Indian chess prodigy Nihal Sarin achieves top spot in U-14 world rankings
Viswanathan Anand brought joy to chess fans across India in the last week of 2017 after an age-defying showing at the World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships in Saudi Arabia, where he won two medals - gold in the rapid and bronze in the blitz.
With his age crossing 46 and a disappointing run of form, there were even calls for the five-time classical champion to bring an end to his career. However Anand, like so many times before, overcame the odds and criticism to show that he is far from done.
Talking about age-defying feats by Indian chess stars, another name that springs to mind is a certain Nihal Sarin. At just 13 years of age, International Master Sarin has taken the chess world by storm and is already touted as a future Top 10 player. And earlier this year, he achieved a new landmark by achieving the World No. 1 spot in the U-14 age category.
With a live ELO rating of 2532 at the time of writing this article, he has seen a massive jump of nearly 200 points in the last 12 months. In the same time period, he has played in 15 tournaments across the globe and around 140 competitive games in the classical format, where he registered just two losses to players below the 2500 mark.
Sportskeeda spoke to his manager Priyadarshan Banjan, who spoke about the youngster's incredible growth as a player and his future targets. "What Nihal has been able to achieve is not normal for a player his age," said Banjan. "He certainly ranks as a future Top 10 player or even the World No. 1, such is the level of potential he is displaying."
Currently an International Master, Sarin is expected to achieve the Grandmaster title in the coming 3-4 months, according to Banjan. "It is just a title for Nihal and he is not concerned about becoming GM. His aim as of now is to improve his understanding of the game and build on it," he said.
Talking about the progress made by Sarin, Banjan stated that it is not only in the rating where the 13-year-old has moved upwards and that he has an opening repertoire that is far more wide-ranging than any player his age.
"His understanding of positions and the levels of depth at which he can analyze them is simply unbelievable," said Banjan. "Unlike players who prefer playing only a strict set of openings in matches, Nihal likes to play all kinds of them and then generate strong positions out of them," he added.
Sarin is also fast friends with R Praggnanandhaa, who is the youngest International Master in the history of the sport and recorded a fantastic fourth-place finish at the Junior World Championships. The two are the future of Indian and world chess, according to Banjan and it is not long before their names start featuring with the biggest names in the sport very soon!