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Age is only a number for Subramanian

by Basil Sylvester Pinto - 24/06/2019

One cannot discount to the fact that in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, chess has a major role to play. This attribute is noticeable in 85-year-old TV Subramanian from Trichy, Tamil Nadu who is grabbing eyeballs with his noteworthy performance as the oldest player at the ongoing 2nd Goa Grandmaster International Open Chess Tournament in Taleigao. Photo: Basil Sylvester Pinto

The inspirational octogenarian T V Subramanian

TV Subramanian in action at 2nd Goa GM International Open 2019 | Photo: Basil Sylvester Pinto

With great board vision and tactical acumen, the octogenarian (Elo rating 1363) registered his third win from five games in Category B (1999 & below) on Wednesday. Visibly still fresh after his second game of the day, with a spring in his stride Subramanian related to The Goan on his fascinating story in the game of the Kings and Queens.


While many kids today take to competitive chess when they can hardly sit on their chair and make their moves on the chessboard, in the case of Subramanian his introduction to the royal game came as late as 24 years. 


“I was a textile representative from Kolkata and had gone to Coimbatore for work in 1958. At the time, there was a chess camp underway and a friend taught me the game.  Within two years, at 26, I played my first tournament. It was the Senior State Chess Championship in Chennai where I stood fifth among 60 odd players,” he narrated.  But his best performance at the Senior State Level came as a 44-year-old in 1978 where he stood a credible second. 


For the 12 years he stayed at Coimbatore, he played tournaments regularly and acquainted himself with a few players at his level who sparred with him on the 64 squares.  At the time, his development in chess was restricted to chess books which taught him the openings and through constant practice.  “There were not many chess books available back then. I purchased my first chess book which was a foreign book on chess openings at a bookstall in Coimbatore. I did not learn much from these books, but more so through observation of games and a lot of practice,” Subramanian declared. 


Subsequently he switched jobs to Kothari Petrochemicals, and there he was not getting enough time for the game but somehow used to adjust his work schedule to play tournaments. After serving at his last job for 15 years, in 1995, he retired from his profession to dedicate himself full-time to tournament play and chess coaching on the side as well. 


“For a decade (1995-2005), I was based at my native place in Madurai where I also taught chess in a couple of schools. Thereon, I settled in Trichy, where alongside playing at a competitive level, I continue with chess coaching,” he revealed.


Though chess in India has come a long way, where annotated games are readily available at a click of the mouse, Subramanian still is mostly old school. “I still do not understand how to use the internet. I try to keep pace through chess books, CDs and playing a lot. I go by 75 percent practice and 25 percent book knowledge,” he admitted. 


Has age taken a toll over his chess practice and tournament play? “I have been playing actively for the last 60 years and that is mainly the practice I carry forward to the next tournament. Otherwise, it is only when I have a doubt I look through chess books for revision. With age, my confidence and energy levels are less due to which mostly from a winning position in end game situations, I tend to lose. It is difficult to play for 3-4 hours at a stretch. The tiredness stays on at least an hour after a game,” he confessed.


In a chess career spanning an applaud-worthy six decades, he has had his share of great wins.  “Back in 1978, I had defeated a then promising Raja Ravi Sekhar who in time become an IM. It was a closely fought game and I overpowered him in the middle game with a well-crafted strategy,” he fondly reminisced. 


While he likes e4 as his opening move with white pieces, if responding with the move with black, he prefers entering into Sicilian defense with c5.  Playing black against white’s first move, d4, he favours the Grünfeld Defence which is characterized by the reply Nf6, to follow with 2. c4 g6, 3. Nc3 d5 and so forth.

T V Subramanian finished the tournament with 4.0/10 and increased his ELO rating by 3 points | Photo: Niklesh Jain

To young chess players, Subramanian’s furrowed years across the chess board prompts good advice. “While youngsters should prioritize their academics over chess, they should devote an hour daily towards chess practice.”

TV Subramanian interviewed by ChessBase India at the World Youth Olympiad venue in 2017 in Ahmedabad

The article was originally published in The Goan Everyday, a regional English daily newspaper on 22nd June 2019 | Photo: The Goan e-paper

About the author

Basil Sylvester Pinto earns a living through his passion for writing. Having dabbled in various genres of journalism, for the last few years he is attached to The Goan Everyday as a sports reporter, and also contributes features occasionally. He is very passionate about fashion photography, high altitude and  loves to travel. He is fond of cricket, has played chess at the college and Goa State Open level and has been a decent National level Scrabble player.


The article was edited by Shahid Ahmed

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