She is the seven-time and current women’s national chess champion, having won her first title at the age of 14. The charming and outgoing 24-year-old Aditi Soondarsingh from Barataria is a force to be reckoned with in the world of chess. She recently outmaneuvered Iraq’s Women International Master (WIM) Iman Al-Rufaye at the World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey, becoming the first T&T female chess player to defeat a WIM in an international tournament.
She comes from a family of chess players—her younger brother Dev is a national finalist, while her father Bhisham is a past president of the T&T Chess Association. After completing her CXC O’Levels she was offered a scholarship to UTT to study mechanical engineering and continue training in chess under Cuban coach Raul. She has represented T&T as the top player at four World Chess Olympiads which were held in Mallorca, Spain in 2004; Dresden, Germany in 2008; Siberia, Russia in 2010 and Istanbul, Turkey last month. She was forced to decline competing in Turin, Italy in 2006 due to exams.
As a champion youth player she was selected for the World Youth Championship in France and other tournaments in El Salvador, Barbados, Venezuela and India for the Commonwealth Games. She is currently preparing to defend her title as female national chess champion this month.
Q: Tell us about your inspiration to ‘play chess’...What would you say and what advice would you give to anyone contemplating picking up such a sport?
A: 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. The advice I will give to anyone picking up the sport is that chess is life. And I always advise anyone to play chess because it helps in so many things like concentration for long periods, analysing skills, critical thinking, being focused etc.
When, where and against who did you first represent T&T in chess?
That was at the World Chess Olympiad in Mallorca, Spain in 2004.
Who were the people who have influenced you the most (both inside and outside of your immediate family) in your chess career and in life in general, and how did they?
The person who influenced me most in chess is my father who is a very good chess player, coach and administrator. He taught all his four children (two boys, two girls) chess, but I initially took the most liking to it. Also, Andrew Bowles who always encourages me and lends support at all times. The person who influenced 3me most outside of chess is my mom who set good examples and is always there for me which contributed to my success, and my close friends who have been supportive all along.
Who was your hero or idol growing up (fictional or real or both, both chess and non-chess) and why? And who do you admire most today?
My chess hero while growing up is Mikhail Tal whose attacking and aggressive style is similar to my own style of play. Tal was a Russian Grandmaster and the 8th World Chess Champion. My non-chess hero is Mahatma Gandhi who won wars without violence, similar to chess where war is enjoyable.
What is your most memorable chess performance?
The most memorable is being the first Trinidadian-Tobagonian to have defeated a woman International Master (WIM) Iman Al-Rufaye from Iraq at the World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey recently.
What is your greatest accomplishment in chess?
Having been the female national chess champion on a record seven occasions. Winning it for the first time at the age of 14, having been in competitive chess for just one year.
When and how did you get into playing chess?
I started playing chess for fun at home with my father and brothers at around the age of 11.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Woodbrook.
At what schools/institutions did you receive/are you receiving your education?
Newtown Girls’ RC, St James Government Secondary, and the University of T&T.
What advice would you give to the young people of Trinidad and Tobago?
Love conquers all, respect your parents, teachers and adults, and knowledge is the key to success.
What daily motto/credo do you live by...and in three words, your recipe for success?
No mountain high enough. Live, love, learn.
Who are your favourite sporting personalities outside of chess?
The great Brian Lara.
Any other sports persons in your family?
My brothers Rudra and Dev at cricket and football, but Dev is also a very good chess player and is in the national finals this year.
Of all your accolades, prizes and awards which do you rate as extremely special?
Being a nominee for the First Citizens Sports Foundation sports personality of the year. I have been nominated on five occasions for chess.
What goals and or ambitions do you have as a young person?
To complete my degree in mechanical engineering and one day own my own business.
What is your favourite pastime/hobby outside of chess?
Swimming, hanging out with my sister and our friends and, of course, shopping (laughing out loud).
Where do you see yourself in five years in chess and in life in general. In chess...to achieve the title of International Master and in general, having my own business.