Grandmaster in a flash: Indian prodigy chess champ at 12

(File Photo: AFP)
Updated 25 June 2018
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Grandmaster in a flash: Indian prodigy chess champ at 12

NEW DELHI: A 12-year-old Indian boy described as “unstoppable” by his proud father has become the world’s second youngest chess grandmaster ever.
Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, the son of a bank employee from the southern city of Chennai, achieved the feat with some aggressive play at an event in northern Italy that ended Sunday.
Praggnanandhaa — whose 17-year-old big sister Vaishali Rameshbabu is also no slouch at the game, being a two-time youth chess champion — was aged 12 years, 10 months and 13 days when he won the title.
But this was too old to beat the current record-holder, Sergey Karjakin of Ukraine, who was 12 years and exactly seven months when he made the grade in 2002.
Praggnanandhaa’s father said that his son, who practices six hours a day and watches past matches online, was not even four when he first started taking an interest in chess.
However he said that the family could not afford to pay for extra travel and training for both the boy and his sister.
“But the passion in him to play chess was unstoppable, I had to give in and put him in coaching classes. And he has been unstoppable since,” the 53-year-old, who has the same name as his son, told Indian media.
“He was just six years old when he came second in the under-eight national championship. That is when I knew that I can’t hold him back because of our financial situation,” he told online paper The News Minute.
A predecessor to chess is thought by some to have originated in India in the sixth century AD, from where it spread to Persia and developed into the “Game of Kings” it is today.
However in modern times it only achieved major popularity in India when Vishwanathan Anand became the country’s first grandmaster aged 18 in 1988 and dominated the game in the 2000s.
On Sunday the five-time world champion congratulated Praggnanandhaa.
“Welcome to the club & congrats Praggnanandhaa!! See u soon in chennai,” he wrote on Twitter.
“He plays other outdoor sports too when he wants to relax his mind,” the prodigy’s father said.
“When his focus is not on the board, he is quite a handful. But he saves most of his aggression for the chessboard,” he said.


A hairy issue: Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

Updated 20 July 2018
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A hairy issue: Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island: Now that women in the Navy can wear ponytails, men want beards.
The Navy said last week that servicewomen could sport ponytails, lock hairstyles, or ropelike strands, and wider hair buns, reversing a policy that long forbade females from letting their hair down.
Servicemen immediately chimed in on social media, asking the Navy if they could grow beards. A sailor’s Facebook post with a #WeWantBeards hashtag was shared thousands of times.
Beards were banned in 1984. The Navy wanted professional-looking sailors who could wear firefighting masks and breathing apparatuses without interference.
The Navy says that’s still the case. Still, some hope the change in female grooming standards opens the door.
Travis Rader, a 29-year-old naval physical security officer, said allowing beards would boost morale for men, just like allowing ponytails and locks has for women. There are two things that would make many Navy men happy: beards and better boots, he added.
Rader had a 6-inch-long beard when he joined the Navy after high school.
“You take something away from somebody, and they want it more,” said Rader, a master-at-arms assigned to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.
The Navy announced it was adding grooming options for women during a Facebook Live event. Many black women had asked the Navy to be more inclusive of different hair textures. The Navy had the standards in place because of safety concerns and to ensure everyone maintained a uniform, professional look.
Rader was one of several sailors who wrote in the comments section of the Facebook Live event to press for beards. Bill Williams, a 20-year-old naval information systems technician, commented too, asking why sailors can’t have beards if bearded civilian firefighters wear masks.
Williams said he thinks a nice, well-groomed beard looks very professional.
“It’d be great because I know that when I shave for multiple days in a row, it starts to really hurt,” said Williams, who works at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Hampton Roads in Virginia.
Sailors can get permission to grow a beard for religious reasons or if they have a skin condition that’s irritated by shaving. Mustaches are allowed as long as they are trimmed and neat.
“Handlebar mustaches, goatees, beards or eccentricities are not permitted,” the policy states. The Navy isn’t currently considering changing that.
Safety continues to be the primary concern, said Lt. J.G. Stuart Phillips, a spokesman for the chief of naval personnel. He referenced a 2016 study by the Naval Safety Center, which concluded that facial hair affects the proper fit and performance of respirators.