Visa Battle In U.K. Over Indian Chess Prodigy
Shreyas Royal making the first move for Magnus Carlsen in December 2017. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Visa Battle In U.K. Over Indian Chess Prodigy

| 189 | Chess Event Coverage

The family of a chess prodigy from India that lives in the U.K. might have to return to India, due to the expiration of the father's visa. The story has reached mainstream media in the country, and this week the family got support from two members of parliament.

Update: a new visa was granted, as IM Malcolm Pein tweeted on August 10:

The situation, which initially became news three months ago, is about the talented 9-year-old Shreyas Royal. (He himself prefers to be called 'Shrez'.)

Born January 9, 2009, he moved with his family from Bangalore to London in 2012, when he was three years old. At five, he learnt to play chess.

In just four years, Shreyas has already achieved a few notable successes (as listed on his personal website), for instance a silver medal at the 2017 European Youth U8 championship, a shared fourth place at the 2017 World Cadet championship, a first place at the South of England U11 championship and a first place at the London Junior U10 championship.

Currently FIDE rated 1966, Royal played in the 5-day AM Open this week, a side event of the British Championship that's currently underway in Hull. He scored 3.5/5 and a 2077 performance rating. He is also active in the Major open, but this could be his last tournament on British soil.

The family is threatened to be sent back to India as his father's work visa is set to expire September 10. Incidentally, the father works as an IT manager at Tata Group, the same company that is sponsoring a major chess tournament in The Netherlands each year.

Three months ago, the boy's parents appealed to the U.K. Home Office for indefinite leave, to remain in Britain on the grounds that he is a national asset. That appeal was rejected this week.

"Shreyas’s life is here – he has roots. We are used to India, we spent a lot of our lives living there but it will be a massive shock for Shreyas. He will not be able to continue his chess, it really is a terrible situation," his father Jitendra told The Times back then.

Shreyas was one of the kids making the first move at the 2017 London Chess Classic.

Media in the U.K. have been reporting on the story again on Saturday, now that two Labour MPs have appealed to the U.K.'s home secretary and to the U.K.'s culture secretary, urging them to let the family stay. 

This came after the family had received a letter from Home Office which said that while Shreyas showed "immense promise" it did not mean he could remain in the country.

Under the current regulations, Shreyas's father would be eligible for a new visa if he would earn more than £120,000 a year (a bit over $156,000), which he does not.

Britain's most famous comedian giving his support on Twitter.

"It is really shocking for us that the application and appeal was rejected," the father told The Guardian. "[My son] is playing at the British Championships at the moment. He feels bad and we have to console him."

GM Chris Ward, a former British champion, described Shreyas as "the best prospect the country has ever seen." IM Malcolm Pein, organizer of the London Chess Classic and CEO of Chess in Schools and Communities, called him "the greatest British chess prospect in a generation."

On Sunday, Leonard Barden wrote to us: "In what could be his final competitive game on British soil before deportation from the UK, 9-year-old Shreyas Royal today won in 29 moves, including sacrifices of a bishop and a rook."

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