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Negi opts for academics

- Chess Star headed for Stanford
Parimarjan Negi

New Delhi: He played a stellar role in India’s bronze winning effort in the recently concluded Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway, but GM Parimarjan Negi feels that there’s more to life than just ‘64 squares’ as he gets ready for a new innings, which will require the same effort or even more from the immensely talented young man.

The 21-year-old, who has got a chance to pursue an undergraduate (UG) programme at the prestigious Stanford University will be leaving for the US in September, and in the next four years won’t be very active in the circuit.

“Well, chess will take a backseat for the time being. I will have to concentrate on my UG programme. I gave my plus-two examination three years back. Then I didn’t enroll myself in any college although I could have got through on sports quota. I wanted to crack into top-100 and decided to concentrate on chess.

“Now, I am in top 80 and I feel there’s a time for everything. Now academics will be my priority,” Negi said. Asked was it a conscious decision to put chess on the backburner, Negi gave a practical reply.

“Look, to lead a luxurious life while playing chess is only possible when you can break into top-10. Vishy (Viswanathan Anand) was in top-10 by the time he was 20. Then he took a risk by shifting his base (Spain). But chess is a cerebral game where people are now leaving the sport by 35. No longer can you be in top rung in your 40s and 50s.

“I still want to be in top 50, but also need a serious back-up career option. I took the SAT examination and scored 2100 plus in a possible score 2400. I had to write an essay which I needed two months to prepare.

“For me, chess will always be there, but I will play fewer tournaments,” said Negi, who held World No 3 Levon Aronian of Armenia on the top board.

“Nowadays, chess is all about preparing on different openings. It takes a toll on your mind and body. Once I knew I was leaving for Stanford, I slowed down and returned to conventional openings. Now my plan is to play some tournaments in the US, like one in Las Vegas in December which is a three-day affair,” said Negi, who will be quitting his job with Bharat Petroleum.

But the youngster wants to play in team tournaments for India and would ideally like All India Chess Federation to change its existing rule of playing National Championship in order to qualify for Indian team.

Ask him about the Chess Olympiad success, Negi said: “I would never like to quantify my success, but this bronze will certainly be one of the highpoints of my career. We had excellent teamwork and covered for each other.

“Someone like Sethuraman was brilliant. The four Indian GMs were playing side by side and we could see each other’s boards. Think about it. Earlier Indian teams for Olympiads had Vishy, but this is the first time we had won bronze.”                             (PTI)