Lucena in Lockdown #1 - WIM Rakshitta Ravi
The word Lucena is of Spanish origin, which means light or illumination. Lockdown can be very boring and lonely, so in this series of articles we will be seeing how Juniors are coping during this time - the light in the dark! This is an especially interesting time to be working on chess, as one is always at home. However, for the most serious chess players who have to travel constantly this is going to be a hindrance. They are exposed to something that they haven't seen all year round: Staying at home and enjoying time with family together! Now they get the opportunity to take a break from the constant tournament grind, albeit they have their long hours of preparation still going. We will be looking at their interests, hobbies, routines, life and of course, their best games, in these series of articles.
We are joined today by WIM Rakshitta Ravi, the first Junior we spoke to on the whole situation with quarantine. I asked her what she thought of the quarantine and she said she was very neutral to it. "I'm happy that I'm able to spend so much time with my family. On the other hand I don't like being restricted to the confines of my own home. I would love to go outside and do some stuff. Playing a few games of badminton and going shopping are few of the things on my bucket list!"
Rakshitta has however taken the most of this quarantine to study, prepare her lines, spend time with her family (a rare occurrence for seasoned chess players), and help with household chores. She is spending most of her time listening to music, and learning new things everyday. On the chess side of things, the frequency of classes with her coaches GM RB Ramesh and GM Vishnu Prasanna is low as the coronavirus has stalled any face-to-face interaction. "I haven't yet opted for any Online Classes, mostly preparing different opening play-styles and variations," says Rakshitta. "I have spent a lot of time with school studies to compensate for this." Her mother WIM Sai Meera says, "We’ve definitely been a little casual with studies over this year, and we’re lucky that Rakshitta’s school, Velemmal, has been lenient about her attendance record. I think it's important for to put some time into studies too, as it's not easy later if the fundamentals aren't clear."
Many might choose the standpoint here that this is the most opportune time to be a chess player and hence, from a competitive view, practicing should be utmost priority. While this is true, it doesn't necessarily apply here. This is Rakshitta's rating graph:
The dip in 2019 April which can be seen (exactly last year) shows a rating of 2002. It wasn't the best moment for Rakshitta as she had hit her peak in 2017, and hadn't broken that in a year. Then came August of the same year when she hit a new high, with an ELO of 2310, with a total of 309 points gained in just two tournaments that month, 147 of which in the Czech Republic 2019 alone. Rakshitta's current Elo is 2190. While it may seem that it hasn't gone well for her since last few months, one needs to understand that with a constant chess grind day-in and day-out, the effect on the player can be taxing. April had taken a huge toll and while she gained well over the loss nearing the end of the year, Rakshitta had been in a huge tournament spree.
Here is one game of Rakshitta's against Sindarov Javokir - the 3rd youngest GM in the world after Karjakin and Gukesh. Rakshitta has annotated the game herself. Check out this 26 move victory to find out how she ended this game so fast!
The following video was taken back at the SBI AICF International WGM Chess tournament 2018, where Rakshitta's performance was 0.5/11. Sai Meera speaks about her performance at the tournament, and along with that, shares some important values as both player and parent. It is something so inspiring, as competitive chess is not affecting just one person in a family. Yet, the faith and hope and willingness to bounce back is something that I keep coming back occasionally to see. With this kind of support, I'm sure any chess player can get the motivation they need, no matter the low!
Remember! Chess is not at all about the ratings! The true joy is in the journey, knowing that you can look back and reminisce through all the lowest points, the silliest blunder, but most importantly the best checkmates, tactics, and heart-wrenching moments of your career. Isn't that what everyone remembers most? Even those that suddenly decided to stop playing would tell you after a year or so from quitting, it's the good memories that always stick. The endless grind, the massive repertoires and dedication is what brings the most joy, when it succeeds. So don't be disheartened when things don't seem to be going your way! You may not have made it to the top of the mountain as fast as you had wished when you started the climb, but it is never a bad moment to take a break, and look back at the progress you made. Because that's where the beauty of competitive chess really lies, and begins: with a journey.
Badminton had been something Rakshitta always enjoyed. "We had bought her a pair of racquets to play, and she loved it," says Sai Meera. "Back when we had first shifted from Bangalore to Chennai, she wasn’t going to school, and there was no physical activity. We always encouraged her to play for 1-1.5 hours. Around 5-6 years ago GM Adhiban wanted to learn from us how to play, and soon our families became very close. Now due to quarantine, none of that is taking place, but otherwise he would visit daily. GM RB Ramesh is usually busy with his classes, but occasionally he too joins for a game of Badminton. I would have liked to say Rakshitta always wins, but that wouldn’t be true! They are all very competitive and won’t drop even a single point to let each other win, Although, I wouldn’t play against her; I would lose very quickly!"