He is one of the most sought after chess coaches that India has ever witnessed or produced. Not only is he touted as the youngest coach having a wonderful record in grounding students in chess, but he also happens to hold an exceptional international rating. Having represented Tamil Nadu in numerous interstate tournaments and India in many an international one, R Sundarrajan, who hails from Chennai, maintains that it is only by reason of the persistent efforts and guidance of those who helped him master this game of strategy could he attain the feat that many only dream of attaining.
Over the course of a one-hour interaction on his birthday today, Sundarrajan tells me that it was not a child’s play for him to have become a coach at such young an age. ‘Hardwork played a major role in my success, so did patience and consistency,’ he says with a smile. ‘But being a young coach is not easy, you see,’ he adds, stressing that many students pay heed to the age of the coach along with other factors like experience and personality. ‘I think my teaching skills and personality have proven to be a plus point; but yes, age does play a role. This is not to say there are no advantages of being a young coach,’ he explains.
Age Is Just a Number
Be that as it may, his age is something that he likes to keep under wraps. ‘I think my work should speak, and as clichéd as it might sound, age for me is just a number,’ he points out with a laugh. Currently handling close to ten students hailing from different parts of the globe, Sundarrajan walks down the memory lane and calls to mind the first time he ever got to know and understand the game that is believed to have originated in India.
‘A boy in my neighbourhood introduced me to chess in 2012. Little did I know then that I would happen to pursue it with zest and enthusiasm later,’ he lets out. Stating that he could not understand much at that point in time since the boy had used stones and not chess pieces to expound the game, Sundarrajan says, ‘But I did become interested and eventually joined classes. It was Mr N Venkatraman who was my first guru.’
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While in school, Sundarrajan travelled extensively, representing Tiruchirapalli in many district level tournaments. ‘My school, however, did not support me. Hence, I had to miss my classes to attend these tournaments. When I look back now, I don’t regret being absent or being judged by the teachers who focussed on academics and nothing else,’ he says.
In October 2014, he participated in an international tournament held in Kerala; and that was when he obtained an international rating for the first time. ‘By that time, I had started taking classes from the renowned chess coach N Venkatraman. He has played a vital role in making me what I am today,’ emphasises Sundarrajan, who has also spearheaded one of the chess teams in school.
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On being asked what really matters to become proficient in the game, Sundarrajan states what Mr N Venkatraman had told him once: Mindset, practice, and diet. He also lets me know that he oftentimes advises his students to consume foodstuffs that aid in boosting one’s memory and concentration. ‘Playing a game of chess is equivalent to running five or six kilometres. It leaves you exhausted, so it’s also very important to keep yourself hydrated throughout,’ he explains.
And does he have any plans to further his own development? ‘Well, I am currently occupied with a lot of sessions. In fact, an outstanding coach by the name P Dhandapani has been requesting me to train Europeans, but on account of paucity of time, I am not able to do so,’ he lets on, adding that communication skills have played a major role in his becoming a celebrated coach. ‘I can only thank everyone, including my parents and gurus, who have shaped me as a good human being and a great coach. Had it not been for them, I would have not achieved anything at all,’ he signs off with a mesmeric smile.
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