Just when the world of sports is limping back to some cautious activity, chess is looking to add to the gains from the global shutdown forced by the pandemic.
From the worlds elite to the lesser grandmasters (GMs), to club players down to the beginners, all found a reason to spend more time on their chess. When forced to stay indoors in these challenging and frustrating times, millions around the world took to online chess at various levels, and a high percentage among them stayed hooked.
The result was a greater following for the sport in the virtual world even as the wait for over-the-board action continued.
In the Indian context, many sportspersons made the most of this phase of inactivity by working on their fitness. But deep down, they all yearned to get back to the sporting arena.
READ | Sergio Lobera: I believe in Guardiolas style of football
The cream of Indian chess players Viswanathan Anand, P. Harikrishna and Vidit Gujrathi were seen, by turns, in the million-dollar Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, while the latter two also figured in the ongoing $1.5 million Champions Tour.
Among the Indians, none could match the strides taken by young Nihal Sarin during the past year.
Known for his tremendous calculating skills over the board, the 16-year-old from Kerala made the worlds elite take note by stunning world champion Magnus Carlsen in a three-minute blitz encounter on May 27. Before their live friendly game, watched by millions, Carlsen described the 2019 Asian blitz champion as one of the young guns, one of the better blitz players around. As it turned out, Nihal did this impression no harm.
These days, GM N. Srinath, the 2005 world under-12 champion, works with Nihal. - Special Arrangement
Make no mistake. Among the Indians in the blitz rankings, Nihal is third, behind Anand and Vidit. Creditably, he is ahead of P. Harikrishna, B. Adhiban, Surya Shekhar Ganguly, S. P. Sethuraman and K. Sasikiran. Even if one looks at the classical ratings, Nihal (2620) ranks a credible ninth in the country.
Nihals abilities in the shorter time-format played its part as India shared the inaugural FIDE Online Olympiad gold medal with Russia. Later in the year, Nihal, Rakshitta Ravi and D. Gukesh added the world titles from the FIDE rapid online competitions.
ALSO READ | Sam Curran: A man with a purpose
The year also saw Nihal collect a silver medal from the Asian team championship and win Chess.coms 2020 junior speed online championship by beating Russias world junior No. 6 Alexey Sarana 8-7 in the final. On his way to the title, Nihal scalped the USAs Andrew Tang, Australias Anton Smirnov and Armenian Haik Martirosyan.
The third youngest player in chess history to cross the rating of 2600, Nihal won the Karpov Trophy by getting past names such as Sarana in the final (1.5-0.5), Georgian No. 1 Ivan Cheparinov (2-0) in the semifinals and France No. 2 Etienne Bacrot (2-0) in the pre-quarterfinals.
In December, Nihal clinched the Chessbase India Super Juniors Cup.
The taste of success is nothing new for the boy from Thrissur. A former world under-10 champion and a runner-up in the world under-12 category, Nihal became an international master at the age of 12 years and eight months in early 2017. Even this should not come as a huge surprise because Nihal was someone who, as a three-year-old, could identify the flags of more than 190 nations! As his dermatologist father Dr Sarin Abdulsalam puts it, He could already speak fluently in English by the time he was in upper kindergarten, knew the multiplication tables till 16 by the time he turned six and enrolled into the first standard.
Nihal loves the style of fourth world champion Alexander Alekhine (1892-1946) and says, I like his attacking style. But nowadays, that sort of attack will not work any more. There is so much theory. At that time there was not so much theory, but now there is a lot and many games end in draws. - The Hindu Photo Library
As an 11-year-old, Nihal travelled to watch Carlsen play in the 2016 Norway Chess. When the media realised that a former world under-10 champion was in their midst, a series of interviews followed with the young Indian talent. When Nihal was asked about his style of play, this yet-to-be-12-year-old youngsters response aptly reflected a maturity way beyond his years. I play mainly according to the position. Depending on the requirement of the position, I attack or defend or play positionally.
He loves the style of fourth world champion Alexander Alekhine (1892-1946) and says, I like his attacking style. But nowadays, that sort of attack will not work any more. There is so much theory. At that time there was not so much theory, but now there is a lot and many games end in draws.
During Nihals early years, his school chess coach E. P. Nirmal and Ukranian GM Dimitri Komaroveven shaped his play. These days, GM N. Srinath, the 2005 world under-12 champion, works with Nihal.
READ | Tata Steel Masters: Harikrishna finishes 7th, Foreest stuns Giri to win title
Lets take a closer look at Nihals progression in the past few years.
In December 2017, Nihal crossed the rating of 2500, nearly seven months before he became Indias 53rd GM. Between January 1, 2018, and April 30, 2019, he played a series of strong tournaments like the Gibraltar Masters, the Aeroflot Open, Isle of Man and others, and collected a whopping 74 rating points to reach 2598!
During this 16-month period, Nihal played 13 classical format tournaments and performed incredibly well. The numbers speak for themselves: he played 115 classical games, won 42, drew 56 and lost just 17! Against those rated over 2700, Nihal played nine games and drew with names such as Wesley So, Ivan Cheparinov, Vladimir Fedoseev, current sensation Daniil Dubov and Richard Rapport.
Nihal won six times against opponents from the Club 2600 Carlsens second Jon Hammer, Mircea-Emilian Parligras, Adley Ahmed (twice), Aleksander Indjic and Kiril Georgiev. If you also consider his performance in the World Blitz Championship, where he finished ahead of several leading names, including Anand, Nihals abilities command more respect.
At the 2018 Tata Steel event in Kolkata, Nihal drew with Anand, Harikrishna, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Vidit, Sergey Karjakin and Ganguly.
In 2019, Nihal signed a sponsorship deal with Akshayakalpa, an organic milk brand from Bengaluru. Chessbase India estimated the sponsorship figure to be between Rs75 lakh and Rs1 crore, making Nihal the second-highest paid chess player in the country following Anand. - Special Arrangement
If we step back further, to 2017, the facts are as startling. Nihal collected 192 rating points during the course of which he also gained his first GM norm, from the Fagernes International. For the record, his second norm came at the 2018 Reykjavik Open and the final one at the 2018 Abu Dhabi Masters.
On June 1, 2019, when Nihal took his rating past the 2600 mark, Anand was quick to comment, Nihal has made a lot of progress in the last year. His tenacity and focus is commendable.
READ | Elite tournaments need of the hour in India, says GM Nigel Short
In 2019, Nihal signed a sponsorship deal with Akshayakalpa, an organic milk brand from Bengaluru. Chessbase India estimated the sponsorship figure to be between 75 lakh and 1 crore, making Nihal the second-highest paid chess player in the country following Anand.
Well-guided, Nihal is on the right path. With over-the-board action returning at the Tata Steel Masters and the worlds elite coming together under one roof, chess is likely to see a lot more competitions, including the shorter time-format games, online.
Among the current crop of exceptional teen talents, including R. Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh, Leon Mendonca and others, watch out for Nihal.
Read more from the original source:
- Grand Chess Tour Returns to Board With Superbet Classic in Romania - uschess.org - June 11th, 2021
- Abhimanyu Mishra: World's youngest grandmaster in the making - THE WEEK - June 11th, 2021
- Catch The Clash's grand champions in today's episode of 'Rise Up Stronger: The Road to NCAA Season 96' - GMA Network - June 11th, 2021
- Chess on the water at Hempel World Cup Series - Allianz Regatta - International Sailing Federation - June 11th, 2021
- Aamir Khan to battle Viswanathan Anand in a game of chess to raise money for fighting Covid-19 - The Indian Express - June 11th, 2021
- Asian Zonal Hybrid Chess Ranindu wins to reach third place - nation.lk - The Nation Newspaper - June 11th, 2021
- FTX Crypto Cup: Caruana wins the prelims, Carlsen and Nepo qualify - Chessbase News - May 30th, 2021
- Throwback Thursday: Ivanchuk wins the 2016 World Rapid Championship - Chessbase News - May 18th, 2021
- Anish Giri wins the Mr Dodgy Invitational again! - chess24 - May 18th, 2021
- US Trainer Khachiyan Recognized by FIDE, Wins First Liu Wenzhe Award - uschess.org - May 18th, 2021
- Coronavirus | Good response to GMs moves - The Hindu - May 18th, 2021
- MDI 2, Day 2: Jobava dances to win over Grischuk - chess24 - May 18th, 2021
- On chess: Grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi Wins FIDE Candidates, Qualifying To Face face Magnus Carlsen In The World Chess Championship - St. Louis... - May 5th, 2021
- How NOT To Improve At Chess - Chess.com - May 5th, 2021
- Editors Picks: 11 Events for Your Calendar This Week, From a Chess Grandmaster at the Rubin to a Modern Spin on Artemisia Gentileschi - artnet News - May 5th, 2021
- Let's talk about the Candidates... with Eric van Reem and Jonathan Tisdall - Chessbase News - May 5th, 2021
- The Mind Hack Will Smith Uses to Stay Focused and Motivated - menshealth.com - May 5th, 2021
- Nepomniachtchi: 'I Don't Have The Tendency To Downgrade Myself' - Chess.com - May 5th, 2021
- The Armageddon of cancel culture - TheArticle - May 5th, 2021
- Fischer, Karpov and Kortschnoi - Chessbase News - May 5th, 2021
- Candidates Round 14: Ding, MVL and Alekseenko finish on a high note - Chessbase News - May 5th, 2021
- World #6 chess grandmaster compares watching esports to watching chess - PC Gamer - April 21st, 2021
- Worth the Wait in Gold: Caruana Wins in Candidates Restart - uschess.org - April 21st, 2021
- Will Smith Reveals His Favorite Moment From 'The Pursuit of Happyness' - Yahoo Entertainment - April 21st, 2021
- Square Off is a smart chessboard that lets you challenge opponents anywhere - Boing Boing - April 21st, 2021
- Lime and its competitors plan to flood parts of NYC with e-scooters - Mashable - April 21st, 2021
- Rising Through The Ranks: Queens 12-Year-Old Has Eyes On One Day Being Chess Grandmaster - CBS New York - April 5th, 2021
- Explained: Can Grandmasters cheat in online chess and get away? - The Indian Express - April 5th, 2021
- an ode to chess - The Brown Daily Herald - April 5th, 2021
- FIDE World University Championship Participants Disqualified Without 'Proof Of Actual Cheating' - Chess.com - April 5th, 2021
- BINGE IT!: Netflix's 'The Queen's Gambit' teaches the game of life through chess - WALB - April 5th, 2021
- On Chess: Online Chess Interest Soars Since The Start Of The Pandemic - St. Louis Public Radio - April 5th, 2021
- Instructive endgames from the European Club Cup - Chessbase News - April 5th, 2021
- The Meeple Guild: Chess in Canada: Part II - Yorkton This Week - April 5th, 2021
- Euro Club Cup: Clichy and Deizisau in the lead - Chessbase News - April 5th, 2021
- Chess: Guildford, unbeaten for eight years, find the strongest ever Eurocup a bridge too far - Financial Times - April 5th, 2021
- IBM's New Debater AI is a Terrible Idea, Here's Why - Digital Information World - April 5th, 2021
- Go From Chess Beginner To Master With This Mega Bundle Of Courses, Now Less Than $40 - IGN Southeast Asia - February 20th, 2021
- AI mistakes black and white chess chat for racism - The Independent - February 20th, 2021
- This aluminum chessboard and its iconic chess pieces have been crafted for the millennial grandmasters - Yanko Design - February 17th, 2021
- AICF to start Indian Chess League - The Indian Express - February 17th, 2021
- Why our relationship with young achievers is so complicated - BBC News - February 17th, 2021
- Chess: Wesley So notches another title at world No. 1 Magnus Carlsens expense - ABS-CBN News - February 17th, 2021
- Were all content businesses: esports orgs borrow from the media owners playbook in search for new revenues - Digiday - February 15th, 2021
- Titled Tuesday: Svidler Winning With Grunfeld - Chess.com - February 12th, 2021
- A chess game without chess - Knight's Retreat is now on Xbox One, Series X|S, PS4 and Switch - TheXboxHub - February 12th, 2021
- The Queen's Gambit and The Modern Era of Chess - The Oberlin Review - February 12th, 2021
- Opera Euro Rapid QF: Carlsen, So and MVL off to winning starts - Chessbase News - February 12th, 2021
- Fat Fritz 2: The Best of Both Worlds - Chessbase News - February 12th, 2021
- Morning sports update: Bart Scott thinks Patriots fans will run Bill Belichick out of town without quarterback fix - Boston.com - February 12th, 2021
- LeBron James' longevity and consistency will define him in the end as Los Angeles Lakers push for another title - Sky Sports - February 12th, 2021
- Loving the Alien | chess24.com - chess24 - February 10th, 2021
- Levon Aronian's mother speaks in defense of her son - Information-Analytic Agency NEWS.am - February 10th, 2021
- The Queen's Gambit: Why Beth Ending Up Single Was The Best Choice - Screen Rant - February 7th, 2021
- Chess grandmaster rates 7 chess scenes in movies and TV for accuracy - Insider - Insider - February 6th, 2021
- Equity derivatives house of the year: Citi - Risk.net - February 6th, 2021
- Chess Is a Netflix Star. How About Other Games? - The Wall Street Journal - February 6th, 2021
- Four Americans to Play in Third Champions Tour Event - uschess.org - February 6th, 2021
- Here are some films based on sports that are in the pipeline - The Tribune India - February 6th, 2021
- Soccer looks to AI for an edge: Could an algorithm really predict injuries? - ESPN - February 6th, 2021
- How the Queens Gambit Made Me a Better Investor - Wealth Morning - February 6th, 2021
- Shane Battier says there was no player he wanted to beat more than Kobe - Silver Screen and Roll - February 3rd, 2021
- COLUMN: Hobbies are essential in the pandemic - The Depaulia - February 1st, 2021
- Tony Romo on Super Bowl for Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes - The Athletic - February 1st, 2021
- What Thanos Black Order Did After His Death in the Comics - Screen Rant - February 1st, 2021
- 15 People Whose IQs Are Higher Than Albert Einstein's and What They Do For a Living - nation.lk - The Nation Newspaper - January 28th, 2021
- Chess: Carlsen loses to 18-year-old Russian as a new generation surges at Wijk - Financial Times - January 26th, 2021
- Niemann on Earning the GM Title | US Chess.org - uschess.org - January 26th, 2021
- The ultimate Grandmaster | Opinion | kelownadailycourier.ca - The Daily Courier - January 26th, 2021
- "The game of the lady" on Netflix, "Grandmaster" for chess players - Vaughan Today - January 25th, 2021
- Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival 2021 hosts Checkmate with World Champion Viswanathan Anand in conversation with Boria Majumder - United News of... - January 25th, 2021
- Nano Dimension Appoints Dr. Eli David to the Board of Directors - GlobeNewswire - January 25th, 2021
- Nano Dimension Appoints Dr. Eli David to the Board of Directors - StreetInsider.com - January 23rd, 2021
- What does it take to be a grandmaster chess champion? | Watch News Videos Online - Globalnews.ca - January 20th, 2021
- Who are the Botez Sisters, one of chess's most popular streamers? - Sports Interactive Network Philippines - January 20th, 2021
- Pop artist Keith Haring exhibit now on display at the St. Louis World Chess Hall of Fame - KTVI Fox 2 St. Louis - January 20th, 2021
- The best make a welcome return to the chessboard - Washington Times - January 20th, 2021
- How to learn chess online: Beef up your skills with these courses - Mashable - January 20th, 2021
- This wooden chess, checkers, and backgammon set will definitely class up your game night - Boing Boing - January 20th, 2021
- Soviet humour and the Great Yoghurt Gambit - TheArticle - January 20th, 2021