The Australian Junior Chess Champion (Under 8) Nikhil Reddy on why he loves the game
Nikhil Reddy was but a young child when he watched his parents play chess. Fascinated, he got his dad to teach him.
Today, at the grand old age of eight, he has a national title to his name.
In fact, he hadn’t yet turned eight when he won the Australian Junior Chess Championship (Under 8) for 2017, in Brisbane last month.
The budding grandmaster has had a whirlwind of a week, felicitated by his Sydney school (Strathfield South Public School) and the NSW Junior Chess League, as well as at receptions with Strathfield mayor Andrew Soulos and local MP Craig Laundy.
Nikhil is a reticent interviewee as Indian Link catches up with him.
How did he feel when he won the final game? “Good.”
How many games did he play in the championship? “Nine.”
Was he ever nervous? “No.”
There’s clarity and economy in his conversational style. A simplicity in execution. All hallmarks of a great chess player.
Any memorable moments?
“Some games were difficult. I lost two games and won seven.”
His mum Sandy, however, did feel a little of the pressure, especially in the last game which went to play-offs involving two fast games.
“The intensity of the concentration was obvious! The early rounds were pretty smooth and I figured Nikhil would take second or third position on the podium, so it was good to see him win in the end.”
It is evident the family is Nikhil’s biggest fan club, and he opens up a bit more when he talks about them.
Is Dad a good player? “No.”
What about Mum? “I beat her all the time.”
And older brother Neil? “Beat him also.”
But he’s most animated when he talks about chess.
“I play chess for two hours every day. I also go for coaching once a week, on Sundays.”
Why does he like the game?
“Because it’s fun.”
Nikhil was six when he began playing, Sandy tells us. “Neil and he would watch me play my husband Karri, and both would want to join in. Nikhil would lose a lot, but it did not dampen his interest one bit. Ultimately, we decided to take them to lessons.”
The Homebush-based ChessShip Australia has been training the Reddy boys for over a year now. ChessShip provides training to players as young as six. Its founder Deep Mitra (National Chess Instructor from FIDE, the World Chess Federation) is all praise for his first batch of students which includes Nikhil and Neil.
“Nikhil has been showing excellent intuitive judgement and eagerness to learn, two key attributes to success in chess,” Mitra tells Indian Link.
ChessShip Australia is a new start-up with an objective of bringing chess to children in a systematic way following the official curriculum of the World Chess Federation. It has been growing in popularity since its launch in 2016, with recent success stories at various chess tournaments.
To other parents who may have spotted an inclination towards the game, Sandy suggests, get professional coaching early.
“Chess helps with schoolwork too, I’ve observed,” she reveals.
Following the chess player stereotype, Nikhil is exceptional in his schoolwork, and also plays soccer and basketball. (Pokémon Duel also features in his list of interests).
But it is chess which is the overriding passion. Neil and Nikhil both lap up news from the world of chess and keep abreast of updates from the world’s leading players.
The two youngsters have been playing interschool games and tournaments at local fairs. It was at one such community tournament that the boys met a naval officer who gave them both an Australian Navy cap. It became their ‘lucky cap’ – they will not play a game without it.
The Reddys are gearing up for international matches for their gifted son.
“For Nikhil’s age group, there are two events we have identified, in Uzbekistan and in Brazil. We are considering taking him,” Sandy says.