India’s chess prodigy fights with brilliant minds and poverty together

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Kolkata: Nine-year-old Sneha ranks fifth in the all India under 9 ranking. Yet the chess prodigy from Bengal is facing financial constraints, which is preventing her from winning laurels for India at the international arena.

The organiser of Commonwealth Chess Championship that is taking place in Delhi from June 25 has invited Sneha to participate but money is playing the spoilsport. “She needs a minimum of Rs 25,000 to participate in the tournament. But I don’t have any money,” said Bhogirath Halder, Sneha’s father to eNewsroom.

Started playing chess from a tender age of five, Sneha has fulfilled the criteria of participating in various international championships including Commonwealth games. She is an intermediate player. She has won silver in national championship 2016. The 9-year-old has participated in nearly 40 championships including state, national and international levels and has brought trophies. Her ELO rating is 1177 as per April 2018.

But due to poverty, little Sneha, who spends seven hours in practice, is not able to continue her sport. She lives with her parents in a one room rented place in Maheshtala. Her father Bhogirath Halder is a private tutor teaching English and her mother works as a tailor to make ends meet. She was under the tutelage of grand master Dibyendu Barua but is no longer associated with Dibyendu Barua Chess Academy.

chess prodigy sneha halder kolkata
Sneha is challenging a USA player

Due to lack of money, Sneha has not been able to participate in Asian Championship in Uzbekistan in March last year. Her parents went to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s residence at Kalighat last year. “We needed Rs 2 lakh to meet the travel expense. Didi immediately called minister Arup Biswas and said that monetary assistance be given to my daughter,” informed Halder. But for that, Bengal Olympic Association’s president Ajeet Banerjee’s reference letter is a must. “We walked for one month to get his reference letter. We pleaded with him but he didn’t relent,” said Halder. He even went to Governor to seek help but nobody came for assistance.

But she represented India in a World Championship in Brazil in August 2017. Though her expense from Delhi to Brazil was taken care of by the government of India but her father had to take her to Delhi. And for that her mother had to sell all her gold jewellery to meet the expenses of air travel. Sneha participated in under -9 International championships in Nepal where she stood first.

“My brother’s friend Amitava Bhattacharya and our family friend and school teacher Debjani Raychowdhury helped me with Rs 15,000. So with this amount, I could take my daughter to Nepal,” said the father.

But such people who would stand by Sneha and give her strength to fight all odds are less in number.

“I want to work hard and bring laurels for my country,” said Sneha who is a student of class 3 whose strength is perseverance, patience and dedication.

But, who is her role model, and what she does when she did not play mind games on chess board?

Listen from her only, “Garry Kasparov is my inspiration, and my role model. And I liked doing painting, when I do not play chess,” the little master smilingly answered.

Are we ready to stand by this chess prodigy and not let a flower die before it blooms.

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