Akshaya, a Lankan Tamil from Jaffna, is looking to shine for the England team | Chess News

When Akshaya Kalaiyalahanmember of the England women’s team, boards the flight from London to Chennai to feature in the 44th Chess Olympiad — it will be a kind of homecoming for the 21-year-old. Akshaya’s parents are from Jaffna in Sri Lanka and moved to London during the Sri Lankan civil war in the 90s. “I am very proud to be a Sri Lankan Tamil. With my roots in both Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, I was very excited when Chennai was named the host of the Olympiad. I last visited there in 2009-10 and I can’t wait to be there at again,” Akshaya told TOI.
Akshaya’s parents, who work as accountants, introduced him chess at the age of eight. She started out winning age group tournaments during her days at Nonsuch School in Surrey. In 2013, Akshaya – with a current ELO rating of 2158 – caught everyone’s attention when she won the British women’s crown aged 12. She also repeated her feat in 2015. Consistent performances helped Akshaya to three Olympiads — Tromso, Norway (2014), Baku, Azerbaijan (2016) and Batumi, Georgia (2018) . Not only did Akshaya stay on top of her chess game, but she also did very well in her studies. “It’s important to set priorities and I was able to do that well,” said the final year law student at Oxford University.
Although succeeding for England at the Olympiad remains his top priority, Akshaya doesn’t want to miss the chance to visit temples or try the local cuisine. “The Olympiad is a very difficult and long tournament. Although our whole goal will be to do well in the event, I would like to take some time to see the temples of Chennai and even taste the local delicacies,” said- she declared.
Akshaya won’t have much trouble getting around Chennai as she is fluent in Tamil. “At home, we speak in Tamil and English. So, I will not be at sea to discuss with the inhabitants of Chennai”, she specified.
Akshaya regrets not having had the opportunity to visit Sri Lanka. “I would love to visit Sri Lanka, but it’s very difficult in the current (political) climate. I hope that will change for the better in the future,” she said. In an effort to stay in touch with their roots, Akshaya’s family runs a chess club in Jaffna Hindu College. “We provide funds to buy chess boards and even send books to those who come to play there. We have even organized funds for interested students to attend chess tournaments,” Akshaya said.

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