Over the past decade, chess coaching academies have mushroomed in almost every suburban neighbourhood in peninsular India. Combine that with easy online access to the best chess players in the world and to a massive repository of chess knowledge and you have the recipe for an explosion of “young Indian chess players who have started to make their mark.” As Abhijit Nair explain in this piece, Indian chess wizards are now power-punching with the best in the business on a daily basis:
“The country has five Grandmasters in November’s top 30 world rankings, the joint-highest for any country alongside the United States.
In August, Praggnanandhaa, 18, became the first Indian after Anand to qualify for the Candidates. The next month 17-year-old Gukesh rose to the India No 1 spot, taking a place that Anand had held for 37 years.
Just days before Gujrathi started his Grand Swiss campaign, 24-year-old Kartikeyan Murali became the first Indian to beat the great Magnus Carlsen in classical chess after Anand.
Weeks before that, two 17-year-olds, Pranav Venkatesh and Raunak Sadhwani helped Carlsen win his first-ever European Chess Club title playing alongside the Norwegian for the Offerspill Sjakklubb.
And then there is also the 19-year-old speed-wizard Nihal Sarin, who is among the top 50 players in the world.”
As you would imagine, India’s women are also roaring up the chess rankings: “Rameshbabu Vaishali, Praggnanandhaa’s elder sister, has qualified for the 2024 Candidates by winning the Grand Swiss along with Gujrathi. She is all set to become only the third Indian woman to achieve the Grandmaster tag.
The 17-year-old Divya Deshmukh made heads turn at the Tata Steel Chess earlier this year after winning the rapid event despite starting as a last-minute replacement. B Savita Shri is also on the rise to go with the evergreen veterans Koneru Humpy and Harika Dronavalli.”
Even as we applaud the new generation chess wizards, let’s salute the legend who got the ball rolling for India 30 years ago: “Just as Anand, who will turn 54 next month, heads into the twilight of his career, India has found a plethora of stars to carry his legacy forward. But mind you, Anand has still not retired and is back to being the India No 1.”
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