Kramnik and Gelfand train top juniors

by Sagar Shah
1/6/2020 – Fourteen of the brightest talents of Indian chess will train with two of the legends in the world of chess: Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand. The Microsense Kramnik Gelfand chess program runs from January 8th to the 17th, 2020, in Chennai. This is the second training camp, after the successful completion of the first one in August 2019. Joining the original six students are eight more, all hand picked by Kramnik and Gelfand to receive intensive training over the next ten days. Microsense Private Limited is the sponsor of the program, while ChessBase India founders Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal manage the camp.

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From Chens Sur Leman to Chennai

In August 2019 an ambitious project was undertaken where six young talents of India were to train under the 14th World Champion Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik, who retired from chess in January 2019, had been quite busy with his post-retirement projects both in chess and beyond. However, seeing the talent crop of India and the potential these youngsters possessed, he decided to free up ten days in his schedule for the training camp. It was Frederic Friedel, the founder of ChessBase, who had conceived this idea just a few days after Kramnik retired from professional chess.

There was no question of talent in Indian chess. Kramnik was ready. What was now required was a sponsor, who would fund this entire project. After several months of searching, it was Microsense Networks Private Limited that came forward. Mr. Kailasanathan, the Managing Director of Microsense Private Limited and a former Tamil Nadu Chess State Champion in 1972, found this project in sync with the mission of Microsense. The company wants to create world class chess players in the years to come and training with Kramnik was sure to help them in their vision.

Group photo from first camp

Participants of the August camp: Vladimir Kramnik with GM R. Praggnanandhaa, GM D. Gukesh, GM P. Iniyan, GM Prithu Gupta, IM Raunak Sadhwani (who was not a GM back then), IM Leon Mendonca and ChessBase India founders Sagar and Amruta | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Kramnik training

Ten days of training with Kramnik proved to be immensely useful | Photo: Amruta Mokal

But the camp was not the end of it all. After its completion Vladimir was in touch with the games of the students. He would regularly communicate with me about how a youngster had got it all wrong in the opening, or another youngster had to simply get his act together in endgame technique. It was Kramnik's high level of involvement in the project and subsequent results of the students that convinced Kailasanathan and Microsense of the need to continue these camps.

Praggnanandhaa went on to become the World Youth Champion in the under-18 section and also won the London Chess Classic FIDE Open. Raunak Sadhwani scored his final GM norm with a tremendous performance at the Grand Swiss 2019 in Isle of Man and became India's 65th GM.

After becoming a GM, and speaking to ChessBase India Raunak mentioned:

I can say that Kramnik sir's camp was a life changing thing for me. In a few days he taught so many practical things:

  • I started believing in myself. I was feeling psychologically very strong. He helped me to become fearless by showing his own games, sharing his experiences.
  • I became a resourceful player. In just about every situation I was finding resources and I never lost my heart in minus positions, defended well and was able to hold the game.
  • My endgame improved. He taught how to create practical problems for the opponent. During the game I was remembering his words and finding the moves which were difficult for my opponents to understand. Thanks a ton Kramnik sir, truly you are Legend! Big Respect!"

All these were encouraging signs and Microsense decided to take things up a notch. The second camp was planned in January, but this time instead of eight Indians travelling to Europe, it was decided that Kramnik should come down to India. The last time Vladimir Kramnik was in the country was back in the 90s when he played a match in Sanghi Nagar against Boris Gelfand. Vladimir agreed to the proposal. As the camp had been very useful to the youngsters, it was decided that the number of students should be increased from 6 to 14. The logistical arrangements would be much less and it made sense to have more talents working with the legend. But of course, it would be too much for Kramnik to work with 14 youngsters alone. Another world-class player was required and the natural choice was India's five-time World Champion Vishy Anand.


Vishy Anand with Kailasanathan (right), CEO of Microsense Private Limited

At a felicitation ceremony held in Chennai in October 2019, Anand showed his keenness in joining the program as a trainer in the months to come. But in January, it wasn't really feasible for Vishy as he was participating in the Tata Steel Chess tournament 2020 in Wijk Aan Zee. It is quite probable that Vishy would join in for the next camp. The search for a world-class player / trainer continued.

Enter Boris

Boris Gelfand needs no introduction. He has been one of the greatest chess players ever to have graced the game of chess. He fought against Vishy Anand in the World Championships 2012 and after the Classical games the score was tied at 6-6! Anand eventually won the rapid tiebreakers, but it was clear that Boris had been a worthy opponent for the four-time World Champion back then. Over the years, Gelfand has continued to fight at the highest level and it is this very experience of his that made him a worthy partner for Vladimir Kramnik in the training camp.

Kramnik and Gelfand

Kramnik and Gelfand:
Rivals on the chess board, and friends off it! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

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The 14 students

The trainers were decided, it was now time to select the students. The list of the top players in the country between the age of 12-16 was created. Some players above the age of 16 were also considered. However, the main aim was to have the best and youngest players of India attend the camp. This list of probable candidates was submitted to Kramnik and Gelfand, who went over the names with great care and selected the 8 players in addition to the six who already were in the first camp.

1. GM R. Praggnanandhaa (Elo 2602, born in 2005)

2602 at the age of 14! Pragg is one of the finest young talents, not just in India but also all over the world.


Praggnanandhaa | Photo: Lennart Ootes

2. GM Arjun Erigaisi (Elo 2575, born in 2003)

Arjun Erigaisi has raced to an Elo of 2575. The 16-year-old has been extremely consistent and we have seen his Elo climb upwards for quite some time now. He was part of the first camp as well, but a last minute injury meant that he had to miss it. It's wonderful to have Arjun in the second training camp.

Arjun Erigaisi

Arjun Erigaisi | Photo: Lennart Ootes

3. GM D. Gukesh (Elo 2542, born in 2006)

The second youngest GM in the history of chess and a tremendous talent.


D. Gukesh | Photo: Lennart Ootes

4. GM Raunak Sadhwani (Elo 2522, born in 2005)

India's latest GM. His performance at the FIDE Grand Swiss 2019 where he was unbeaten for seven rounds against some of the best players in the world including Sergey Karjakin drew attention from all corners of the world.

Raunak Sadhwani

Raunak Sadhwani | Photo: Amruta Mokal

5. GM P. Iniyan (Elo 2494, born in 2002)

GM P. Iniyan hails from Erode, a place with absolutely no chess culture. For a GM to emerge from such a town, at such a tender age, shows Iniyan's talent.

P. Iniyan

P. Iniyan | Photo: Lennart Ootes

6. IM Arjun Kalyan (Elo 2477, 3 GM norms, born in 2002)

Arjun Kalyan has already scored 3 GM norms and is on the brink of becoming India's next GM.

Arjun Kalyan

Arjun Kalyan | Photo: Sagar Shah

7. GM Prithu Gupta (Elo 2472, born in 2004)

India's 64th GM is clearly the one who plays the least number of tournaments among all of these youngsters. The fact that he could become a GM by playing such few events, shows what a consistent player he is.

Prithu Gupta


8. IM Sreeshwan Maralakshikari (Elo 2440, born in 2006)

Sreeshwan Maralakshikari is a talent to watch out for. Just 13 years old, he is already an IM. Financial difficulties and lack of structured training have proved to be impediments in this youngster's progress, but with this camp, he should be able to make headway towards his GM title pretty soon.

Sreeshwan Maralakshikari

Sreeshwan Maralakshikari | Photo: Amruta Mokal

9. IM Aditya Mittal (Elo 2427, born in 2006)

A gutsy youngster who has never let any off the board obstacles come in between his journey towards chess excellence. Aditya had an accident before the event and hence will be joining in the camp remotely.

Aditya Mittal

Aditya Mittal | Photo: Niklesh Jain

10. IM Leon Mendonca (Elo 2417, born in 2006)

Gaining in strength every day, this youngster from Goa is sure to become a GM soon. Check out Leon's symphony on the board which he created at the World Juniors 2019.

Leon Mendonca

Leon Mendonca | Photo: Amruta Mokal

11. IM Bharat Subramaniyam (Elo 2413, born in 2007)

He became an IM just at the age of 11 years and 8 months. Bharat Subramaniyam knows no fear and in the next few months will be looking forward to breaking Karjakin's youngest GM world record.

Bharat Subramaniyam

Bharat Subramaniyam | Photo: Lennart Ootes

12. WGM R. Vaishali (Elo 2386, 1 GM norm, born in 2001)

When it comes to women's chess in India, R. Vaishali is one of the best. She already is a WGM, has two IM norms, but more importantly she has also scored a GM norm recently.

R. Vaishali

R. Vaishali | Photo: Lennart Ootes

13. IM Raahil Mullick (Elo 2382, born in 2007)

You only need to see Raahil Mullick's couple of wins at the Abu Dhabi Masters 2019 against 2600 rated opponents to know how talented he is! 

Raahil Mullick shows Sagar two sparkling wins

14. WIM Rakshitta Ravi (Elo 2267, born in 2005)

Rakshitta Ravi is just 14, is already a WIM and has two WGM norms.

Rakshitta Ravi

Rakshitta Ravi | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Note: WIM Divya Deshmukh was invited to the camp. However, due to other commitments, she will not be able to be a part of the camp. She was replaced by R. Vaishali in the camp.

More details about the camp

When is it held: The first session will begin on January 8th and the last day of the camp will be January 17th, 2020.

How many hours each day: Each day the training camp will have six hours of training divided into two three-hour sessions

Where is it held: The camp is held in a villa on the East Coast Road in Chennai and no parents are allowed to be a part of the camp. It's a residential training program.

How will the students be taught: There will be two groups created and training that will happen in two separate rooms. Each group will get time with both Kramnik and Gelfand for training.

Innovations: There are several innovations that will be seen at the training camp: Firstly a Michelin Starred chef will be preparing food for the youngsters throughout the event. Secondly a yoga expert will train the youngsters.

Sagar and Amruta

ChessBase India founders Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal will be present at the venue as the managers of this entire camp and also to bring you further updates. Initiator of the training camps, Frederic Friedel from ChessBase International, will also be visiting.


"Our vision and mission are to build India as a powerful chess-playing nation"
The man with the vision — the MD of Microsense Networks Private Limited S. Kailasanathan


Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. 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 and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.