Prodigy Nihal Sarin Becomes A Grandmaster At 14
Nihal Sarin playing recently in the Turkish League. | Photo: Nigarhan Gurpinar.

Prodigy Nihal Sarin Becomes A Grandmaster At 14

Rakesh
IM Rakesh
Aug 16, 2018, 8:54 AM |
49 | Chess Event Coverage

At the age of 14 years, one month, and one day, the Indian prodigy Nihal Sarin became the 12th-youngest grandmaster in chess history. He scored his third grandmaster norm at the 25th Abu Dhabi Masters held at Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Nihal started strongly with 3/4. His round-four win against Australian IM Ikeda Junta was particularly impressive.

In round five, Nihal played GM Ivan Cheparinov, who recently switched his federation to Georgia. He was pressing but had to be content with a draw. Then he scored a clutch win in round six against GM Mircea-Emeilian Parligras of Romania. That was probably the pivotal game for his GM-norm.

In the game, Nihal showed fine positional understanding, won a pawn, and demonstrated excellent technique to bring home the point.

In the penultimate round, he was paired against IM Temur Kuybokarov of Uzbekistan, who was also GM-norm hunting. Both these players had massive rating performances and played it safe and agreed to a draw within 21 moves. This draw was enough for both as in the last round, they lost against their higher-rated opponents but still got their GM norms.
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Nihal thinking about how to become a grandmaster quickly against IM Kuybokarov in round eight. | Photo: Marwa Safar/Abu Dhabi Chess Festival.
Nihal, who recently celebrated his 14th birthday on July 13, demonstrated a Carlsen-esque memory during his childhood. He could recognize the capitals and flags of all 190-odd countries of the world by the age of three. By the age of six, he knew his multiplication tables through 16.
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He is known as "Baby Taz" by his close childhood friends. | Photo: Nihal Sarin.

Looking back at his nascent career, Nihal first made his name known by winning the Indian national under-nine championship in 2013 in Chennai. He followed that by winning the World-Under Ten Championship 2014 in Durban, South Africa. 

Nihal giving an interview at the World Junior Chess Championship, 2014. | Video: Nihal Sarin.


In 2016, Nihal played his first International Open tournament at Capelle la Grande, France where he scored his first IM norm and also defeated a grandmaster for the first time.

A year later, he became an international master at the Aeroflot Open 2017 in Moscow, Russia.

In April 2017, Nihal scored his first grandmaster norm at the TV2 Fagernes Open in Norway. He scored an undefeated 6/9 against top-quality opposition.

At Chess.com's Isle of Man Master tournament 2017, FM Mike Klein caught up with him in an interview.

2017 was very kind to Nihal as he gained a whopping 192 Elo points in a calendar year while also crossing 2500.

Despite these achievements, the GM norm just wouldn't come. Nihal was steadily increasing his rating, but it wasn't until the Reykjavik Open in 2018 that he scored his second norm. Watch this wonderful interview he gave right after defeating GM Elshan Moradiabadi.

Much like his friend Praggnanandhaawho became the second-youngest GM of all time, Nihal also has a support team. He is generally accompanied by his mother, Shijin, at tournaments and sometimes by his Dad or younger sister Neha. His manager Priyadarshan Banjan does all his other work to ensure Nihal focuses on his chess.

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Nihal with his friend, mentor and trainer GM Srinath Narayanan of India. | Photo: Nihal Sarin.
In 2014, Nihal started formal training with Ukrainian GM Dmitri Komarov and Indian GM Srinath Narayanan. Since 2016, Nihal has also been working independently and on Chess.com.
In the last six years, Nihal has clocked about 17500 games on his Chess.com account. He played for the Indian team, the Delhi Dynamite, in the second edition of the Pro Chess League, and he is a regular in Titled Tuesday tournaments. He has often played matches against leading players like the world champion Magnus CarlsenFabiano Caruana, and particularly Hikaru Nakamura on Chess.com

These days young Nihal is even streaming on Chess.com via Twitch.

You can also watch this fun bullet game between Nihal and his good friend GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov played in Corsica, France last month.

Viswanathan Anand, who was playing in the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz event, was one of many who shared his congratulations. 

 Nihal's current trainer, GM Srinath Narayanan also tweeted :

The Youngest Chess Grandmasters In History

No. Fed Player Country Age
1 Sergey Karjakin Russia 12 years, 7 months, 0 days
2 Praggnanandhaa R. India 12 years, 10 months, 14 days
3 Nodirbek Abdusattorov Uzbekistan 13 years, 1 month, 11 days
4 Parimarjan Negi India 13 years, 4 months, 22 days
5 Magnus Carlsen Norway 13 years, 4 months, 27 days
6 Wei Yi China 13 years, 8 months, 23 days
7 Bu Xiangzhi China 13 years, 10 months, 13 days
8 Samuel Sevian United States 13 years, 10 months, 27 days
9 Richard Rapport Hungary 13 years, 11 months, 6 days
10 Teimour Radjabov Azerbaijan 14 years, 0 months, 14 days
11 Ruslan Ponomariov Ukraine 14 years, 0 months, 17 days
12 Nihal Sarin India 14 years, 1 month, 1 days
13 Awonder Liang United States 14 years, 1 month, 20 days
14 Wesley So United States 14 years, 1 month, 28 days
15 Etienne Bacrot France 14 years, 2 months, 0 days

The youngest grandmasters of all time, via Wikipedia

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