- Mathew J. Varghese
It’s very rare to find Ebenezer Joseph without a smile on his face. A senior Auditor at the Post and Telecommunications Audit Office, Joseph happens to India’s first and only chess trainer to be accredited by the World Chess Federation (FIDE). Joseph achieved the distinction after successfully completing a course in November 2005 at the FIDE Trainer Academy in Berlin, Germany.
Under the guidance of Grandmaster (GM) Uwe Boensch, Director of the FIDE Training Academy, and GM Adrian Mikhalchishin, Joseph and a few fellow trainers from the rest of the world were imparted with ideas that would improve their skills to train young trainers, apart from training young chess players themselves. The course incorporated lectures and demonstrations on various aspects dealing with training such as understanding the psychology of students and on dealing with external factors, say the role of parents. It also exposed the participants to the latest softwares and techniques in the world of chess.
Hailing from Chennai, Joseph currently heads the panel of coaches at the Emmanuel Chess Centre (ECC), located in the premises of the city’s Russian Cultural Centre. The ECC was established at the RCC’s Exhibition Hall in 1996, with the aim of training youngsters interested in the game. “I wanted to start a place that would provide an atmosphere for children to come and play the game,” says Joseph.
The experience of having trained over 2000 children, including the likes of Jerome (fourth in 2006 National under-7 championship), Ashwini (Girls Under-8 Asia No.3 and World No.7) and Mugil (Boys Under-10 World No. 27) , makes Joseph one of the most distinguished trainers in Chennai.
Dealing with young minds is an exercise requiring careful precision and Joseph seems to have mastered it by now. I watched an individual session Joseph was having with eight-year old Jerome - special training for the World Championships later this year. A gruelling two-hour session is tough, even more for a young child. Jerome finished a few exercises, but his mother felt perhaps one more game would be possible. However, Joseph understood the mental strain and rightly sent Jerome home.
A chess player himself, Joseph represented India at the Commonwealth Championships and several other national and international tournaments over the last three decades. Joseph represented India in the World Youth Chess Championship at Brazil 1991, the 1996 Continental Championship in the US, several Commonwealth Chess Championships and the 2005 Corsica Masters in France.
Fondly known as Ebby amongst his peers in Chennai, Joseph won the Tamil Nadu State Under-15 Boys Championship in 1982, followed by wins in the Under-19 Boys Championship in 1983 and 1984. Recently, Joseph was coach of India’s junior team at the Aeroflot International Open Chess Tournament at Moscow.
However, Joseph’s heart lies in the promoting chess at the Russian Cultural Centre (RCC). Joseph was barely five first visited the RCC in 1972 to play at the then recently-formed Mikhail Tal Chess Club. Interestingly, Joseph was initially refused enrolment as he was considered ‘underage.’ Confident of his ability, the young Ebenezer challenged the authority concerned to a ‘best-of-three’ and won his entry to the Club. After that day, not a single youngster was denied entry to the club.
Though if you do bump into Joseph, he will tell you that he doesn’t recollect the incident. “My father had taken me to the Centre, and he remembers the incident,” Joseph says with his characteristic smile.
Today, Joseph continues to play at the RCC, while encouraging and training many more to play the game.
(The writer is a journalism student and a sports lover. You could reach him by mailing to firstname.lastname@example.org)