Bhakti Kulkarni is on the edge of breaking all chess frontiers in India. At 27, Bhakti is ranked third in India and 38th in the world and the sky is not the limit for this Dempo Goodwill Ambassador, discovers Sports Editor AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
Q: You have given chess in Goa a pedestal that would make many jealous and yet there are few women chess players of caliber in Goa. Why?
Chess is a game that takes six to seven years to produce results. It is not a sport that can churn players overnight and may be that is why many parents discourage their children after two or three years, when their children are not winning anything much. This could be one reason. The other could be that a woman in India is expected to get married at a certain age and look after the family. Chess is a full time game.
Q: You are 27, an age where a woman is expected to marry in India. Don’t you think it is time to marry or don’t your parents think so?
My parents do want me to get married and they tried but I have requested them that I need more time for chess. I have been with chess for twenty four years. I am ranked 38 in the world and I need a few more years before I get the No 1 rank in the world. That is my dream, a dream I know I will be able to realise.
Q: What is it that you will need to do differently to be the best in the world?
Chess is a game that requires a lot of practice. I practise around seven hours a day and I am now trying to intensify my focus in those seven hours and actually increase my practice time. With technology, practising is no more a problem. Today, my coach dedicates around three hours a day for me.
Q: Have you had one coach since you started your journey in chess or have you changed coaches?
Raghunanda Gokhale from Mumbai has been my coach from the beginning and will be till he can because what I am today is largely due to his efforts. He is a Dronacharya awardee from Mumbai and he initially started by giving me free coaching classes. He uses the internet to keep me updated every day. He decides which tournaments I should participate in and the strategies I should adopt against opponents. A coach’s role in chess is enormous.
Q: The voice of discrimination is raised in many sports when it comes to parity in prize money for men and women. Do women in chess suffer the same?
Yes and that could be one reason why we do not have youngsters taking to the game. In India, if the prize money for a man is Rs two lakh, a woman gets Rs 20,000. It is a huge difference and one that needs to be addressed if the chess federation wants to draw women to the game.
Q: Men play women in chess. How different are women players from men?
I think the women in India are much closed. When I go out with women chess players they hardly discuss chess. There is that feeling that they do not want to share what they know about the game. It is different with men. I have male friends with whom I go out and many a times we discuss chess. There is sharing of knowledge which does not happen with women.
Q: Is chess your life?
No. I have a social life but chess has taken a major part of my life. I started playing chess when I was 3 and so it has been chess for 24 years and it is something I just cannot forget. It will be part of the rest of my life for sure.
Q: Could your life partner be a chess player and could he be a foreigner?
He could be a chess player. You can never know but I do not think he would be a foreigner because one; my parents would not be happy and two; I would not want to live abroad.
Q: Would you expect your children to be chess players?
No. No. I will not force chess upon them. I will give them the freedom to do what they like, what they enjoy.
Q: Viswanathan Anand woke India up to chess around thirty years back and yet there is no Anand emerging in India. Why?
I think because there is no one around to put in the hard work that he has put in. Anand did not become a star clicking his fingers. He slogged it to reach where he has and I think with the advent of technology the hard work has decreased. You cannot reach where Anand reached if you do not work like he did.