess for my career, but I still deeply miss it. Once things settle, I plan to move slowly into competitive chess again. Moral of the story? Nothing is set in stone, and it’s still not too late to pursue your hobby, interest, or passion. I for one am very fortunate for the numerous opportunities of the digital age and am glad for its many resources. Technology has made chess so much more accessible, and it’s this level of comfort that makes me eager to see where it will go.


About the Author:

Avathanshu Bhat is a 16-year-old from Mumbai. He is the Editor-in-Chief for ChessBase India Juniors and Manager for ChessBase India's Elite Pass. He recently began a new series called 'Off the Board Tales' on ChessBase India's social media pages. He is a voracious reader, a Nolan film enthusiast, and is passionate about everything tech and games.

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