The true mark of a sportsperson is their spirit and their approach to the game. Recently, I spoke with someone whose clarity and conviction was both endearing and refreshing. Bala Kannamma embodies that very ethos that characterizes the mark of a true competitor. The Chess champion who has participated and won many competitions across the country, in all formats of the game -blitz, rapid and classic. Rapid, being her favourite due to its comfortable pace that allows her to take in the game. “Games can range between 10 minutes to 6 hours, depending on the format”, she remarks. It is astonishing that one can sustain concentration for such extended periods. “It is a matter of keeping the mind free and normal,” she reflects.
What is really remarkable about her journey in the field of Chess, since she began 10 years ago, is that it was her family, her father specifically, who insisted that she take up a sport and not just concentrate on academics. “My father was a carrom board player. He insisted I take up a sport, which is how I tried chess and realized that I was interested in it. I have been completely hooked on it from the start,” she gratefully states. “My family has been a constant pillar of support. I talk to them every day even when I am travelling, hence I don’t miss them,” so she speaks excitedly about the people in her life and her source of support and encouragement.
Chess is a game that requires intense concentration. Unlike other sports, the physical element is relatively minimal. “As chess players, we don’t get tired physically as there is no movement. However, mentally it could be overwhelming to sustain and put in consistent effort throughout the game. Many stumble and make mistakes, it is important to keep a level head,” she observes. Her approach is simple. Towards the game and the larger picture as well, she says she is clear about what she wants to do. Whether in the form of competing or coaching she wants to be involved with the game throughout her career.
It is really commendable and rare that a family supports and encourages youngsters to take up sports as a career path. Bala Kannamma realizes that she is fortunate that way. “At home, I am not questioned or pressed further to explain myself either during a win or a loss. They know that I am devoted to the game and give me space to learn and grow further.” Such is the sportsmanship that has been instilled in her. This will definitely take her places further. She will definitely be someone whom the next generation looks up to and aspires to emulate.
Note: P.Bala Kannamma achieved her first Women’s International Master (WIM) norm* in November 2016, coming a step closer to her dream of securing a title such as a Grandmaster that her idol, Dronavalli Harika holds. (*A norm is a special mention that denotes a high achievement. Norms are one of the requirements for a chess title such as International Master, Grandmaster etc.)
Read more Inspirational Interviews in our featured section Chai Pe Charcha.