By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai, May 19 (IANS) Chess International Master (IM) Tiruchi Natesan Parameswaran created a sensation in 1979 winning the National title at the age of 23 when the game was dominated by players above 40.
Seventeen years later, when Parameswaran was 40, he again created a sensation winning the National title at a time when the game was dominated by players half his age.
Now 63, Parameswaran, who retired from Air India and is settled in Thanjavur, told IANS: “I am confident of coming back into competitive arena. The problem is leaving Thanjavur for more than a week to play in tournaments. I have to make alternative arrangements for the household work. Secondly, I need at about six months time to prepare for the tournaments.
“I do coach four or five players here. If someone organises a chess coaching camp then I can share my expertise. I don’t charge much,” he said.
“I am now into spiritualism. I spend my time reading spiritual books,” he added.
According to him, the family shifted to Thanjavur as his son Giridhar Gopal got admission in a medical college there. Gopal is now in the AIIMS at Delhi.
Dedicating his 1996 title victory to God’s grace, he started to narrate his tournament experience with a rider that it will be an unbelievable story.
“I was bit confused as I did not prepare for the tournament. At that time, someone gave me a picture of Shirdi Sai Baba saying that everything will be clear,” Parameswaran recalled.
After winning the initial rounds, one night Parameswaran dreamt of winning the title.
“After that, a combination of winning moves would come to my mind like a magic. With a round to spare I won the National title,” he said.
His strange experience didn’t end. While at the hotel room packing his luggage, an elderly person knocked at the door. There was a spark in his eyes and Parameswaran found his face familiar.
“The old man started asking about the games and went out abruptly. A few minutes later I went down but the people at the hotel reception counter were not aware of any old man matching the description I gave,” he said.
“I felt it was Sai Baba who had come to my room and who had helped me to win the title. I know you may not believe this,” Parameswaran said.
It was chess administrator and chess book publisher K.R. Seshadri and a resident of Mambalam locality in Chennai who spotted Parameswaran’s chess talent.
“In those days there used to be a silent rivalry between chess players living in Mambalam and Mylapore. I wanted to develop players in Mambalam while Mylapore had strong set of players,” Seshadri told IANS.
Born in a large family – Parameswaran was the eighth and last child of his parents – life alternated between economic comfort and difficulty.
His father Natesan’s business fortunes fluctuated widely.
“At one point of time, the situation was such that, the prize money won by me during my school/college days helped to run the family,” Parameswaran recalled.
Seeing his father and brother T.N. Rameswaran playing chess, Parameswaran got hooked to the game.
Chess had gained popularity owing to the world title match between America’s Bobby Fischer and Russia’s Boris Spassky.
“Rameswaran once drew a game with a visiting chess Grandmaster (GM) who gave a simultaneous game display. The newspapers by mistake printed my name as the boy who drew with the GM instead of my brother’s name,” Parameswaran chuckled.
As a result, Parameswaran was directly selected to represent his school team -Ramakrishna Mission Higher Secondary School – in a tournament.
“I won all the six games and we got a huge cup for the school,” he mused.
Though he started playing in 1971, Parameswaran gained ground fast and won the 1975-76 National Juniors title.
With his father wishing to see his son’s name in the newspapers winning chess tournaments, Parameswaran decided to forgo a medical college seat.
“Upon enquiring I was told that class attendance norms should be met. As it might clash with my chess ambitions I joined Vivekananda College instead where Raja Ravi Sekhar (India’s third IM) had also joined,” he said.
The duo used to spend lot of time together playing and discussing chess.
“There used to be about seven or eight national players at Sekhar’s room near the college. With the college insisting on minimum attendance in classes, I took a transfer certificate and joined the Pachaiyappa’s College,” Parameswaran said.
Progressing fast in the chess arena, Parameswaran came third in the 1978 National-A championship.
The next year, at Tiruchi (his father’s native place), Parameswaran became the National Champion with a round to spare and he also joined Air India in the sports category.
The following years saw Parameswaran winning and finishing at the top in many tournaments. He tied for the second place in the 1980 National-A and in 1981 became the country’s fourth IM.
In the 1982 Olympiad, Parameswaran created a sensation by defeating a highly-rated Yugoslavian GM Dragoljub Velimirovic.
In the domestic chess circuit, Parameswaran holds the record of winning the highly rated Sri Gurusamy Naidu Memorial Chess Tournament held at Palani for four times.
“The Palani tournament used to be strongest one with highly-rated players from different parts of the country participating, as the organisers provided free boarding and lodging,” Parameswaran said.
Meanwhile in 1986, Parameswaran got married to Jagadeeswari.
The death of his father affected Parameswaran in a big way and his playing in open tournaments was reduced.
The 1992 National-A tournament held in Pondicherry (now Puducherry) was a turning point in the Indian chess as the facilities for the players were not good.
“The players had to travel couple of hours to reach the tournament venue. It was really tiresome and players like Sekhar, me and others boycotted the tournament while others continued, proving that players lacked unity,” Parameswaran said.
It was only in 1996 that Parameswaran came back to win the National title after a gap of 17 years.
“Parameswaran is a calm person. He was friendly with everyone,” V. Kameswaran, International Chess Arbiter told IANS.
Queried about his experience of playing against former World Champion Vishwanathan Anand (then a boy), Parameswaran said that even then he never accepted draws from anyone.
“He was a tenacious fighter and was sound in chess openings. We used to rag other senior players when they lost to Anand. For the senior players, losing to Anand was a nightmare. It used to be fun,” Parameswaran laughed.
Parameswaran’s only regret was the lack of appreciation and increments from Air India when he won tournaments.
According to him, the family shifted to Thanjavur as his son Giridhar Gopal got admission in a medical college there.
Parameswaran rues the absence of the Tal Chess Club here from which many players emerged.
According to him, chess is becoming less creative with the advent of computers.
“Perhaps players should be made to play interchanging the knight and bishop squares so that creativity comes back,” he said.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be reached at [email protected])