Only 8 year old British Indian schoolgirl chess prodigy named Europe’s best

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Only 8 year old British Indian schoolgirl chess prodigy named Europe’s best

London: An eight-year-old British Indian schoolgirl has made chess history after being named the “super talented” best female player at a European championship.

Bodhana Sivanandan, from Harrow in north-west London, won the European Blitz Chess Championship in Zagreb, Croatia, over the weekend after a winning streak since she took up chess during the COVID pandemic lockdown.

In the European championship, she went head-to-head with some of the best players in the world and defeated an international master to win her crown.

“Eight-year-old super talented Bodhana Sivanandan made an astonishing result in the Blitz competition. She scored 8.5/13 points to win the first women prize and earn 211.2 blitz ELO points,” said the European Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships, which concluded in Croatia on Sunday.

Praise for the chess prodigy has since been pouring in on social media, with leading professionals highlighting her “unbelievable” performance.

“I always try my best to win, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t,” Bodhana told the BBC after her win. Father, Siva Sivanandan said his daughter was “trying her best and it has worked in favour of her”.

“She likes chess and she likes travelling. We keep trying and keep going,” he said. A few months ago, Sivanandan was among a group of young chess enthusiasts invited by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to 10 Downing Street to mark the government’s major new GBP 1 million investment package for the game.

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The package has since been in place to support children attending schools in disadvantaged areas across England to learn and play chess, improve visibility and availability of the game and fund elite playing.

“I was struggling to support my son with the required chess tournaments and coaching instrumental to his development at such a young and crucial age,” said Jitendra Singh, father of another British Indian chess prodigy nine-year-old Shreyas Royal.

“With this grant from the government we will be able to help more kids flourish at the game through the hard-working organisations of the English Chess Federation and chess in schools and communities. I believe that it is also a very beneficial hobby and would love to see more people getting into the game from this monumental announcement,” he said.

As part of the package, the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) says it will invest GBP 500,000 in the English Chess Federation (ECF) over two years in order to develop the next generation of world-class talent.

Funds will support expert coaching, training camps and cutting-edge computer analysis for international events to assist current grandmasters and up-and-coming players.

“We want to give more young people the opportunity to find the thing that they love and realise their potential. So this package is focused on getting more young people playing chess and supporting them to develop their talent,” said UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer.

“We’re also equipping our elite chess players with expert coaching to help them dominate at the highest levels of the global game and restore England’s reputation among the best in the world,” she said.

Alongside the support committed to elite players, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) will provide GBP 250,000 to 85 local authorities across England to install 100 new chess tables in public parks and outdoor green spaces, to allow more people to play, connect, tackle loneliness, and develop problem solving skills.

In addition, the Sunak-led government has set out plans to encourage more primary school children, particularly girls, to learn to play the game. The UK Department for Education said it will award grants of up to GBP 2,000 to at least 100 schools in disadvantaged areas across England, subject to interest.

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