Hi there! I’m Ridhi Mittal, a recent high school graduate from Charles P. Allen High School and overall STEM enthusiast. In the upcoming Fall, I will be studying at McGill University. I have been playing chess for 12 years, during which I’ve held the title as provincial grade champion for 5 years, and traveled across the country for many national tournaments. As well, I’ve participated in and helped run school chess clubs and volunteered with the Nova Scotia Scholastic Chess Association. Currently, I am organizing a virtual chess panel geared towards youth in partnership with the NSSCA and Halifax Public Libraries.
Tell us about your journey into becoming a chess player. Was it a particular individual who inspired you or was chess something you found yourself?
My journey started when my parents put me into a school chess club in kindergarten. This was the first time I was exposed to the game, and I ended up enjoying it so much that I would play chess whenever I got the chance, whether it be against my mom and dad, or the other kids in school.
I was even able to place third at the state championships that year! Chess became a favorite pastime of mine that I kept with me wherever I moved. And thanks to my parents who would drive me and sit through countless club meetings and tournaments, I was able to continue to grow in the sport.
After a while, I finally picked up a few chess books, and started learning more theory, openings, endgame strategy, and all of the nitty gritty of the game. Being introduced to this vast world of chess, I continued to compete and play… and here we are now!
What is your favorite part of chess? Creating solid pawn structures? Finding checkmates against the enemy king? Figuring out complex endgame tactics?
Although there’s so much to love about chess, my favorite aspect is tactical play in the middle game. I enjoy playing sharp, dynamic games because it keeps me at the edge of my seat and makes it that much more interesting. Having the ability to detect tactics can help win an otherwise weak position by exploiting subtle errors in the opponent’s gameplay. There’s so much to learn and gain when we allow ourselves to take calculated risks!
Who is your favourite chess player, and why?
I’d have to say Susan Polgar is my favorite. Not only is she the world’s first female grandmaster who is constantly breaking gender barriers in the world of chess, I admire her fierce, flamboyant approach to the game. She is most definitely a source of inspiration for other female chess players.
What is your favourite part about the NSSCA tournaments and events? Is it the competition? Or is it perhaps seeing your friends and socializing at tournaments?
Apart from playing the game itself, I love meeting new people through the tournaments. Every player has their own style of chess, and it’s fun to discover new perspectives on the game! Throughout this time, I’ve been able to stay in touch and become friends with a lot of the players.
Do you have a favorite chess opening? If so, which one is your favorite and why?
The Giuoco Piano would be my favorite, mainly because it leads me to a middle game I feel comfortable with. Although it can be a little slower, there’s a lot of potential attacks and game play that stems from it!
I also really enjoy playing the English Attack against the Sicilian Najdorf. Whenever I get the chance to play this, the games tend to be very high risk and exciting.
How far would you like to go in chess? Do you want to become a chess master or do you see yourself simply playing casually for fun?
For now, I plan on keeping chess a hobby. It’s a great social game, something fun to do with friends! However, I hope I can still stay engaged in other ways such as volunteering and helping run chess events.
Improving at chess can be difficult! Are there any things you do at home or with others that has helped you improve your chess skills?
Practice, practice, practice! I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to keep the momentum going when you want to really improve in chess. Although it’s a simple piece of advice, it can be difficult to be consistent when practicing at home.
What helped me stay engaged, was to set a specific time in the week to sit down and do theory or play games online. By having a set routine, I was much more likely to spend more time on the chess. As well, try to keep your practice balanced with a mix of tactics, theory, and games.
How has playing the game of chess impacted other areas of your life?
For one, it’s helped me approach the process of decision-making in other aspects of my life. I’ve learned how to analyze the current situation, determine any issues, and take into account any risks and benefits to make a decision.
Also, chess has taught me the value of perseverance. Even when it seems as though I’m down a piece or in a sticky situation, I continue to keep my head up and play until the very last move. You’ve got to persevere in a game and in life to get what you want!
Besides chess, what other sports or activities do you do?
Other activities I’m involved in during the school year include student government, badminton, and the WE charity. In my spare time I enjoy reading, watching documentaries, baking, and practicing calligraphy!