• Sun. Dec 10th, 2023

India’s youthful foursome is poised to take the top spot in the new year.

ByJosh Taylor

Jan 2, 2023

If 1988 would be remembered in Indian chess as the year when Viswanathan Anand became the country’s first Grandmaster, 2022 will be notable for demonstrating that India can hold large-scale chess tournaments and play with the best in the world. For the first time, India hosted the FIDE Chess Olympiad — the 44th edition of the biannual event featuring more than 180 countries — in July and August of this year.
The hosting rights were handed to India barely five months before the event as a result of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, which prevented Moscow from being the host city. Moscow’s loss was Mamallapuram’s gain, as the seaside town near Chennai, the epicentre of Indian chess, put on a spectacular display despite the fact that it was put on at short notice.
But that wasn’t the only thing. D Gukesh, R Praggnanandhaa, Nihal Sarin, and Raunak Sadhwani, together with 30-year-old B Adhiban, were members of an India B team that won bronze in the open phase of the Olympiad. It was just the second time an Indian team has won an Olympiad medal, the first being a bronze at Tromso, Norway in 2014.
The fact that the medal was won by a five-person team comprised of four newcomers added to its significance. The odds were stacked against India A, which was seeded second behind the US, winning a medal, but the team of P Harikrishna, Vidit Gujrathi, Arjun Erigaisi, SL Narayanan, and Krishnan Sasikiran finished fourth.
The medal-winning performance was the clearest indication of the start of a new age for Indian chess, controlled by these young masters. With Anand stepping into administration as deputy president of the International Chess Federation (Fide) and the likes of Harikrishna and Gujrathi simply providing consistent outcomes, it is these Gen Z youth who are capturing the chess world’s attention.
There is no better example than Gukesh, Praggnanandhaa, and Erigaisi defeating five-time world champion Magnus Carlsen in 2022. Gukesh and Erigaisi each defeated him once, while Praggnanandhaa triumphed three times. It may have occurred in fast time control rather than classical time control, but as Anand stated a few months ago, beating the Norwegian great in quick time control is exactly as difficult as it is in any other format. Carlsen, by the way, won the World Rapid and Blitz championships last week in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
“I believe the relevance (of the results) is for their self-confidence,” Anand stated. “They have seen that even against the finest player in the world, someone against whom it is exceedingly tough to steal a point, they can accomplish it. That is the encouraging message people should remember.”
At this point, there appears to be nothing separating these youngsters in terms of where they stand. Gukesh has the highest Elo rating (2725) among the younger players, and he also won the Olympiad. He is one of five Indians with a live rating of more than 2700 at the present, the others being Anand, Erigaisi, Harikrishna, and Gujrathi. Gukesh and Erigaisi both broke the coveted mark for the first time in 2022
“The Olympics were unquestionably a dream come true. “My success in the Olympiad gave me confidence that I can compete at the highest level,” Gukesh remarked.
Gukesh hopes to sustain his current rate of improvement after making significant progress over the last year. “I’m looking forward to 2023 with great excitement since I have acquired invitations to a few famous elite events where I can rub elbows with the very finest. “I aim to take advantage of these possibilities and go up the ratings,” said the 16-year-old from Chennai.
This year, the other members of this exclusive group will have identical objectives. Gukesh, Praggnanandhaa, and Erigaisi will compete in the Tata Steel Chess Masters from January 13 to 29 in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands.
As their games continue to evolve, it is conceivable that they will add more strings to their bow. “While I am delighted with my classical play, I would like to increase my speed chess abilities at the same time in order to maintain my classical quality,” Gukesh stated.
Praggnanandhaa may experience the polar opposite. “Praggnanandhaa has been popular mostly because of his accomplishments in online quick competitions,” GM Srinath Narayanan recently stated. Praggnanandhaa, I believe, hasn’t played as many classical games as the other two. But it’s just a matter of time before he excels at classical chess as well.”
Given their eagerness to learn and thirst for new information, anticipate the teenagers to quickly iron out their flaws and demonstrate beyond question that they are here to stay.

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