Nine-year-old chess prodigy wins medal in international tournament | Sunday Observer

Nine-year-old chess prodigy wins medal in international tournament

15 August, 2021
Arunodya and Oshani
Arunodya and Oshani

Devindya Oshani Gunawardhana, a student at Ferguson High School, Ratnapura won the bronze medal at the Queens Chess Festival conducted by FIDE (International Chess Federation).

The online Queen’s Chess Festival is an open event organised by the FIDE Women’s Commission for women chess players around the world.

The Youth Observer caught up with Oshini and her mother Chandani Rathnayaka to discuss Oshini’s chess activities.

Q: How old is Oshini?

A: My daughter is nine-years-old.

Q: Do you know that she is the youngest Sri Lankan to win an international chess medal?

A: Yes. The Sri Lanka Chess Federation told us about it. We are proud about it. We think that our little daughter has a bright future in this game.

Q: This tournament was conducted online. At first, she competed in the Asian region qualifying tournament. What happened in that tournament?

A: She won second place in Asian qualifying round. She played eleven games and earned nine points. The first three who won in the Asian qualifying round qualified to compete in the world tournament.

Q: How many players took part in the world tournament?

A: The best twelve players in the world participated in the event. Oshini won third place and got a bronze medal.

Q: Could you give some details?

A: She played eleven matches and earned seven and half points. Oshini won seven chess games, lost three and one game was drawn.

Q: That was a remarkable victory for Sri Lanka in the international chess arena. What were Oshini’s feelings?

A: She was happy about winning the bronze medal. We too were happy and hope that she progresses in the game. However, the pandemic is not good for anyone. I hope it will end soon and that our daughter will improve her skills in the game.

Q: She is only nine. How did she become a chess player?

A: I think she was inspired by her sister. My elder daughter Arunodya is also a chess champion at the local level. She started playing chess when she was young and day-by-day she improved and found success. That motivated Oshini to take up chess.

Q: What is their age gap? Two or three?

A: Actually there is a five-year age gap. My elder daughter is in Grade nine and she plays chess at home due to the pandemic. Oshini, when she was younger, asked me about the game that the elder sister was playing and the names of pieces used in the game. I told her the names and she memorised them. That was her beginning.

However, in the beginning we did not think she would go this far in the game. But it has happened and we are proud of our daughter’s intelligence.

Q: How about your elder daughter’s chess ability?

A: She is also clever. But she had not taken part in international competitions. She has competed in several inter-school chess tournaments.

Q: When did Oshini enter Ferguson High School and who coaches her?

A: She entered the school in 2018. bShe began chess classes when she was in Grade two. However, at that time she knew a little about chess and it was to her advantage. She played with her sister and improved her skills.

Jagath Ketawal was her first chess coach and at that time she also learned chess under Rasika Samaranayaka. Candidate master Akila Kavind has been coaching our daughter since last year.

Q: Could you recall her chess victories in the local arena?

A: Oshini won her first chess tournament in 2019 as a seven year old girl. That tournament was the SSC open chess tournament and she was placed fourth. We cannot forget that victory because my daughter was very happy about that triumph. Then she won a gold medal in the 10th Kandy International Rapid Chess Tournament. Next she was runner-up in the 10th open chess tournament in the under-seven age category.

There was a chess tournament in Kurunegala and Oshini also participated in it. In that tournament she won first place and it took her to win the Sri Lanka Youth girl’s chess tournament, her seventh championship title. That was her best victory last year.

Q: After that victory she changed her coach?

A: Last year Akila Kavinda met our daughter. Then we decided to get his guidance to improve Oshini’s chess playing abilities. Today he is our daughter’s present chess coach.

Under his guidance Oshini participated in the under-14 Grand Fix chess tournament. The first round was conducted in two phases. Oshini won third place in that tournament.

That year she became the under-eight champion in the youth girl’s tournament. She also won the Rapid girl’s chess tournament in the under-eight category.

She also won first place in 11th Saja International Rapid Chess Tournament in the under-10 age category.

Q: So, is this year a good year in her chess life?

A: Yes. She participated in an online open rapid chess tournament in the under-14 category. It was a good experience for her. She was placed 14th in that competition. Then she competed in the Asian Queen Rapid Chess tournament in the under-15 grading chess tournament in Asia.

Q: What are her FIDE ratings in the past few months?

A: Last year she was rated at 1288. After she completed her Grand Prix chess tournament it developed 1338. Then when se won the FIDE women’s chess tournament her FIDE marks increased to 1373.

Q: Oshani ranked eighth in the world chess arena in her age group?

A: In the under-12 category she is in eighth place in the world and third place in Asia.

Q: As a family, what do you think about your child’s victory?

A: It is very great victory for us. We hope one day she can attend a Colombo school. Because Colombo schools have all the facilities.

As we live in Ratnapura area, we have to face some difficulties with regard to her sports and education. I hope it will be solved one day.