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On Chess: From Madurai, India, to Lindenwood for chess

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 4, 2012 - Leaving my home country in pursuit of excellence was not an easy choice for me. Many factors were involved in taking this life-defining decision.

One of the main reasons behind my decision to move to the United States was Lindenwood University’s newly formed chess program, which was created in collaboration with the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.

In its inaugural season, Lindenwood’s chess team features two International Masters (IMs), one Woman Grandmaster (WGM) and one Woman International Master (WIM), and our coach is the legendary GM Yasser Seirawan. We have a really long schedule ahead of us, but our primary aim is to earn a spot in the top four at the Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship, scheduled for Princeton University in December.

On Sept. 29, Lindenwood played a 10-board match against Washington University to prepare for the long season ahead. I played on the first board for Lindenwood, as I am currently the highest-rated player on the team. The match was very closely contested, and the balance of the position in every game was swinging like a monkey. Until the score sheet on the final board was signed, no one really knew which team was going to win the match. We prevailed with the final score 6-4 in favor of Lindenwood. This was a great start to a long season!

I am not only a member of Lindenwood’s chess team but also part of the St. Louis Arch Bishops, which participates in the United States Chess League. There are 16 teams from across the country in the league, and they are split into two groups of eight. Though we are considered one of the underdogs in our division, we have a formidable lineup featuring GM Ben Finegold on board one, me on board two, and another Lindenwood student, IM Levan Bregadze, on board three.

So far, we have played four matches, and our team has scored 1.5 points (one win, one draw and two losses), which leaves us ranked third overall in the Western Division. Thus far, I have scored 3.5 points out of four games, and this performance has earned me the title of "Most Valuable Player" in the league, ahead of many well-known grandmasters.

The focal point of all my chess activities revolve around the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, which I would say is one of the best environments ever to play a game of chess. Some chess-related activity takes place in the club almost every day throughout the year, whether it is a quad tournament, a workshop or even a simultaneous exhibition with a grandmaster. The facilities in the Chess Club and the adjacent World Chess Hall of Fame leave me spellbound.

My chess schedule for this year includes the SPICE cup in the middle of October, where there is a good chance to make a grandmaster norm, and then the St. Louis Closed GM Invitational at the end of November, which presents more opportunities for me to secure a GM norm. The Closed GM Invitational is the first invite I have ever received for a closed tournament, and I am really honored to get a chance to play in that prestigious event.

I am signing off with the full belief that my decision to leave Madurai, a small town in India, to come to Lindenwood University in St. Charles, is going to be an excellent move for my sporting and educational career.

International Master Priyadharshan Kannappan recently moved from Madurai, India, to study marketing at Lindenwood University in St. Charles. He is the top board for Lindenwood’s newly formed chess team.

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