Sachini Ranasinghe (17) can be called a chess whiz. Having started playing the sport at the tender age of four, she said, “When I was small, I liked the pieces, I found them really interesting,” and that was how it all began for the number one National (female) chess player.
Ranasinghe played netball and also participated in athletics and hockey but didn’t quite find it as challenging and tough as chess. “I find the game to be really creative and one that needs imagination and calculation,” she said adding, “There are so many rules and regulations to keep in mind – For me, it is almost like meditation.”
The Anatoly Karpov Chess Club at the Russian Centre is where she started playing chess and learning about the finer points in the sport. Ranasinghe was the only Sri Lankan to have won the title of Women’s International Master in 2011 in the open category of the Asian Zonal Championship.
She has been the National Champion three times and all her awards have been won in the open category, while in her age group she has won all the championships. At the age of 12, she was placed second in the Open National Chess Championship in 2006, while in the 2009 National Open at the age of 15 she was placed
first, making her the youngest to have won in the tournament. She is currently balancing her time between studies and chess and is preparing for her Advanced Level examinations in 2013 and is studying Media, Sinhala and Drama. “I’m kind of into writing,” she says adding, “I’ve written a story book giving basic knowledge about chess.” She goes on to state, “When I was small I used to make up stories, tell my mum about them and write them down. My mum said they were interesting and suggested publishing them, so that’s what I did.” The book is written for kids to get them interested in the sport as it can initially be a boring sport for a child to learn.
“Chess is a challenging sport and I’d like to tell the younger ones that there are no two winners, there is only one winner so if you work hard, you can achieve whatever you want to achieve and do well in the sport,” she said adding, “Even I had some bad years but you have to remember to play and continue playing and reach your goal. You have to keep going because winning one or two games doesn’t get you far.”
Ranasinghe stressed that chess isn’t an easy sport to be in mainly because it is tough to get a long term sponsor as the Chess Federation can’t help much. “We have to even purchase our own tickets when we participate in tournaments abroad,” she says, adding that the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka isn’t in a position to help in that way and therefore, she ends up missing a lot of tournaments.
Ranasinghe will however, be participating at the World Chess Championship to be held in Russia in November.
“I have played with Russians as well as Asians and Europeans including those who have won the zonal championship,” she said and went on to explain that there will be 150 players at the tournament and that the two best players from matches will be chosen to play against each other.
As for the World Chess Championship, “It will be very competitive and in addition I am the youngest player and the lowest rated, so all I can say is that I’ll try my best to do well, not just at this tournament but in the years to come as well. In the immediate future is the Asian Youth Chess Championship where she will be playing for Under 18 (female) category, where she is eyeing for a top spot. The tournament takes place from June 14 to July 1, 2012.
“I don’t want to stop playing chess, I want to continue and go ahead to be the Women’s Grand Master,” Ranasinghe says talking about what lies for her in the future, adding, she wouldn’t have been able to come as far as she has without the support of her parents, school, Musaeus College as well as the Old Girls Association of the school, her coaches and the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka.
By Natasha Fernandopulle