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Know India's brand new WIM, Vantika Agrawal: An Interview

by Hinduja Reddy - 01/08/2017

At the conclusion of the Group A tournament of the Sant Marti Open, Indian chess got richer by yet another Women International Master. This new brand new addition to the Indian league of titled players was the Delhi girl, Vantika Agrawal. Previously, Vantika had scored WIM norms at the IIFL Mumbai Open and Sharjah Open this year. She had also been issued a norm at the Dubai Open 2017, but due to its technical incorrectness, it was not awarded to her. Nevertheless, the 14-year-old fought on and bagged her final WIM norm in the Spanish city of Barcelona to complete all requirements for her title. ChessBase India's Hinduja Reddy interviewed her and her mother, Sangeeta Agrawal, to know more about this teenaged genius.

Interview with Vantika

The upcoming star with the great Madras Tiger

HR: Back to back norms in three tournaments, that's a superb performance! What was your mindset during these tournaments? How did you celebrate your achievement? :)


VA: My first norm in IIFL Mumbai came as a surprise to me but the Sharjah and Dubai tournaments, I played my best for norms. I got my first norm on my mom’s birthday and the second was on my dad’s birthday. I was extremely happy and celebrated with family and friends.


HR: When did you start playing? What made you fall in love with the game?


VA: I was seven and a half years old when I first touched the chess board. I started playing chess in school and was enjoying playing it with my brother Vishesh. I started winning trophies from the very beginning of my chess career. Soon I realized that I had an immense passion for chess.


HR: Which, in your opinion, is the best game of your career so far?


VA: My favourite game is with Elizaveta Solozhenkina (rated 2320) at the World Youth Championship in 2016.


Before one of her games at the World Youth Championship 2016
[Event "World Youth Girl U14 2016"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"]
[Date "2016.09.30"]
[Round "8.2"]
[White "Vantika Agrawal"]
[Black "Solozhenkina, Elizaveta"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D02"]
[PlyCount "61"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. O-O d5 6. c4 Nc6 7. Nbd2 Re8 8. e3
a5 9. cxd5 Nxd5 10. Nc4 e6 11. e4 Nde7 12. Be3 b6 13. Qc2 Ba6 14. Rfd1 Qb8 15.
a3 Rd8 16. Rac1 Bb7 17. h4 h6 18. Nce5 Nxe5 19. Nxe5 c5 20. Bf4 Qc8 21. dxc5
bxc5 22. Nc4 Ra6 23. Nd6 Qa8 24. Nxb7 Rxd1+ 25. Qxd1 Qxb7 26. Rxc5 Kh7 27. Rc7
Qxb2 28. Rxe7 e5 29. Bc1 Qa1 30. Rxf7 Rc6 31. Rxg7+ 1-0


HR: Your mom has been a big support. How does she inspire you?


VA: Before the match, my mother boosts my confidence and when I lose a match she never scolds me. Instead, she motivates me and tries to make me regain my confidence. She has accompanied me to all the tournaments till date and is a pillar of strength to me.


Vantika's pillar of strength, her mom Sangeeta, accompanies her to all her tournaments.

HR: On an average, how many hours a day do you work on chess? What about physical training?


VA: I try to work for 8 hours a day but when I go to school I can only practice for 4 hours a day. I do yoga in the morning and play badminton in the evening for an hour.


It's all because of her disciplined schedule that Vantika has reached great heights in chess. The picture was taken after she won a bronze medal at the World Youth Championship in 2015 (Source)

HR: What are your favourite chess books? In terms of playing style, whom do you associate yourself with?


VA: I like reading  Dvoretsky’s books. Earlier I used to associate my style with Anatoly Karpov. Now I associate it with Magnus Carlsen.

The two players Vantika associates her play with 

HR: An open tournament has many variations: single rounds and double rounds. How do you cope with the tension?


VA: Earlier I used to play three rounds a day in a tournament. So playing two rounds was never a problem for me. But now I like playing only a game match a day as it is generally a long and tiring game. Two-games-a-day becomes comfortable for me when I can get enough rest between the rounds.


HR: How do you react to losses in tournaments?


VA: I am very upset with losses. Earlier, I used to cry a lot. While sleeping too, I used to murmur. But now, I have matured. I try to learn from my mistakes now and concentrate on my next games after I have lost.


HR: How do you unwind? What do you do in leisure time? Any favourite movies/songs etc?


VA: In my leisure time, I watch live games and keep in touch with recent happenings in the chess world. I also like watching movies. My favourite movie is Dangal.


HR: What is your goal as regards to chess? How do you intend to go ahead with your career in the coming years?


VA: I want to become a Grand Master. Also, I wish to play for the Indian and win a medal for my country.

Interview with Vantika's mom, Sangeeta

Vantika and her doting mom, Sangeeta

HR: What was your initial reaction when Vantika crossed 2200 rating mark? Looking back, what are your proud moments?


SA: The day she crossed the 2200 rating mark, I was overjoyed. That’s when I began seeing our dream of her becoming a WIM come true.


HR: Was it a typical summer chess camp or were there any chess playing family members who taught her the game? How did it begin? 


SA: Vantika and her brother Vishesh learnt chess at school and started playing together at the same time. Both of them used to play chess almost all the time for 2 years. My first moment of pride was when at the age of 8 Vantika won an Under-15 Open tournament. After that, she has made us proud by winning medals at State, National, Asian, World and Commonwealth championships. But I feel the happiest when players, coaches and parents come and tell me that my daughter plays really well and she will surely become a Grandmaster one day.


HR: You are a Charted Accountant and a chess mom. What challenges have you faced career wise and in life in general? 


SA: It’s really very difficult to pursue your own career and at the same time help my daughter chase her dream. But seeing her passion, I have decided to help her pursue her dream of becoming Grand Master and have given up on my career.


HR: Have you had any chess adventures? Or an interesting story to share with our readers?


SA: Each and every tournament has been adventurous for me. I think the most daunting was the U- 9 girls Asian Schools in 2011. Vantika played 7 rounds in 101-102 degrees fever and yet was able to win the event. I also had a high fever and Vantika made me stand by her during all her rounds. It was a difficult time for both of us but after all, I feel it was well worth it.


HR: As a parent, what change would you like to see in Indian chess scene?


SA: I think, India needs more quality tournaments where special entries are not allowed.


HR: What role did the coaches play in your daughter’s success?


SA: Each and every one of her coaches did their best and took her to a higher level.


HR: When accompanying to tournaments, it’s equally tiring for parents as there are long waiting hours and the tension is usually high. How do you unwind?


SA: Sometimes, it is very tiring and boring while she is playing. I usually talk to my chess friends and try to keep my tension level low. Fatigue increases if she loses a match – particularly against a lower rated opponent. But when she wins, all my weariness is taken off my shoulder.


There is no greater joy in the world for Sangeeta Agrawal than that of seeing her daughter Vantika win a chess game.

HR: Could you share any tips for chess parents?


SA: Chess is a very long Journey. As parents, we should all have patience.


HR: How do you support Vantika’s chess career (sponsors, school etc)?


SA: At present, we are funding the entire chess expense on our own.


HR: Thanks a lot to both of you for sparing time for the interview. And once again, many congratulations to you, Vantika, on achieving the WIM title. 

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