Canadian Chess Champion Tanraj Sohal Dreams of GM Title En Route to Medical Degree
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“The games were pretty quick,” said Sohal, who holds the title of national master. He said his second round, against a player from Ontario was the most intense. “No game is easy. If you lose one game, you know you are not going to come in first. You can’t make any mistakes.” Competing is a lot of pressure, said Sohal, but he loves the game.
Earlier, Sohal snagged the top title at the B.C. open, meaning he was the best player in the province of any age group. Sohal started playing in Grade 1, and found the endless puzzles and possibilities of the game kept him engaged and wanting to play more. “It’s creative. Your whole personality can be seen in your game. If you’re a risk-taker in life you’ll be a lot more attacking, more willing to weaken yourself for the chance to win. If you’re cautious, you’ll be more positional, not attacking but being careful and going after others’ weaknesses.”
Sohal describes himself as a combination of the two, with a “pretty universal style.” He admires Grandmaster and No. 1 ranked player Magnus Carlsen, a Norwegian that has been credited with bringing back the cachet chess hadn’t enjoyed since the 1970s, when American Grandmaster Bobby Fischer achieved celebrity status after routing Russian Boris Spassky.
Like anyone his age, Sohal loves computer games, but he’s more likely to spend hours a day playing chess online.
“Computers are changing the way people play chess,” said Sohal. “Before, people learned by studying books, but now with new computer programs you can analyze much more quickly.”
Computers also allow players like Sohal to play against other highly skilled players around the world in live games on the Internet, invaluable experience that would have been impossible for young players even a decade ago.
Sohal knows if he wants to become a Grandmaster, he’ll have to take time off school to devote himself full time to chess, but it’s a gambit he may be willing to take. “Becoming a Grandmaster is kind of like getting a PhD. Each title is like a degree.”
If he keeps advancing, and winning, in the chess world, medical school just might have to wait.
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