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England picks 9-year-old chess prodigy for international sporting competition

The chess craze in the UK triggered by Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit has created millions of new players and a golden generation of emerging talent,” added Pein

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England picks 9-year-old chess prodigy for international sporting competition

A nine-year-old chess prodigy is set to make history as the youngest person ever to represent England internationally in any sport.

The teenager, Bodhana Sivanandan, from Harrow, north-west London, will join the England Women’s Team at the Chess Olympiad in Hungary later this year.

The young British prodigy has eventually caused a commotion in the chess world with her sparkling play and string of spectacular victories.

The nine-year-old from Harrow is set to make history as the youngest person to represent England in international sporting competition.

Sivanandan, who only took up chess in lockdown, is one of five players chosen for England’s women’s team to play in the Chess Olympiad in Budapest in September.

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The next youngest player, Lan Yao, is 23, while the other members of the team, Jovanka Houska, Harriet Hunt and Kata Toma, are all in their 30s and 40s.

“I’m so pleased to be picked for England,” said Sivanandan, who has set her sights on becoming a grandmaster and winning the women’s world title.

“It’s a great honour and I’m looking forward to being part of a team,” she said.

While one of the selectors, Malcolm Pein, told the Guardian that Sivanandan’s spot was entirely justified.

“Bodhana’s success at European level includes victories over many established players, and her fearless style of play and immense focus on the board has already caused a sensation in the chess world,” he said.

“At nine years of age, she must surely be the youngest to be selected to represent England in any international sporting competition,” he revealed.

That appears to be the case according to Hilary Evans, a member of the International Society of Olympic Historians, who told the Guardian that he was not aware of anyone younger to have represented England or Great Britain internationally at senior level.

“Sky Brown made her US Skateboard Open debut when she was eight but was representing Japan until she was 11,” he said.
“Also in skateboarding, Mazel Alegado of the Philippines was also nine when she competed in the Asian Games last September but I really can’t think of anybody until 10 playing for England or GB.”

Britain’s youngest Olympians, Cecilia Colledge and Megan Taylor, were 11 years and 74 days and 11 years and 108 days old respectively, when they competed in the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympics figure skating competition.

Meanwhile Anna Hursey was 10 when she first competed for Wales in table tennis in 2017 before becoming the youngest athlete to compete at a Commonwealth Games a year later in 2018, aged 11.

Sivanandan first came to the world’s attention in 2022 when, at the age of seven, she put in what the Guardian’s chess correspondent Leonard Barden described as “an eye-catching performance” at the British Championships.

After some months, she caused more further waves by tying for second prize in the UK women’s blitz championship.
She further underlined her talent last October when she became England’s first world youth champion in 25 years after storming to world under-eight titles in classical, rapid, and blitz, winning all 33 games she played in the process.

Afterwards Barden praised her “maximalist approach”, which he described as “in the tradition of Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov, and Judit Polgar” – two former world men’s champions and the finest women to ever play the game.

Another top English player, the international master Lawrence Trent, was even more effusive, saying: “The maturity of her play and her sublime touch, is truly breath-taking. I have no doubt she will be England’s greatest player and most likely one of the greatest the game has ever seen.”

Meanwhile, anyone wanting to test their chess skills against Bodhana – or the new golden generation of English chess youngsters who started playing in lockdown – will get the opportunity to do so on Sunday, when the youngster attends ChessFest 2024 in Trafalgar Square.

“The chess craze in the UK triggered by Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit has created millions of new players and a golden generation of emerging talent,” added Pein.

“That includes Shreyas Royal, 15, Ethan Pang, 9, and Supratit Banerjee, 9. They will also be at ChessFest taking on all-comers at speed chess,” he added.

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