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Eight-year-old girl Bodhana wins European Chess Championships

Bodhana Sivanandan defeated an international master and drew with a grandmaster: “Unbelievable’ experts said. (SkyNews Photo)

Samantha Jagger
BBC News, London, December 22, 2023

An eight-year-old girl has been crowned best female player at the European blitz chess championships.

Bodhana Sivanandan, from Harrow, Northwest London, scored 8.5/13 at the event in Croatia, finishing ahead of seasoned professionals in the process.

She defeated an international master and drew with a grandmaster, in a result described as “unbelievable.” The chess prodigy, who began playing at age five, said she was “proud” of her performance over the weekend.

Blitz Time Control

The tournament was held at the blitz time control – a quick form of chess where players have just minutes on their clocks for their moves.

Chair of the Board at English Chess Federation (ECF) Stephen Woodhouse said: “In essence, there are three types of timings in a Chess game – Standard, Rapid Play and Blitz. A Blitz Game usually varies from three minutes to five minutes, so it is very quick.”

Bodhana’s opponents included grandmasters, the highest title given to the world’s strongest players, international masters and experts.

“I always try my best to win, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t,” Bodhana told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I was very proud of myself when I got top girl in the European blitz.”

Asked if she gets nervous, she replied: “No, I just play the board.”

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The chess world quickly praised her performance.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with Bodhana Sivanandan at a meeting of young Chess Champions that he hosted at his Official Residence at 10 Downing Street, London (SkyNews Photo)

International Masters applaud

Romanian International Master Irina Bulmaga, one of the players Bodhana finished ahead of, wrote on X that it was an “unbelievable result” and added “What a phenomenon she is.”

Dominic Lawson, President of the English Chess Federation, described it as an “extraordin­ary result for an eight-year-old and something that we have certainly never seen in this country. She has a remarkably mature playing style, it is strategic and patient. She has what you might describe as a long game.”

British International Master and commentator Lawrence Trent described Bodhana as “one of the greatest talents I have witnessed in recent memory. The maturity of her play, her sublime touch, it’s truly breathtaking,” he wrote on X.

“I have no doubt she will be England’s greatest player and most likely one of the greatest the game has ever seen,” Mr Trent added.

Other child chess prodigies

Judit Polgar, born in 1976, became a grandmaster at age 15. She retired from competitive chess in 2014. She was the youngest of her three sisters, who all played international chess.

Magnus Carlsen, born in 1990, became world champion aged 23. He was taught to play at the age of 5 and became grandmaster by the age of 13.

Hou Yifan, born in 1994, became the youngest-ever female grandmaster at the age of 14.

Source: English Chess Federation

Siva Sivanandan said that his daughter was “trying her best and it has worked in favour of her. She likes chess and she likes travelling. We keep trying and keep going.”.

Bodhana will next compete at the International Chess Congress in Hastings, one of the world’s longest-running tournaments, on 28 December.

Earlier this year, Bodhana met Rishi Sunak when the Prime Minister hosted young chess champions at Downing Street.

Samantha Jagger is a Reporter at BBC News. The above Report and picture have been published under a special agreement.

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