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8-year-old chess genius is European women’s champ

8-year-old chess genius is European women’s champ
Courtesy: European Blitz Chess Championship

Bodhana Sivanandan, an eight-year-old London schoolgirl from Harrow, has become the European women’s champion after winning the European Blitz Chess Championship in Zagreb, Croatia.

In the European championship, which concluded last weekend, she emerged victorious over many senior players and beat an international master to win her crown.

The European Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships said: “Eight-year-old super talented Bodhana Sivanandan (ENG, 1944) 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.”

The schoolgirl took up the game when she was just five and came across a chess set in a bag over the Covid lockdown period. Since then, she has been travelling around the UK and abroad to compete in championships and making a mark on the chess circuit.

Back in August, Bodhana was among a group of young chess enthusiasts invited by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to 10 Downing Street to mark the government’s major new £1 million investment package for the game.

Jitendra Singh, father of another British Indian chess prodigy – nine-year-old Shreyas Royal, said: “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.

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“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.”

As part of the package, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) says it will invest £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.

UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: “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.”

“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.”

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Alongside the support committed to elite players, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) will provide £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.

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

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