Deaf chess champion Anaya Lall defies odds to excel


By Jessica Callender

Chess Grandmaster and former World Champion Anatoly Karpov once said: “In chess, you don’t need to be physically strong or have any special advantages. It’s a game of pure skill and strategy, where everyone starts on equal footing.”

No one must understand this more than National Under-14 chess champion Anaya Lall, who has outmatched many of the best players in Guyana and in the world on numerous occasions, thanks to her keen strategies and her determination.

If this were not a remarkable achievement on its own for someone of such a young age, it is worth to mention she is also deaf.

Lall became the first deaf chess player to represent Guyana in 2020 when she competed in the International Chess Federation (FIDE) Youth and Cadet World Cup.

“I enjoy playing chess because it’s a great game to play and sometimes I get to win which makes me happy,” Anaya, using an interpreter, told News Room Sport during an exclusive interview.

“I faced a lot of challenges cause it’s not easy playing with hearing students and also it’s not easy to be around them.”

To date, she remains the only Guyanese to have ever competed in the World Chess Championship for Persons with Disabilities.

Her father, Sarwain Lall, is understandably elated with her progress.

“The reason why I feel proud is that most Sunday papers she’s in there and people will say to me, ‘Mr. Lall wow, your daughter is in the papers’. And a lot of people talk about how she likes her chess and how talented she is.”

Anaya with her parents, Anita and Sarwain Lall

Her mother Anita Lall commented said, “We both made a lot of sacrifices for her. Most of the time it was me that had to take her to school, tend to the other kids, and be there for her too. Because remember, her disability. I have to always be there for her.

“It was very hard for me, but I tried and I’m very proud of her to see that she had gone so far.”

Her most notable achievement is being the youngest player to ever represent Guyana in the FIDE Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India.

It is the largest global stage for chess that Guyana has competed on. It pits players of any age, with or without disabilities, against the best players from over 100 countries around the world.

“My experience playing in India was very hard because you don’t know who you’ll go up against and most of the players are well experienced but I managed to do my best,” Anaya reflected.

“It was nice being a part of the team to play in India and a great opportunity to see so many countries participate.”

Her siblings recalled her successes in India with fondness. Older sister Anasha said: “It’s a wonderful feeling to know that your little sister has progressed so much, especially in the chess game. Um, I don’t even understand how to play it.”

Having just won the National Under-14 chess championship title, Anaya has consistently defied the odds to excel.

“Playing the Under-14 rapid was a nice experience for me; I didn’t know that I would be the champion of girls but it makes me feel good about myself.

Anaya Lall poses with the other members of Guyana’s Women’s Team for the 2023 Olympiad

“I hope in the future to win more games locally and internationally and even win a title. This will make me so proud of myself and also to travel to many more different countries.”

Lall’s accomplishments are a testament to the fact that, in chess, physical strength and special advantages are not necessary for success.

With determination, hard work, and a love for the game, anyone can excel at chess, as Anaya Lall has proven time and time again.

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