This Day in History (10-Oct-1978) – Rohini Khadilkar became the first woman to win the national chess championship

Rohini Khadilkar was the youngest of the three Khadilkar sisters (Vasanti and Jayshree the other two). All of them dominated Indian Women’s chess championship for a decade. Khadilkar became National Women’s Chess in 1976 at the age of 13 and was the first to win that championship in three consecutive years. She has held the title on five occasions.

Khadilkar became the first female to compete in the Indian Men’s Championship when she participated in 1976. Her involvement in a male competition caused a furore that necessitated a successful appeal to the High Court and caused the World Chess Federation president, Max Euwe, to rule that women cannot be barred from national and international championships. She beat three state champions – Gaurang Mehta of Gujarat, Abdul Jabbar of Maharashtra and A. K. Ghosh of West Bengal – in the competition.

In 1981, Khadilkar also became the Asian Women’s Chess Championship when the competition was held at Hyderabad. She was unbeaten in that competition and scored 11.5 out of a possible 12 points, which also made her International Woman Master (IWM).  In the same year, she became an International Chess Masterand in November 1983 she again won the Asian Women’s title when the competition was held at Kualalumpur, Malaysia.

In 1977, Rohini won the Chhatrapati Award for outstanding performance in chess. Subsequently, she has been awarded India’s highest honour in sports, the Arjuna award. She has also been declared Maharashtra Kanya for her chess exploits.

In 1993, Rohini retired from chess and enrolled as a student at the Printing Technology Institute. She came first in her cohort, earning a Gold Medal. Presently, she is the assistant editor of a leading Marathi newspaper of Mumbai ‘Nava Kaal’, and editor of another Marathi newspaper ‘Sandhyakal’.



This Day in History (3-Oct-1992) – Geet Sethi wins the world professional billiards championship

Geet Siriram Sethi won the 1992 World Professional Billiards Championship on 3 October, achieving a world-record English billiards break of 1276 under the three-pot rule, giving India a new sporting hero. One of the greatest sporting talents India has ever produced, he won the title again four times — in 1993, 1995, 1998, and 2006. Sethi took to the sport when he turned 13 at Ahmedabad. At the Gujarat Sports Club, he met with Satish Menon, a very successful Billiards player of the time, and took vital tips and guidance from him.  Within two years he won the first of his five junior billiards titles. He did well in snooker too, though he has always been his most brilliant at billiards.  Sethi entered the National Billiards Circuit in 1979 when he was 18 years old, clinching both the Junior National Billiards Championship and Junior National Snooker Championship the same year. He first made an international mark in 1982 at the Indian National Billiards Championship, defeating Michael Ferreira. Sethi won the National Billiards Championship (which is an international event) again for four straight years, from 1985 to 1988. He won the title again in 1997 and 1998.

Sethi, who holds two world records in billiards, won the professional-level World Championships six times and the amateur-level thrice. In 1985, he defeated Bob Marshall to claim the IBSF World Amateur Billiards Championship. He reclaimed the title in 1987, and won another amateur title in 2001. During the 1989 National Snooker Championship, he officially became the first person to have achieved a maximum amateur break of 147. Finishing as runner-up in the World Professional Billiards Championship in 1996, he brought glory to India in the Bangkok Asian Games in 1998 by winning gold in the doubles event, in which he partnered with Ashok Shandilya. In the 2002 Busan Asian Games, he won two medals — a silver in the doubles and a bronze in the singles event. Again in the 2006 Doha Asian Games, he won a bronze in the doubles. He won the Irish Open Billiards Championship in 2007. Sethi was awarded the Padma Shri and the Arjuna Award in 1986, K.K. Birla Award in 1993 and India’s highest sporting award, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, in 1992–93.