On the chessboard
the queen is more powerful
than the king
She Moves Us Interview with Chess Player Tania SachdevJune 10, 2022
She Moves Us Interview with Chess Player Tania SachdevJune 10, 2022
Tania Sachdev is part of our sponsored Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. In frame of our SHE MOVES US platform we asked the Indian chess player about her personal and professional inspiration. Also learn more about her thoughts on challenging “male standards” in chess. Tania is a professional player and holds the FIDE titles of International Master and Woman Grandmaster. She also won the Indian women’s chess championships twice.
What does “She Moves Us” mean to you personally? Who inspired you to move forward in your career?
Tania: There are so many factors. Family plays a big role, but also observing other women who are successful in what they love. I think in my own family, I can take an example from my mother. She inspired me a lot to pursue my dreams. She played sports when she was in college. I think earlier in my career it was mostly about winning tournaments or becoming a grandmaster. Now I think it’s much more about the passion I have for the game and the fact that I love it. I think that’s what drives me the most.
Have you drawn personal or professional inspiration from other women?
Tania: I think there are so many legendary women in the world who have raised the bar and shown that it’s okay to break conventions and norms. And yes, it’s not easy and it’s hard, but it’s also kind of rewarding. I think, if I’m being completely honest, it has a lot to do with what I think about the game that drives me. If you’re talking about women, I don’t know if I have idols or look up to someone I look up to that much. When I see women in my personal circle doing what drives them, I feel like I can do that too. And then there are so many famous people in the world who have done that. Be it in sports or different industries that inspire you as well. One example from India that comes to mind is Priyanka Chopra. She is someone who I think has done something that not many women in her field have done. In sports, there is also Mary Kom from India. But at the end of the day, I think it just depends on how much I enjoy playing chess.
What is one thing you know now about women and a successful career you wish you had known earlier in your career?
Tania: These things always come with experience. There’s just so much that you learn in sports and along the way. I think what immediately comes to mind is while growing up, there are so many norms and structures of how you have to be and how you have to go about your career, especially as a woman and also in the part of the world that I come from. There are all these very structured ways of how to be and how to move forward in your life and on your chosen path. And I think what I’ve learned along the way is that you don’t have to live up to other people’s expectations. I think you have to do things that exceed your own expectations in order to build a world around you that you can be proud of. That´s the only thing that’s your responsibility.
Were there any sacrifices that you needed to make at a given stage of your career?
Tania: I get this question a lot. In some ways I din´’t have a normal childhood. You make different choices when you’re growing up. You work a lot harder at a young age. You don’t do the things that everyone around you is doing. But I don’t see myself as a victim. I think as I went through that process, it was harder. But when I look back, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. It feels like a gift. I can do something that I love to do.
How would you describe a “strong” women?
Tania: I would say a strong woman is someone who believes in herself completely. No matter how many people question her, how many people try to throw her into self-doubt. Whatever the circumstances, she firmly believes in herself and her goals. And she is able to accept the challenges, whether they are external or internal to live the life she wants to create.
How do you stay true to yourself when you are going through hardships? How do you overcome obstacles?
Tania: It happens to everyone. And I think no matter what career path you choose, there are those moments when you’re not sure of yourself. Self-doubt is going to happen. I think that’s just human nature. It doesn’t have much to do with whether I’m a chess player or a commentator. It’s just about having a very strong attachment to what you’re doing. And it’s really a passion that comes from within. And I think you have to believe that it’s what makes you happy, it’s what lights up your life. So I tried to keep that in mind when I had those moments. And of course, having a strong support system, having people who believe in you when it’s hard to believe in yourself, helps a lot.
What would you tell young women who are just embarking on making their dreams come true? What would you like them to know?
Tania: To keep going. I think if I had to talk to my younger self, I would probably hug her and tell her that even in the most difficult times, it’s going to be amazing and to just keep going. The one thing I would say to people who have a passion for something that is not what society or the general norm is: Follow the path that makes you happy. Just keep going and believe in yourself. It’s going to be hard. It’s definitely going to be hard. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be 100% worth it in the end.
The queen is the strongest piece on the board. But, when compared to real life, do women really wield the same power?
Tania: I wish. I think it’s a great metaphor. I don’t think this is about a power dynamic, whether it’s a man or a woman, and one is stronger than the other. I personally don’t believe in that. On the chessboard, the queen is a very powerful piece. But that’s also why it takes a lot to keep her from being lost, and there’s a lot of staging around her. It´s about finding that balance. I think in real life I don’t believe so much in the power dynamic that one has to be stronger than the other. I think you have to blur the lines and not draw them even further. On the chessboard, the queen is definitely more powerful than the king.
You participated in the powerless queen challenge, that challenges people to play chess with an immobile queen. What else are you doing to challenge “male standards” in chess?
Tania: My goal is not to challenge the male standard. I think that my upbringing was never about being a strong female chess player or challenging that dynamic. It was always about being the best version of myself and the best player. I represent my country to be the best at it, and I also learn a lot from the sport, which teaches us ethics. There are certain behaviours that people around us expect from us. That can come from patriarchy, from different cultural beliefs and systems that women should behave a certain way or have a certain career. For me, it’s never been a matter of questioning that. I hope that I can do the things that I love, and also show that it’s okay to break those norms, and that you can make your own decisions about your life. In that process, whether it’s through representing India around the world, or playing, or writing commentary, I hope that I’m able to send that message out in a positive way, and not create any more boundaries, but actually blur the gender lines.