Chess champion Nethmi Fernando keen on becoming grandmaster | Sunday Observer

Chess champion Nethmi Fernando keen on becoming grandmaster

2 May, 2021

Nethmi Fernando is the new women’s national chess champion. She won the title after beating several older chess players recently. Nethmi is a student of Girls’ High School Kandy. The Youth Observer caught up with her to discuss her chess achievements.

Q: Nethmi, so you are the national chess champion in the country?

A: Yes, I am the national women’s chess champion in the country. I won the championships in 2020. I am very proud about it as I achieved at a young age. The title encourages me to achieve more.

Q: You are in the Advanced Level class. Could you describe your chess experience in school?

A: I am studying at Girls’ High School. I entered the school after passing the Grade five scholarship examination and it has helped me to develop my chess skills.

Q: Where did you have your primary education?

A: At St. Anthony’s Girls’ College, Katugastota.

Q: Were you involved with chess when you were in that school?

A: Yes. I began playing chess when I was in Grade two and day-by-day I developed my skills.

Q: What made you select this game? Did anyone encourage you to play chess?

A: Yes. It was my father who first suggested that I play chess. He was a chess player during his school days. I hope to emulate him.

Q: In the beginning did you win any chess titles?

A: Yes. But those are not major ones. I have won school level tournaments and district tournaments. But I improved a lot after I entered Girls’ High School.

Q: What are your recent achievements?

A: In 2019 I won the all island schools’ championship organised by the Ministry of Education. I also became first runner-up at the Sri Lanka Schools Chess Team Championship in 2016 and 2019.

Q: A chess player needs to participate in many international events. Have you travelled to many countries to play chess?

A: No, I have travelled only to Albania to take part in the West Asian tournament. All the other tournaments were held in Sri Lanka and I also take part in online games. So, I do not have experience of playing chess abroad. The covid-19 pandemic has made it almost impossible to travel abroad but we must keep calm and stay in our own country.

Q: But the chess arena is a very busy place. Aren’t there more online tournaments taking place the world over?

A: Yes. We took part in the Olympiad Chess championships, Youth World Championship and several chess tournaments during the past few months.

Q: Technology has opened wide opportunities for chess players to sharpen their skills. Anyone keen to play chess could play with someone anywhere in the world. Isn’t that so?

A: I think it is a good opportunity for us. We try to improve our skills by playing online chess games.

One has to only go to the chess website to play chess. Past players did not have this advantage that we have. I play online chess whenever I have free time.

Q: How did you feel when you suddenly became national chess champion in Sri Lanka at a young age?

A: I have a dream to become a grandmaster one day. To go on that journey I must succeed at the national level.

Q: Most students stop their sports activities when the GCE Ordinary Level and Advanced Level examinations approach. Did you also give up chess when you sat for the Ordinary Level examination?

A: No. Two months before the Ordinary Level examination, I represented my country in a chess tournament. However, I passed the Ordinary Level examination with eight As.

I never had any intention of stopping chess because of the examination. We must strike a balance between sports and studies. That is mind power.

Q: Now you are in the Advanced Level class. What is your stream?

A: Mathematics is my stream.

Q: It is said that chess enhances the neurons of the brain. Don’t you agree that it will help you as a mathematics student?

A: Yes. Chess is a game which enhances the working of the mind. I can solve quizzes faster unlike before. Chess is a very good brain game. I think it will help to achieve my educational goals.

Q: How many hours do you spend on chess training?

A: Before entering the Advance Level, I spent a minimum of three hours per day chess. But, as an A/L student, I do not have much time to spend on chess. We have to spend more time as there is a lot of work to be done for the Advanced Level examination.

Q: How many hours a day do you spend studying?

A: Around eight hours per day. However, I try to strike a balance with my time and try to sharpen my chess skills.

Q: Nethmi, are you involved in other sports activities or in any societies in school?

A: I have never become a prefect or got involved in fields such as drama or photography.

Chess, scrabble and studies are my only schedules.

Q: A few local chess players have won titles in the international arena. Have you won any titles as yet?

A: No, I have never won any title at the international level.

However, I hope to win the Grandmaster title one day. That is my dream.

Q: Did other members of your family play this game before you?

A: No. Like I said earlier, only my father played chess in his school time. Nobody else played chess either before or after me.

I am the only one in our family to play chess.

Q: Are you the only child in the family?

A: No. I have a younger brother.

Q: Is there any particular reason for your brother not taking up chess?

A: Actually, he played chess a few years ago. But he prefers cricket to chess.

Q: Who are the coaches who helped you come this far in chess?

A: A lot of people helped me to become national champion. My main coach is Rajindra Kalugampitiya. However, Chanaka Saputhanthri, Eriyagama, Niranga Kandearachchi and the late Haputhanthri are the main coaches who trained me to become a national level chess player.

Q: Now to conclude this interview, do you have anything to say?

A: I thank the Principal of Girls’ High School Kandy, M. Abeygunasekara, chess teacher-in-charge of Mrs. H. Amunugama, Mrs. Anuradha Koswatte, Mrs. Indu Nagolla, school coach, M.G.H.M. Farshan, former chess coaches Saputhanthri, Eriyagama, Kandearachchi and late Haputhanthri, present coach Kalugampitiya, president of the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka, Luxman Wijesuriya and officials of the Sri Lanka Schools Chess Association, for helping me on my journey to become the national champion.