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Harrow girl, 9, makes history as youngest to join England’s Chess Olympiad team

A nine-year-old girl from Harrow has made history by becoming the youngest person selected to represent England in an international competition. Bodhana Sivanandan has been named in the women’s team for September’s Chess Olympiad.

Bodhana, born in 2015, began playing chess during the lockdown. Within a year, she secured silver medals in the rapid and blitz European Under-eight tournaments. This year, she achieved the status of the world’s highest-ranked girl under 10.

Harrow girl, 9, makes history as youngest to join England’s Chess Olympiad team Harrow Online
Bodhana Sivanandan from Harrow.

The Chess Olympiad is a prestigious chess tournament organised by the International Chess Federation (FIDE), featuring teams from around the world. The first official event was held in 1927 in London. It uses a Swiss-system format, with teams consisting of four main players and reserves, competing in open and women’s sections. The tournament includes team and individual board prizes. Hosted in different countries each time, it attracts top players from across the globe.

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Being selected for England in the tournament is a huge accolade but certainly not the first of Bodhana’s triumphs. In 2022, she was described as “exceptional” and had become the world No. 1 girl in blitz for her age group. In May 2022, she won three gold medals at the European Schools age group championships in Rhodes. At seven, she delivered an impressive performance at the British Chess Championship, defeating the current U12 champion. In 2023, she beat former British chess champion Peter Lee in an exhibition match and won the women’s prize at the European Blitz chess championship with a score of 8.5/13.

Harrow girl, 9, makes history as youngest to join England’s Chess Olympiad team Harrow Online
Image Credit: Melinda Wilde

“We are very happy and excited for her to be selected to play for England in the 45th Chess Olympiad in Budapest, Hungary,” said Bodhana’s parents.

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Bodhana’s interest in chess started at the age of five years and ten months when she became fascinated by the horse pieces (the Knights) on a chessboard gifted to her family by a friend. Initially, she played most of her games online due to the pandemic. After the pandemic, she transitioned to over-the-board rated games.

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