Aditi Soondarsingh: The Trinidad’s First Woman International Chess Player

Aditi Soondarsingh: A Chess Prodigy from Trinidad and Tobago

In the quiet town of Barataria, Trinidad and Tobago, a remarkable story of perseverance, talent, and inspiration unfolds. Aditi Soondarsingh, born in 1988, has become a beacon of hope and a symbol of excellence in the world of chess. Her journey, marked by numerous accolades and groundbreaking achievements, serves as a testament to the power of dedication and passion.

Early Life and Inspiration of Aditi Soondarsingh

Aditi Soondarsingh’s introduction to chess was not by chance but by a deep-rooted family tradition. Her father, Bhisham Soondarsingh, a past president of the Trinidad and Tobago Chess Association, played a pivotal role in nurturing her talent.

Helping her father set up for tournaments and attending the Paladins Chess Club on Saturdays sparked her interest in the game. This familial bond with chess set the stage for Aditi’s future successes.

“My inspiration came from helping my father set up for tournaments when he was the president of T&T Chess Association and also while attending Paladins Chess Club on Saturdays,” Aditi recalls. This early exposure to chess laid the foundation for her to become one of Trinidad and Tobago’s most celebrated chess players.

Achievements and Milestones

Aditi Soondarsingh’s chess career is decorated with numerous titles and honors. She holds the prestigious FIDE title of Woman Candidate Master and has represented Trinidad and Tobago as the Board 1 player at several World Chess Olympiads. Her victories are numerous, but a few standout moments underscore her extraordinary talent.

At the tender age of 14, Aditi Soondarsingh won her first national title, marking the beginning of her dominance in the national chess scene. She has since clinched the National Women’s Chess Champion title eight times, establishing herself as a formidable force in the game.

In 2012, Aditi Soondarsingh made history by becoming the first women’s chess player from Trinidad and Tobago, and the second English-speaking Caribbean woman, to defeat a Women’s International Master (WIM) at a major team tournament.

This victory, achieved at the World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey, where she outmaneuvered Iraq’s WIM Iman Al-Rufaye, was a groundbreaking achievement that elevated her status in the international chess community.

Representing Trinidad and Tobago

Aditi’s representation of Trinidad and Tobago on the global stage has been nothing short of spectacular. She made her debut at the World Chess Olympiad in Mallorca, Spain, in 2004.

Since then, she has played in Olympiads held in Dresden, Germany (2008); Siberia, Russia (2010); and Istanbul, Turkey (2012). These experiences have not only honed her skills but also showcased her resilience and strategic acumen.

Her international experience extends beyond the Olympiads. Aditi has competed in the World Youth Championship in France and participated in tournaments in El Salvador, Barbados, Venezuela, and India for the Commonwealth Games. Each of these tournaments has added to her rich tapestry of experiences, making her a well-rounded and highly respected player.

Overcoming Challenges

Aditi’s journey has not been without its challenges. Balancing academics and chess was one of the significant hurdles she faced. After completing her CXC O’Levels, she was offered a scholarship to the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) to study mechanical engineering. This opportunity also allowed her to continue training in chess under the guidance of Cuban coach Raul.

Her commitment to her studies meant she had to make sacrifices, such as declining to compete in the 2006 World Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy, due to exams. However, these challenges did not deter her spirit; instead, they reinforced her determination to excel both academically and in chess.

Inspirations and Influences

Aditi’s chess career has been profoundly influenced by her family, particularly her father, who taught all his children to play chess. “The person who influenced me most in chess is my father who is a very good chess player, coach, and administrator,” Aditi shares. Her father’s guidance and encouragement have been instrumental in her success.

Outside her immediate family, Andrew Bowles has been a constant source of support and motivation. Her mother, who set good examples and has always been there for her, along with close friends, have also played crucial roles in her life.

Heroes and Idols

Growing up, Aditi Soondarsingh admired Mikhail Tal, a Russian Grandmaster and the 8th World Chess Champion known for his aggressive and attacking style of play. “My chess hero while growing up is Mikhail Tal whose attacking and aggressive style is similar to my own style of play,” Aditi says.

Her non-chess hero is Mahatma Gandhi, a figure who won wars without violence. Aditi Soondarsingh draws a parallel between Gandhi’s peaceful resistance and the strategic, non-violent battles waged on a chessboard. “Mahatma Gandhi won wars without violence, similar to chess where war is enjoyable,” she notes.

Advice to Aspiring Chess Players

Aditi Soondarsingh’s journey offers valuable lessons to anyone considering taking up chess. “Chess is life,” she asserts. The game teaches concentration, analytical skills, critical thinking, and focus—skills that are invaluable both on and off the chessboard.

For those contemplating picking up chess, Aditi’s advice is simple yet profound: embrace the game for the myriad of benefits it offers and allow it to shape your thinking and problem-solving abilities.

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