Who will become India's 50th GM?

by Sagar Shah
8/26/2017 – The country's first grandmaster was Vishy Anand, back in 1988. The number slowly increased, and in recent years has surged: currently there are 49 GM in India, making it number eight on this count in the world (Russia has 240, the US 94, Germany 91 and Ukraine 89). The million Rupee question now is: who will be India's 50th GM? We give you the candidates for the golden jubilee grandmaster!

Number of GMs world-wide

The April 2017 FIDE rating list included 1552 grandmasters, of which 1517 were male and 35 female. Let us start by taking a look at the number of grandmasters in the top fifty chess playing countries. The table below is sorted by the number of GMs – the first column gives you the ranking by average rating of the top ten players. For instance China is second because its top ten have an average rating of 2710. Germany, which has more than twice as many GMs, is in place 14, because the top ten GMs average just 2624. Clicking on a country will give you a list of all the titled players – it is long for Russia and Germany. These stats were provided by FIDE and represent the status for July 2017.

# Country Top ø GMs IMs Titled
1 Russia 2746 240 532 2527
3 USA 2704 94 147 749
14 Germany 2624 91 261 1355
4 Ukraine 2680 89 201 550
21 Serbia 2575 57 120 598
10 Hungary 2641 54 121 472
7 France 2646 48 106 423
5 India 2674 47 94 326
15 Spain 2596 47 124 609
2 China 2710 42 32 158
8 Poland 2645 42 107 392
12 Israel 2632 41 58 191
9 Armenia 2643 38 31 118
16 Bulgaria 2591 36 58 155
11 England 2637 35 60 274
13 Netherlands 2628 35 90 353
17 Czech Rep. 2590 34 80 307
20 Croatia 2579 31 63 261
18 Georgia 2584 30 36 127
6 Azerbaijan 2658 24 27 138
26 Argentina 2555 24 75 273
19 Cuba 2580 22 47 327
22 Romania 2574 22 83 301
30 Sweden 2541 21 38 176
23 Belarus 2574 17 28 111
# Country Top ø GMs IMs Titled
40 Kazakhstan 2502 15 38 152
24 Norway 2567 14 33 127
28 Greece 2550 14 25 130
38 Iceland 2512 13 13 61
48 Philippines 2479 13 27 91
27 Brazil 2554 12 33 213
29 Italy 2544 12 46 234
31 Canada 2541 12 37 191
33 Slovenia 2526 12 25 120
34 Iran 2526 12 25 112
35 Denmark 2521 12 42 138
37 Latvia 2513 12 12 60
41 Uzbekistan 2502 12 15 70
25 Turkey 2563 11 19 157
45 Slovakia 2491 11 28 119
39 Switzerland 2504 10 38 150
36 Vietnam 2516 9 16 143
42 Bosnia Herz. 2502 9 24 102
50 Lithuania 2466 8 19 59
43 Austria 2498 7 56 238
44 Belgium 2495 7 26 102
32 Peru 2528 6 16 83
46 Moldova 2482 6 24 78
47 Australia 2480 6 28 177
49 Egypt 2473 5 30 74

The number of grandmasters in India is growing at an exponential rate. When ChessBase India started towards the end of 2015, we had 39 grandmasters. Within one year and eight months we have seen the number increase to 49. While, we do not take the full credit for this (!), we do believe that the trend is only going to get better.

Abhimanyu Puranik became India's 49th grandmaster on 21st of August when he scored his final GM norm at the Abu Dhabi Masters 2017

Next possibilties for GM in India

Now the million Rupee question on everyone's mind is: who will be the 50th grandmaster from India? We pulled out some data from the FIDE website and these are our brightest hopes for future grandmasters (note all players are above 2400 Elo).

Rank Name Title Rating Born
 30  Karthikeyan, P.  IM 2497  1990
 33  Stany, G.A.  IM  2491  1993
 35  Praggnanandhaa R  IM  2487  2005
 37  Nihal Sarin  IM  2485  2004
 40  Thejkumar, M. S.  IM  2481  1981
 47  Visakh N R  IM  2458  1999
 48  Prasanna Raghuram Rao  IM  2455  1994
 48  Swayams, Mishra  IM  2455  1992
 50  Saptarshi, Roy  IM  2449  1986
 51  Vignesh N R  IM  2448  1998
 52  Shyaamnikhil P  IM  2447  1992
 53  Gusain, Himal  IM  2446  1993
 55  Das, Sayantan  IM  2436  1997
 56  Raja Harshit    2434  2001
 58  Nitin, S.  IM  2421  1992
 59  Das, Arghyadip  IM  2419  1985
 62  Mohammad Nubairshah Shaikh  IM  2410  1998
 62  Satyapragyan, Swayangsu  IM  2410  1982
 64  Iniyan, P  IM  2404  2002
 64  Harsha Bharathakoti  IM  2404  2000
 64  Sai Agni Jeevitesh, J  FM  2404  1998
 67  Abhishek, Kelkar  IM  2403  1992
 68  Girish, A. Koushik  IM  2401  1997

The GM candidates

Three GM norms + 2500 Elo, yet he is not a GM – P. Karthikeyan [photo by Lennart Ootes]

P. Karthikeyan – this man already has passed 2500 Elo and had also made his three GM norms. However, there has been some technical issues with his third norm, which is the reason why he is still an IM. Karthikeyan needs another foreign GM norm to become India's next GM.

M.S. Thejkumar with his wonderful wife Jayashree [photo Thejkumar's facebook page]

I rate M.S. Thejkumar's chances of becoming the grandmaster the highest because he has all the GM norms and a live rating of 2492. He gained eight points at an open tournament in Sri Lanka and 3.5 at the National Challengers 2017 (from where he withdrew due to bad health). He will be taking part in the Kandy Open in Sri Lanka next and there are high chances that he would gain the required eight Elo points. That being said, Thejkumar has been close to GM title for many years now. He achieved his GM norms nearly five years ago. It's highly commendable that he has been able to maintain his level of play and is still just a stone's throw away from the GM title. If he does it, he will become Karnataka's first GM.

IM G.A. Stany from Karnataka [photo by Priyadarshan Banjan]

The man who is in a race with Thej for becoming Karnataka's first GM and India's 50th is G.A. Stany. The 24-year-old has crossed the rating barrier of 2500 and has one GM norm. He needs the more to become a GM.

Praggnanandhaa, the youngest IM in the world [photo by Lennart Ootes]

R.B. Praggnanandhaa is the world's youngest IM, now trying to become the youngest GM. By performing well at the Hoogoveens tournament in Vlissingen recently Praggnanandhaa has surpassed 2500 Elo mark. But he still has to make all his three norms. All that he needs are three good events. This boy could become India's 50th and also the youngest GM in the world and in history!

Nihal Sarin has phenomenal understanding of chess [photo from Nihal's Facebook page]

India's other prodigious talent Nihal Sarin has a hefty rating of 2485 (-2 at the Abu Dhabi Masters). And he also has one GM norm. It is quite possible that Nihal finishes his title in the next few months.

I would rate one of these four players to have the best chance to become India's 50th grandmaster. There are a few more players who are also in the race:

Swayams Mishra from Odisha has all his GM norms and a rating of 2455 [photo by Amruta Mokal]

N.R. Vignesh gained 22 Elo points at the Abu Dhabi Masters taking him to 2470, and he also achieved his second GM norm [photo by Amruta Mokal]

Sagar Shah – Would it be too much to put me in the same league as the above players?! I do have a live rating of 2407 and two GM norms! But number 50 seems to be a little bit too early, I guess! The rate at which GMs are growing in India, I think I should aim to become the 100th grandmaster of the country! [Photo by Amruta Mokal]

Norms vs Ratings

A very important question asked by many people is: what is better – having the norms or reaching the rating threshold. Well, with my experience I would say reaching the rating threshold is much better than having the norms. The reason is simple: you need only three good tournaments to achieve your norms, while you need to be playing consistently well over a long period of time in order to reach, let's say 2500 for the GM title.

That being said, having the norms has its own upside. You can play in any tournament and gain rating while for making norms you have to select only norm events. Currently there are only five to six open norm tournaments happening in India. For example Thejkumar has the norms, so now he doesn't have to think about the tournaments to play. He can go to any place and gain rating points.

I have seen many cases of people making three norms and not able to reach the rating threshold, but I haven't seen many who have made it to 2500 Elo and not become GMs. Well, who knows, with the new k factor = 40 rule, we might well witness the trend changing.

ChessBase India coverage

We are proud to say that after ChessBase India came into existence India has created ten new GMs. Each of these grandmasters was covered on our newspage. Below are the articles that were published immediately after a player achieving the title and many of them had images which were quite moving. Take for example the one below:

This is Annasaheb Gagare, Shardul Gagare's father, minutes after the boy from Ahmednagar became India's 42nd GM [photo by Priyadarshan Banjan]

I might sound immodest when writing this, but the role of ChessBase India in the growth of chess in the country cannot be underestimated. Reading about various players, getting timely news and updates helps people to learn from others, motivates them to give their best, and last but not the least feel proud that they are newsworthy. Who knows, after reading this article someone would get inspired to become India's 50th grandmaster and surpass all the names mentioned above!

Articles on past GMs on ChessBase India

Who do you think will be India's 50th GM? Do let us know in the comments section below. We will come back to this article to see who got it right when India does get its 50th GM.


Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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VVI VVI 8/27/2017 05:59
Definitely, not Praggnanandhaa.
raskolnnikov raskolnnikov 8/27/2017 08:09
Go Go Praggnanandhaa! Such a talented kid. With real chances to eventually become a WCh challenger.
Arminio12 Arminio12 8/28/2017 11:33
@ VVI
Why "definitely"? He may not be number 50, that's true, but if he were, what would be wrong with that?
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 8/29/2017 06:16
I think VVI means that Praggnanandhaa has no GM norms. Other players have norms and rating >2500, so more likely that one of them will achieve it first.
Brendan T McGowa Brendan T McGowa 8/30/2017 12:46
Am I missing something? The article states if you click the country in the list you are linked to all title players. The link only give the top 100 by country.
tal fisher capa tal fisher capa 9/1/2017 04:46
ThejKumar M.S
tal fisher capa tal fisher capa 9/1/2017 04:47
ThejKumar M.S
1