The little talent from India on the rise

by Sagar Shah
4/13/2014 – A few months ago we reported on a remarkable Indian chess talent: 14-year-old Aravindh Chithambaram won the Chennai GM Open and achieved a first GM norm. As a special prize we provided him with ChessBase software, and promised more for each new norm. Now the lad has completed an international tour of tournaments and returned with a second GM norm. Big illustrated report.

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The little talent from India is on the rise

By Sagar Shah

It was the 7th of October 2012. The experienced Indian IM S. Satyapragyan (2456) had just beaten youngster Aravindh Chithambaram (2276). And it was no ordinary victory. Satyapragyan had seemingly crushed Aravindh positionally without giving him any chance. I ran over to ask him about his game and his opponent. After such a rout, I expected him to say that Aravindh is positionally very weak or he doesn’t have a great understanding of the game. But I was surprised when he replied, “This young lad will become a GM very soon!” “Why do you say that? You just crushed him.” was my instant retort. After pausing momentarily he said, “He just doesn’t have any fear. Even while he was losing he showed no signs of nervousness. With such an attitude, he is bound to go very far!” The words of the experienced Indian IM are slowly but surely proving to be true!

Young and fearless – that’s a lethal combination

In January we reported how Aravindh Chithambaram, who had recently turned fourteen, created a sensation by winning the Chennai GM Open tournament 2013, ahead of 20 GMs. This tournament was held simultaneously with the World Championship between Anand and Carlsen in November 2013.

Born on September 11, 1999, Aravindh who, had an FM title and a rating of 2335 before that tournament, performed at an Elo of 2728, scoring 9/11 and beating four GMs and two IMs on the way. He also gained 80 ELO points and made his maiden GM norm (and indirectly also his maiden IM norm).

Aravindh after winning the prestigious Chennai GM open 2013

In our last article, we mentioned that Aravindh came from a very poor background and needed funds in order to give an impetus to his chess career. We requested our readers to contribute in their own way by going to this page:

As Aravindh’s coach GM R.B. Ramesh reports: “Our aim was to raise $8000 in order to fund for Aravindh’s foreign trips. We had reached 1890$ when ChessBase asked readers to contribute. Immediately donations kept flooding in and we not only reached the aim of $8000 but surpassed it by raising $10,390.

There was no doubt about the talent. It was always there. But now there was money to back this talent! All that was left was for Aravindh to start performing and stay true to the promise he had shown.

The first tournament on the agenda for Aravindh was World Youth Chess Championship 2013 in December in UAE. He played in the U-14 category and with a rating of 2415 (after his phenomenal 80 point increase in one tournament), was one of the favorites to win the title. However Aravindh performed so poorly that he lost 30 Elo points and finished 46th. A huge disappointment.

A poor performance at WYCC 2013 relegated
Aravindh from 2415 to 2381 on the rating charts

Imagine this situation. People from all over the world are donating to keep your chess career alive and you perform poorly. Now that would definitely be a very high-pressure situation. Different players respond to pressure in different ways. While some buckle under it, there are geniuses like Aravindh who start giving their best.

In February 2014, Aravindh left for Austria to play in the Casino Graz tournament. He lost to three strong GMs: eventual winner Melkumyan Hrant (2589), top seed Li Chao (2697) and the very strong Andrei Istratescu (2671). However, he won all his other games and with a strong performance of 6/9, he finished tenth. With a rating performance of 2498, Aravindh made his second IM norm and gained 14 Elo points.

As of 21st February 2014, Aravindh was 2395 with two IM and one GM norm [photo ChessGurukul]

Things had started to move in the right direction. As they say, strike the iron while it’s hot, and Aravindh did exactly that, performing well in the Cannes Open in France. He made draws against strong opponents like Vladislav Tkachiev (2637) and Ruben Felgaer (2569), and as usual he was able to subdue each and every opponent who was rated below him! The young lad had done it! Without much ado he had gained another 13 Elo points, reached 2400 and also made his third IM norm. Aravindh Chithambaram was now an International Master!

Aravindh with his third IM norm certificate, with Ankit Rajpara,
India’s latest GM, who won the 2014 Cannes tournament

The first goal had been achieved. Aravindh was now 2408 and had one GM norm. The journey to the GM title won't be easy. He needed 92 more Elo points and two more GM norms. As we already know by now, Aravindh likes to keep things moving. He immediately participated in the very prominent Reykjavik Open in March 2014.

His performance was pretty consistent. While beating lower rated players had become a habit for this kid, his problems against World Class opposition continued. He lost to GMs Arkadij Naiditsch and Erwin L’Ami, but once again gave an IM norm performance. He gained nine Elo points and reached his career high rating of 2417.

Aravindh not only received a norm certificate but also a peck on his cheek from a female player
at the closing ceremony of the Reykjavik Open – to which he didn’t know how to react!

After this long Europe trip, which lasted for almost a month, Aravindh came back home with the sweet satisfaction of becoming an IM and regaining all the rating points he had lost in the World Youth Chess Championship 2013. Though the trip had been quite successful, it still didn’t show his true capacity. In all the three tournaments he made IM norms, but he was not able to beat a single GM.

Aravind at the Kuala Lumpur Open, where he made his second GM norm and gained 22 rating points

But Aravindh got a much needed 20 day rest before he left for the Kuala Lumpur International Open in Malaysia, which began from 4th Aril 2014. Once again, he made a strong start by beating two lower rated players and then drawing four in a row, with three GMs and one IM. While all this was pretty good, his fans back home waited for the elusive victories against strong GMs. And this time he didn’t disappoint. In rounds seven and eight he beat GM Vladimir Lazarev (2449) and GM John Paul Gomez (2524) and set up a final round clash with the top seed of the event and the very strong GM Sergei Tiviakov (2651).

A huge challenge awaited Aravindh in the form of Sergei Tiviakov in the last round of Kuala Lumpur Open

A draw was enough for Aravindh to secure his second GM norm. Maybe it worked in his favour a bit that a draw was enough for Tiviakov too, to win the title. They both played an interesting closed Sicilian, Aravindh sacrificed a pawn at the right moment and neutralized all of White’s pressure. If the game had continued, Aravindh would have been pawn down but with loads of compensation. It seemed as if Tiviakov didn’t want to take unnecessary risk. A draw was agreed and Aravindh had made his second GM norm.

[Event "KL Open 2014"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.04.11"] [Round "9"] [White "Tiviakov, Sergei"] [Black "Chithambaram, Aravindh"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B23"] [WhiteElo "2651"] [BlackElo "2417"] [Annotator "Sagar"] [PlyCount "40"] [EventDate "2014.04.12"] [SourceDate "2014.04.12"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. d3 Bg7 6. Be3 b6 7. Qd2 e5 8. f4 Nf6 9. h3 exf4 10. Bxf4 Nh5 11. Bg5 Qc7 12. O-O-O h6 13. Be3 g5 14. g4 Nf6 15. Nf3 Be6 16. Bg1 Nd7 17. Bh2 Ne5 18. Qf2 O-O-O 19. Kb1 h5 20. Nxg5 {A draw was agreed here. Most probably the position is just equal after} -- (20... hxg4 21. Nxe6 fxe6 22. Bxe5 (22. hxg4 $2 Nxg4 $15) 22... Bxe5 23. hxg4 {Black has full compensation for the pawn after} Qg7 $1 $44) 1/2-1/2

To date the little prodigy from India is an IM with an Elo rating of 2439. In the past five months Aravindh has amassed five IM norms, two GM norms and 100 Elo points. The speed at which he is progressing, a few more months is all that he will need to become a GM, I presume.

A lot has been said about Aravindh and his chess talent, the way he calculates accurately, his endgame technique and his lack of opening preparation, in the previous articles. I think it would be appropriate if I can acquaint you with what I know about his non-chess side.

When I first saw Aravindh in Mangalore in 2010, the thing that struck me as highly surprising was the ease with which he would play chess. In one of the games, while his opponent was busy thinking about his move, Aravindh lifted his hand in the form of an airplane and started his ascent. The opponent was in deep thought and Aravindh was highly engrossed in flying his imaginary plane. After a few minutes the opponent raised his head from the board to look at Aravindh. Though the lad was embarrassed, he couldn’t let his imaginary flight crash. Very slowly he landed his plane safely and started thinking about the position!

Really?? Were you going to play that move? Post-mortem analysis with
GM Pravin Thipsay at the 50th National Premier 2012.

Many might misjudge Aravindh as a little boy who has no respect for his opponents. Quite the contrary. I have seen 14-15 year old kids who are arrogant and try to stare at you all the time during the game. It’s really uncomfortable to play such players. Aravindh is not one of those. He might be in his own world many times during the game, but never tries to disturb his opponents.

Naughty but never disrespectful or arrogant – that’s Aravindh for you!

When I congratulated Aravind for winning the Chennai Open 2013, he replied to me saying that his opponents just made mistakes and he was lucky. Now of course to win in chess you need your opponents to make mistakes, but players don’t usually want to put it this way. They always want to prove it was their excellent play which got them the victory. But Aravindh is truthful to himself and others! A talented at the same time modest person is really hard to find!


After winning the Chennai Open 2013, Aravindh immediately played the Hyderabad GM open. On the first day of the Hyderabad tournament, he distributed sweets to all the players to share his happiness at winning the Chennai Open. Very strong values have been imbibed in him right from a young age. And the credit for that goes to….

… his mother Deivanai (on the left)

After his bad performance in the World Youth Chess Championship 2013, it was his mother who kept Aravindh motivated. She insulates him from the outside pressures and lets him focus and enjoy chess. However, there is one more person without whom Aravindh’s success would have been impossible.

GM R.B. Ramesh, who is not only Aravindh’s coach but also his friend, mentor and guide

Ramesh is one of the best coaches in India. A lot of great students have developed under his tutelage. With his guidance, Aravindh’s future is definitely in safe hands.

Aravindh with some random chess player in Chennai 2013

Vishy Anand is still going strong as he is all set to challenge Carlsen again in November 2014. But if ever Vishy does decide to hang up his boots, I am sure Aravindh will be ready take his place as the leader of Indian Chess!

Incidentally, in a previous article we said that ChessBase was providing Aravindh with the basic software he needs for his chess career: ChessBase 12, Fritz 14 and Mega Database 2014. “We have a deal with the lad: the software is a reward for his first GM norm. For every further norm he can pick three titles from our ChessBase shop – anything he wants or thinks will help him in his studies.” As Aravindh has made his second GM norm, we are awaiting his three choices, so that we can send him his reward as soon as possible.

Aravind lost his father when he was three years old. But he has received the love and support from chess fans not only in India but all over the world. No wonder Caissa, the goddess of Chess has her own way of rewarding the people who play the game with complete dedication and sincerity, like Aravindh does!

Previous articles

11/27/2013 – Indian prodigy wins Chennai Open
The 2013 Chennai Grandmaster Open, held in celebration of the Anand-Carlsen FIDE World Championship Match, was sensationally won by 14-year-old FM Aravindh Chithambaram of Chennai. With a performance rating of 2728, which dwarfs his current rating of 2335, it seems we have a new prodigy to track! Here is the illustrated report by WGM Soumya Swaminathan.

1/5/2014 – The next Anand? Aravindh a special Indian talent
During the Chennai World Championship match there was a grandmaster open. It was sensationally won by Aravindh Chithambaram, a 14-year-old FM with a 2335 FIDE rating. Aravindh had a performance rating of 2728 and gained 80 Elo points from this one tournament. One of the brightest Indian chess talents hails from a very modest family background and urgently needs funding for his chess career.

Topics: India

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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digupagal digupagal 4/15/2014 03:34
@ KodiakChess excellent idea suggested here !!!
Anandkumar Anandkumar 4/14/2014 08:00
Congrats to Aravindh! Thanks to Chessbase for making everyone aware of a bright young chess player who would benefit from help. While I heard about Aravindh from GM Ramesh during the WC match commentary, I had no idea about the fact that they were looking for funds. Your article gave me a chance to contribute a tiny bit towards the cause. Hope Aravindh achieves everything he sets out to and is not burdened by pressure and expectations.
Setclock Setclock 4/14/2014 03:38
It's not the software per se that's being generously offered, it's the coverage. The story. If not for Chessbase news I would know nothing of this amazing young man. I contributed to his funding campaign and eagerly root for his continued success. I understand that he was probably already fairly well known in India prior to the original Chessbase article, but there's a reason why a campaign fund stuck at $1,800 shot well past it's $8000 goal after the mention here. I applaud you Chessbase, never mind the snide comment below!
Najdork Najdork 4/14/2014 01:58
Wow three titles from the ChessBase shop how generous.
KodiakChess KodiakChess 4/13/2014 07:57
Anand should take him on as part of his team. It would help him out financially as well as being a great learning experience.