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Check Mate with Rishaan Rupani

Check Mate with Rishaan Rupani







At the young age of seven, Rishaan Rupani is wiping knights, bishops and queens off the board of his opponents with ease, and utters ‘checkmate’ in the next breath. Born in India and raised in Kenya, the grade 3 student is an avid chess player with great aspirations. This little boy has some notable titles under his name. He tells us more about his passion for the game.




Rishaan, you took to the game of chess at the tender age of four. Your interest has grown many folds and has seen you blossom in the game. What prompted a four-year old to get into this intriguing game?

Initially, I started playing chess just like any other board game with my father. But as time went by, my interest in the game grew manifold. The check mate, the tricks and strategies made me more and more interested in the game. I would spend hours playing by myself trying to introduce new strategies to defeat my father. Soon, I found myself watching and reading about the popular matches between grand masters to learn more.


Did you ever imagine chess to become more than a hobby?

Only a few months after I learnt chess, I used to spend hours playing the game. At that time, I didn’t think about where it would take me. But when I started playing tournaments and started winning them, that’s when I knew that it was not just a hobby for me, I wanted to play chess at an international level and make my family proud.


What training, if any, did you undergo?

Initially, I played and learnt basic chess from my parents. Later, I was coached by a professional chess teacher.


How many hours per day do you play?

On school days, I don’t get enough time to play chess, however, I compensate for that over the weekends. I try to play as many tournaments as I can. On holidays, I like to play with my family and friends as and when I get a chance.


How many moves do you calculate ahead during a game?

Well, that really depends on who I’m playing with. If it’s a friendly match with family or friends, then I play my natural game which is more impromptu and I go with the flow. However, in a tournament I like to think ahead of my opponent, so in my head, I’m usually playing a few moves ahead of the game.


How do you balance school, training and time with your friends?

I prioritise school homework, however, I do manage to sneak in a few training hours in a week. But most of my training happens over the weekend as I spend a lot of time learning and understanding the game through by practice. I spend time with friends every day in school and even at home.


In June 2019, you have achieved notable accolades in the sport. Winning the National Kenyan Chess Qualifier 2019 in the under 8 category, is by no means an easy feat. You also stood first in 2018’s Nairobi Regional Chess Qualifier in the under 8 category. What are you taking away as lessons from your winnings?

Ever since I started pursuing chess seriously, my parents emphasise only one thing, that hard work pays. And with every win and every achievement in this field, I have believed that more and more. I realised and learnt that hard work is the only key to success.


Where do you keep your hard-earned trophies?

All my trophies are kept in my room on a shelf, where I can see them all the time.


Do you ever feel pressure before or during the game? How do you deal with it being so young?

Honestly, I feel pressure before every tournament and before every game because I know that in chess just one move can make or break my game. But as the first few minutes of the game pass, then I get so engrossed in the game that I forget the pressure. Then it’s just about what my opponent is thinking and what his next move will be and how I can outsmart him/her.


In the game of chess, who do you look up to and why?

My all-time favourite chess players are – grand master
Bobby Fischer and grand master Magnus Carlson and of course our very own grand master Vishwanathan Anand. I look up to them because they have managed to stay at the top of the game through so many years.


What principles of chess do you practice in your everyday life?

I think chess has taught me patience and concentration and that helps me in my everyday life.


Do you enjoy other sports with the same passion you do chess?

Yes. I enjoy playing football. And I am an avid watcher of lawn tennis and cricket too.


What future do you foresee for yourself in chess?

For now, I am trying to improve my game and bring myself to an international level. At some point, I would like to see myself earn an junior international title.


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