It’s not just the 30 Indian chess exponents who are playing in the ongoing 44th Chess Olympiad here. There are two more players of Indian origin hailing from Tamil Nadu but representing Hong Kong.
An Indian woman, K. Sigappi, and her son, K. Thanneermalai, are playing in the Olympiad for Hong Kong. Sigappi’s husband PR Kannappan is the treasurer of the Hong Kong Chess Federation.
Born in Madurai, Sigappi learnt chess at a young age and was one of the toppers at the state and national level in the age-group tournaments.
“I was once Tamil Nadu champion in the Under-16 championship. I have also represented the Madurai Kamaraj University at the All India Inter University tournament. Our team won silver with Madras University winning the gold,” Sigappi told IANS.
“She was a strong player and used to be in the top-10 at the national level,” Woman Grandmaster (WGM) S.Meenakshi recalled to IANS.
She went to Nigeria with her husband Kannappan after marriage.
“We were in Nigeria for five years and later moved to Hong Kong about 17 years back,” Kannappan said.
For Sigappi, a Woman Fide Master, this is her second Olympiad representing Hong Kong. The first was at Baku in Azerbaijan in 2016 where she had scored 8.5 points in 11 rounds.
She did not play in the 2018 Olympiad held in Batumi, Georgia.
“When Chennai was chosen as the venue for the Olympiad, I jumped at the opportunity to play in my home country. It was a very proud moment for me to play in the Hall 1 in the first round where all the top teams play,” she added.
The Hong Kong team lost to India-3 team with Sigappi going down to Eesha Karavade.
In the next three rounds, Sigappi with an ELO rating of 1,914, won two games and drew one.
“I am playing competitive chess at the Olympiad after six years,” she said and added that it was difficult initially to get into the groove like preparing the openings and other aspects of the game.
On the other hand, her son Thanneermalai with an ELO rating of 1,699 making his Olympiad debut, has scored one win in two rounds.
He is being coached by Sigappi.
“He got into the Hong Kong Open team as some of the players were not able to play. As he was 10th in the Hong Kong national chess tournament, he got the opportunity to play in the Olympiad,” Sigappi said.
Kannappan, who is into finance in Hong Kong, was roped in by the federation there to streamline the system.
So, the next time if you see a female with a ‘bindi’ on the forehead, pleated hair and an Indian name at any international chess events, do not assume that she is a part of the Indian team. She could be playing for any other country in the world.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)