It was November 2013 and world champion Viswanathan Anand was fighting a losing battle against Magnus Carlsen in their World Chess Championship match. Former women's champion Susan Polgar, who had come down to do commentary, was visiting co-commentator RB Ramesh, when one of his students — a 14-year-old International Master without a single GM norm to his name — came to visit him. After he left, Ramesh turned and made what was perhaps the boldest prediction of his life. “If he is given a chance to compete, he will become a GM in one year.”
Aravindh and RB-RameshTurns out it did not even take one year! Ten months after completing his first GM norm by winning the Chennai Open held on the sidelines of the Anand-Carlsen clash, Aravindh Chithambaram has completed his third and final norm in impressive fashion. Competing in the Riga Open in Latvia, where he had already beaten two GMs, Aravindh scalped former World No 4 Alexei Shirov in the final round on Sunday. It was a fitting way to confirm his entry into the world of Grandmasters (subject to him crossing 2500 ELO rating points). Shirov was Viswananthan Anand's victim when he became world champion for the first time, in 2000.
Aravindh's road to Riga was filled with stones and thorns. Born in Madurai, he lost his father when he was three and it was up to mother Deivanai, who was working as an LIC agent, to keep his dreams alive. It was a couple of years ago that he found another pillar of strength — his coach and mentor Ramesh. “He came to me in 2011 and I could see that he was different. He was not a hardworker, but things just came naturally to him,” says Ramesh. His calmness astonished even veteran opponents. After the win over Shirov, an excited Ramesh called Aravindh to congratulate him only to find him nonchalantly watching a movie.
Ramesh soon realised that his protege — by now dominating national tournaments — needed better opposition abroad to improve faster. Aravindh's financial background meant he needed assistance. It was then that two things happened that turned his career around — him winning the Chennai Open and that chance meeting with Polgar. “After hearing about him, Polgar gave him a plug, asking me about him while doing commentary. An NRI in the US heard about him, contacted me and we started a crowdfunding campaign to raise $8000 to fund his travels. We ended up raising more than $10000,” says Ramesh.
That was not the sole helping hand that Aravindh received. “After Chennai Open, popular website and magazine Chessbase told him that every time he made a GM norm, they would give him three chess software or books of his choice,” says Ramesh.
With his strong end-game skills and intuitive gameplay, comparisons have already been made with Carlsen. But Ramesh is focussed on keeping his ward's feet on the ground.
Thanks 'The Indian Express' for the coverage.
Ain't his life story inspirational and interesting!?. . .