Societies which are strong are societies which revolve around strong women. We have written before about the rise of Indian women – see – and you will hear more from us on this subject in the coming weeks. In this outstanding piece in the Indian Express, Sandeep Dwivedi explains how intelligent, supportive and determined mums play a big role in the making of legendary chess players: “Away from the board, chess has been a matriarchy run by committed women. Hidden from the news-hounds blindly chasing the champion are the unsung heroines.” The picture underneath this headline caption – showing our new chess superstar, Pragg, with his mother Nagalakshmi in the background – captures the essence of this phenomenon.

Mr Dwiwedi’s piece begins and ends with stories around Garry Kasparov: “About 50 years ago in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan… a father at the fag end of his futile fight with leukemia shared with his wife the last decision of his short, 39-year-old life. It concerned their seven-year-old son.

Hailing from a family of musicians — and himself an accomplished violinist — the chemical engineer had wished for his young boy too to hit the same notes. However, the couple, who had first met at a concert, were in for a surprise. The son was endlessly fascinated with the little chess pieces and the board with 64 black and white squares at home. Even at the age of five, he would join the family in solving newspaper chess puzzles.

From his deathbed, the father told his wife: “No music… send him to chess”. The young widow would end up doing much more. After drafting him into a chess school, the mother would travel with him to tournaments, be his mentor, act as a sounding board and be his virtual manager. She would never remarry, dedicating most of her adult life to her son and his passion. The son, meanwhile, would go on to be a world champion and use his stature to challenge the Soviet system during his playing days and be an unabashed Vladimir Putin critic after retirement.

In an old BBC podcast, Garry Kasparov shares enough anecdotes to tell the world that it not for his mother, Klara Shagenovna, he wouldn’t have been a champion…And it is this which explains Kasparov’s congratulatory tweet for R Praggnanandhaa and his mother Nagalakshmi. “Congrats to @rpragchess – and to his mother. As someone whose proud mama accompanied me to every event, it’s a special kind of support!…” he wrote.”

So what exactly do the mums do which allows their progeny to rise to the top? The answer is ‘everything’. Mr Dwivedi writes, “While Pragg’s father, a bank manager who was afflicted with polio as a child, mostly accompanies him to local tournaments, it is his mother who has the thicker passport….Although it is difficult to find a tag for her . she qualifies to be called a talent spotter, mentor, dietician, minder, spiritual guru, psychologist or all rolled into one.”

Vishy Anand’s story underscores the mother’s central role even more clearly: “Hailing from a family where chess was actively pursued as a pastime, she initiated her three children into the cerebral board game. When he was eight, Anand’s father, an engineer with Railways, moved to the Philippines, on a special assignment. With the two elder siblings staying back, Anand and his mother found themselves in an alien land with lots of time on hand.

For Sushila, this was an opportunity to polish her son’s chess skills. That was the time when the Philippines had a world champion in Eugenio Torre. The enterprising mother would pore over the telephone directory calling up virtually all the Torres in Manilla so that she could get through to the right man to train her son. Eventually, she hit the jackpot when the world champion’s brother picked up the phone and shared with her the details of a chess coach.

When Anand would be at school, his mother would tape a popular chess show on TV. Later in the day, mother and son would break their heads over problems the host threw at the viewers.”

Societies which are strong are societies which revolve around strong women.

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