Nihal Sarin: The little genius of 64 squares
It is very unusual of kids, especially in India, opting for any form of sport other than holding the bat and spending the day smashing the ball under the rules of ‘gully cricket’. With increased coverage of sports being played across the length and breadth of the world, there is a severe flare-up in the choice of games amongst today’s kids.
Amongst many indoor and outdoor games, chess holds a special akin to India as held by Kabaddi, both being born in India. The game’s origin dates back to 6th century AD. It is almost 15 centuries since its birth, still, it is very much kept alive thanks to the generation of players who took the onus of keeping it alive.
India has been a repository of some of the finest brains who have played this game. Viswanathan Anand, Koneru Humpy, Harikrishan Pentala…. The list goes on. But today we are discussing about someone special from this list- Nihal Sarin, the 12th youngest grandmaster in the history of chess.
Date of Birth
13 July, 2004
Dimitri Komarov (2014-2016), Srinath naraynan (2016-present)
FIDE rating-2685(Blitz),2285(Rapid), 2610(0Std)
Grandmaster (2018),International master (2017), FIDE master(2015), Candidate master(2014)
Nihal Sarin Biography
The English GM Simon Williams says “The beauty of chess is it can be whatever you want it to be. It transcends language, age, race, religion, politics, gender, and socioeconomic background”.
Well, Nihal Sarin is an epitome of what Simon says. Born in Thrissur, Kerala on 13 July 2004, he was a child prodigy. There are a few mortals who can identify countries by flags and insects and plants by their scientific names at the age of 3. It gives a lump in the throat to most of the tenth standards when asked to write multiples of 12 and above numbers, but here was Nihal who at the age of six, could fluently tell the multiples of numbers till 16.
To take care of such a prodigal brain in the vacations, Nihal’s parents introduced him to chess. It was Nihal’s grandfather who made him accustom to the rules of ‘war on board’. Such was his brilliance that he defeated his school chess coach, who was his instructor as well, in a short period after being introduced to him. All this time, Nihal was in Kottayam.
Things took an upward curve when Nihal and his family shifted to Thrissur in 2011 and Nihal got enrolled in Devamatha CMI Public School. The same year Nihal was crowned as the under-07 Kerala state chess championship. What followed in the next few years was a series of accolades- 2-times Under-09, Under-11 titles and one time Under-15 title.
Nihal’s’ first hurdle at the global stage was World Blitz Championship 2013 held in UAE. He participated in the under-10 category and bagged a gold medal. He was also the gold medallist of Asian Youth Championship 2014 under Rapid as well as Blitz type of chess.
But the magnitude of achievements by Nihal went sky high when he won the World Youth Championships held at Durban, South Africa in 2014. He was conferred the Candidate master title by World chess federation. Here is a list of Nihal’s impressive feats:
- Silver at the U-12 category of World Youth Chess Championship, Greece in 2015
- Conferred with the FIDE Master title by the World Chess Federation (FIDE) in 2015
- Played for India Green and help country secure silver medal apart from securing an individual gold at the World Youth Chess Olympiad 2017.
When the prodigy met the legend
Nihal held Viswanathan Anand for a draw at the TATA Steel Rapid Championship 2018. This was his first encounter with the legend Viswanathan Anand.
“Going by the evidence so far, I would not rule it out (Nihal becoming a world champion in future). It’s a long journey forward. At the end, he is just 14. I felt that he would really struggle in this tournament and he would be a bit out of place. It seemed the opposite. He seemed quite comfortable here. Not fully there, but he’s a huge talent what I’ve seen of him.”
Anand’s comment on Nihal after the match as per PTI.
One of the most noteworthy aspects of Nihal’s career as a chess player is his ability to learn and grow without support. He never had a constant coach until 2014 when Dimitri Komarov, the Ukrainian grandmaster, took the responsibility of training Nihal. All the time, it was Nihal alone who polished his wit for the success he has achieved today. Since 2016, Nihal is being trained by Srinath Narayanan.
Unknown facts about Nihal Sarin
- For someone whose childhood has been between the 64 squares, Nihal definitely has the prism to see through the beauty of the game and a reason to promote it to the masses. Nihal does his part by occasionally playing in exhibition matches. He first did so at the age of 10 when he played against 112 players across age categories simultaneously at Thodupuzha, Kerala. He went on to defeat all of them.
- When floods hit God’s own country in 2018, Nihal raised ₹ 1,74,463 via a live YouTube program on ChessBase India, an Indian chess news portal.
Sarin Abdulsalam, Nihal’s father, is a dermatologist while his mother, Shijin Ammanam Veetil Ummar, is a psychiatrist. Nihal is also blessed with a sibling whose name is Neha.
What lies ahead for Nihal Sarin in the labyrinths of time seems to be very positive. For someone who mastered his basics pretty alone, hard work and vision definitely seem to be a good companion. All we can do is sit back and grace our eyes upon his magnificent gameplay and hope he brings all the records tumbling.
Social media: Nihal Sarin
— Nihal Sarin (@NihalSarin) October 11, 2019