Randa Seder is like any other eight-year-old. She is restless and always up for a prank. At the same time, the Palestinian is not like any other eight-year-old. At her tender age, she is playing in the Chess Olympiad, the youngest participant in the sport's biggest tournament.
Precocious talents are not uncommon in chess, only Seder comes from a conflict-hit country with no real presence in the game. The young girl did not take part in Palestine's opening round on Friday, but notched up a victory over Comoros' Fahima Ali Mohamed in 39 moves on Saturday.
At a media interaction, Seder sat with teammates Eman Sawan, Sara Alhmouri and Taqwa Hamouri. Sawan is 15 and Alhmouri and Hamouri are both 16. They have all perhaps had interesting journeys. All eyes though were understandably on Seder and her endearing mannerisms.
"She started playing chess when she was five years old. Her father introduced her to chess and she immediately loved the game," said Sawan, translating the mostly monosyllabic responses in Arabic from Seder. That Seder has to "fold her legs and sit on her knees" to even reach the chess board adds to the amusement.
During the interaction, the camaraderie between the four players shone through. Like Seder, her three teenaged teammates are also participating in their first Olympiad. Still, aside from focusing on their own preparations, they also have to keep an eye on what Seder is up to.
"We feel extra responsibility to take care of her. She is always around us," the three girls said in unison.
But as far as chess is concerned, Seder seems more than up to the task. She won a silver medal in the women's championship in Palestine and is among the top players in the world in her age category. What makes her so good this young?
"Randa's brother Mohammed Seder is also a chess player. He is FIDE Master at the age of 13 and is playing for the men's team. He taught her a few moves. Her father is the captain of the team," said Sawan.
Seder clearly enjoys all the attention on her. "She is very happy to be the youngest. She is very excited to be here. She loves being famous," Alhmouri chipped in.
At the moment, Seder is too young to comprehend the hardships in Palestine and the long journey they had to undertake to reach India for the Olympiad. "It was hard to come here. We went to Jordan and then Bahrain before coming here because of the situation. We don't have a lot of tournaments in Palestine. We hope we will have many GMs in the future. I want the four of us to be future champions," said Hamouri.While the aspiration to become future champions will have to wait, Seder and her teammates will hope their desire to meet their Hungarian chess idol Judit Polgar (she is a FIDE commentator here) is fulfilled before the tournament ends.
Published by HT Digital Content Services with permission from Hindustan Times.
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