Chess champ proves mind outshines sight

He was born blind, but never let that come between him and his love for chess and computers.

By Animesh Bisoee in Jamshedpur
  • Published 26.08.18
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SILVER MOVES: Soundarya Kumar Pradhan with his medal and trophy at Tatanagar on Saturday. Picture by Bhola Prasad

Jamshedpur: He was born blind, but never let that come between him and his love for chess and computers.

And now, 18-year-old computer engineering student at NIT-Jamshedpur, Soundarya Kumar Pradhan, is back with a silver from the 10th Individual IBCA World Junior Chess Championship for the Blind and Visually Impaired 2018 at Solec-Zdroj in Poland.

It is the best performance by any visually impaired Indian at the world junior chess meet. The previous best belonged to Darpan Inani, who won the bronze at the world juniors 2013 in Belgrade.

Back on Saturday - Soundarya flew to Calcutta and reached Tatanagar by Howrah- Ranchi Intercity in the evening - the super-achiever said he was "happy for India".

"I am happy I made my country proud in chess, which I simply love," Soundarya, a first-year engineering student at the Adityapur-based institute, but originally from Bargarg in Odisha, said.

Soundarya, who has an international rating of 1808, defeated Russian Garanin Danil in the 9th and final round to notch up 7 points in the world junior that ended on August 23. Czajkowski Adam of Poland with 7.5 points, who has an rating of 2232, won gold.

On his future plans, Soundarya said he had two short-term goals. "I want to do well in my semester at NIT and also want to attain the Grand Master norm at the earliest. I have learnt to balance between academics and chess," he smiled.

For the GM norm, he would need a rating of 2500. "For this, I have to display my talents at more international chess championship for the blind. The more you participate (in chess meets) the more your ratings improve," said Soundarya, but added arranging funds was a constraint.

Soundarya's father Rabi Ranjan Pradhan, a lecturer of Odia language and literature at Boden in Nuapada, Odisha, said the boy was introduced to chess at age four by his uncle K.R. Pradhan, a chess player. "He (Soundarya) loved it. And, we discovered he switches between academics and chess quite nicely. While studying, he never listens to songs or gets distracted by social media. When a major chess competition nears, he increases his practice with Follow Chess (an Android app). His mantra is fully concentrating on the task in hand," he said.

Soundarya has Leber congenital amaurosis, a congenital disease characterised by vision loss at birth. His elder brother Prachurya, 21, is also visually impaired, but a final-year CA student. "We never thought, alas, they can't do this or that. We always thought, what can they not do," the proud father said.