Ranked in the top 100, International Master Cyrus Lakdawala is one of the strongest players in the USA. He is an active tournament player, a dedicated teacher and promoter of the game, and a prolific writer, having authored over 20 books. Lakdawala also has numerous accolades to his name; he is an American Open and National Open Champion as well as a six-time State Champion. We had a few questions for Mr. Lakdawala about his journey with chess, its importance to him, and his take on its benefits; here’s what he had to say:
Could you tell me about how and when you began playing chess?
My father taught me to play when I was eight years old. From that time I was hooked!
Can you tell me about what you do with chess other than playing in tournaments?
Due to a bad back, I don’t play in big tournaments anymore. However, I play four G/45 games each Saturday, just to keep my hand in the game. Also, I have a very heavy writing schedule for Everyman Publishing, writing about four books a year.
What do you have to say about the benefits of chess in education and in life?
The benefits are numerous to children: their concentration improves, they understand the benefits of engaged study, and, most of all, they learn that mistakes have negative consequences, while virtues are rewarded.
Why is chess meaningful to you?
The game is a reflection of life itself, and you are unable to hide who you really are. Your own character flaws and frailties are laid bare before you in ugly display. If you are reckless in life, you will be reckless over the board. If you are overly cautious, then on the board, you will tend to miss opportunities, due to hesitation and self-doubt. On the flip side, your character virtues are similarly rewarded.
What is your favorite opening?
All cowardly systems: Colle, London System, Caro-Kann. I also like quirky openings like Trompovsky, Scandinavian and Modern Defense.
Which chess players inspire you?
My two favorite players are Capablanca and Fischer. Both somehow mysteriously tapped into a hidden (to me, at least) harmony on the board, which I try to emulate, but somehow just don’t get right! As a person I admire Boris Spassky, who I met twice. He shocked me because he seemed like a very kind person, which you wouldn’t expect in a normally ruthless World Champion. He is a person of deep introspection; despite his immense achievements in life, he didn’t allow his ego to get out of control.
If you had to choose one person to play chess against, who would it be?
I interviewed Boris Spassky in 1987 for the San Diego Union-Tribune and Copley News, and I wanted to play him as much as I wanted to interview him. Of course, when I finish building my time machine, I will go back and play all the World Champions of the past (and future!).
In your free time, what do you like to do besides playing chess?
I am a voracious reader, who reads maybe two hours a day. I also do yoga at the gym each morning. Other than that, I study and do Buddhist practices for several hours each day.
We’d like to thank Cyrus Lakdawala for taking the time to answering our inquiries, and we truly appreciate his support and recognition of what we’re doing to promote chess. It is our goal to help people discover a love for chess themselves, and by demonstrating the game’s importance, we hope to inspire individuals to personally invest in chess. Similarly, we admire the ways that IM Lakdawala has promoted chess and spread his passion for the sport, and we wish him the best of luck in all of his future endeavors!