Nine-year-old talent gets to stay in the UK

by Macauley Peterson
8/10/2018 – The family of a nine-year-old at the centre of a visa battle has been allowed to remain in the United Kingdom rather than be deported to India. Shreyas Royal has spent nearly six of his nine years resident in the UK, and has been tipped as “the best prospect the country has ever seen”, according to Grandmaster Chris Ward. The family had been told they were to leave by September 10th, but with a month to go, they have now been given a reprieve.

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Battle Royal

Jitendra and Anju Singh came to London in 2012 with their then-three-year-old son Shreyas (or 'Shrez' for short), when Mr Singh was offered a job as an IT project manager with Tata Group, the Indian conglomerate that, through its Dutch subsidiary, sponsors the Tata Steel Chess tournament.

Royal results in British Major Royal, who attends private school on a full scholarship, learned to play chess at an after-school club and came to international attention when he finished in joint fourth place at the 2017 World Cadet Championship in Brazil. He recently competed in the British Championship Major group, where he scored 5½ / 8 (against FIDE rated players) with a 2135 performance rating* [see round-by-round results table, and an addendum below].

Incidentally, Shreyas surname 'Royal' was given to him by his parents from birth after an astrologer advised the family to use a name with the initials SR.

Julian Simpole, who has coached Shryas pro bono, quoted by The Times said, "This boy is really something else. He became a candidate master at the age of six, having learnt to play at five. His ambition is to become world champion at 18. He will certainly be a grandmaster by 18. He could be a grandmaster at 12." 

Royal playerbase graph

Shreyas Royal's Elo graph with over 90 games in the ChessBase PlayerBase

Shrez' father Jitendra is quoted by The Guardian on his reaction to the news:

“We are very happy and Shreyas is very happy. He jumped up on the sofa when he heard the news. I want to thank all those who helped and supported us ... I would also like to thank the Home Office and the home secretary who considered our case."

The boy's plight was brought to the attention of British Members of Parliament who advocated on his behalf, including Rachel Reeves, of the Labour party, who won a British Girls Under-14 Championship title in the early 1990s with the now-defunct British Women's Chess Association.

The English Chess Federation also lobbied on Shreyas' behalf, and ECF President Dominic Lawson, who interviewed Reeves for the BCC in 2013, told The Guardian, that ECF members were "delighted that our efforts to persuade the government to recognise Shreyas Royal's exceptional talents have borne fruit." 

Royal with top GMs

Shreyas posing with Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand and Wesley So | Photo: Shreyas Facebook page

Shreyas had a chance to meet some of his heroes at last year's London Chess Classic and his cause was also taken up publically by LCC organiser Malcolm Pein, who confirmed the latest news: 

Here is Shreyas in a recent interview with the BBC, showing a healthy measure of perspicacity and self-confidence:

And having legendary comedic actor John Cleese in your corner probably can't hurt either:

Can Shreyas Royal be the next Praggnananda or Karjakin? Will he ever have a chance to meet his chess heroes over the board? Watch this space.


*Update: Leonard Barden, The Guardian chess columnist, who has closely followed Shreyas Royal's progress for the past two years, contacted ChessBase to point out that in our table for the Major Open, the rating figure for "Cooper, J" (John G. Cooper) is actually the Elo equivalent of his ECF national rating (he has no FIDE rating yet), and therefore calculating Shreyas Royal's performance rating based on his score against the remaining eight players (5½/8 against a 2031-rated field) would be more appropriate, yielding a TPR that is much higher than 2020. Indeed, Chess-Results gives him a TPR of 2135 with a rating gain of 104.8.

Additionally, we did not mention that Shreyas also participated in the morning Open, which was a separate event from the afternoon Major Open.  There he tallied 3½/5 for a TPR of 2077 and a rating gain of 43.6.

Therefore his September Elo rating should be around 2114, which should put him at number two in the world in the Under-10 rating list behind Abhimanyu Mishra of the United States.


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Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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