The next big thing in Sri Lankan Chess: Thehas Rithmitha

by Sagar Shah
7/27/2023 – The junior chess championships of various age categories serve a very important purpose. The talented medal winners get the limelight they need — with the adequate amount of support, these kids can go on to do great things in the chess world! One such example is 2014-born Thehas Rithmitha Kiringoda, gold medallist in the Under-9 World Schools Championships 2023. Starting off as the 21st seed among 61 players, Thehas went on to score a dominating 7½/9 and win the event! In this article, we ask Thehas a few questions about his chess journey so far, his performance in the World Schools, future goals and much more. Get to know the mindset of a young chess talent.

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When the 21st seed wins the tournament

Sri Lankan chess is moving in the right direction. The young De Silva LMST, born in 2006, recently became an International Master. Following him are more young talents — Ranindu Dilshan Liyange (2361) and Piyumantha Sasith Nipun (2170). However, what the young Thehas Rithmitha (born in 2014) has achieved is simply phenomenal. Playing at the World Schools under-9 championships 2023 in Rhodes, Greece, the boy scored 7½/9 to finish first in a pool of 61 players from 24 different countries.

Thehas Rithmitha

According to his FIDE Rating statistics, Thehas played his first standard rated game just a few months back, in December 2022!

An interview with Thehas Rithmitha

IM Sagar Shah (SS): How did your chess journey begin? Who taught you chess?

Thehas Rithmitha (TR): My older sister, Resandi, who is also a good chess player and is a member of the school chess team. I fell in love with the game after watching her play and observing how different pieces moved on the board.

I learnt the fundamentals from my late grandfather, who was also a great chess player. Later my father introduced me to my sister’s chess coach, Mr. Yasiru Mihiranga, and he offered to coach me since then.

Thehas Rithmitha

Thehas and his family sporting big smiles after his victory

Thehas Rithmitha

Thehas and his coach Yasiru after winning the World Schools U-9 Championships

SS: Who are your trainers and have they helped you become better?

TR: My chess coach, Yasiru sir, identified my style as soon as I started training with him, and helped me to use my strengths to win games and to become a successful chess player. I also attend my school chess lessons conducted, by my school chess coach, madam Suneetha Wijesooriya, who also has helped me a lot in my chess journey. My uncle Asanka also plays a lot of chess games with me when he visits my place. I’m also thankful to all my opponents who have played with me so far because I have learnt a lot from them too.

Suneetja Wijesooriya

Suneetha Wijesooriya is a legend of Sri Lankan Chess — she is the first and only Sri Lankan player to win a gold medal in a Chess Olympiad (Manilla 1992), and she has won the Sri Lankan Women’s Championship ten times | Photo: Roar LK YouTube Channel

SS: Starting as the 21st seed at the World Schools under-9, what was your expectation from the event?

TR: I just wanted to play well and win against the top-seeded players in the tournament, as we don’t get much opportunity to play against international players in Sri Lanka. I didn’t have a target to win gold, but I wanted to win in every game and give a good fight to everyone. Even though I thought I will get a few unrated players during the first few rounds, in the second round itself I met an opponent with 1548 Elo, which is 350 points more than me. I won that game, which gave me a lot of confidence for the upcoming rounds, and I knew that if I played well, regardless of their rating, I could win.

SS: Which was your favourite game from the event?

TR: There are two games that I love the most. The round three game, which I played against Lucas Torres (1392, SWE), really tested my patience. I made a mistake during the opening, and he was putting a lot of pressure by attacking me. But I held on, protecting my pieces until I got an opportunity to attack. I finally won that match!

After having a lost position throughout the game, Thehas got a winning position as his opponent blundered with 35.Raa1?. Thehas played the powerful discovered attack 35...Ne2+, winning an exchange and the game a few moves later.

This is the move Thehas spent 20 minutes on - 13.g4! White has a winning attack now

I was down to 2 minutes on the clock at one point where he had more than 40 minutes. Since I’m a good blitz player, I knew I could manage even with less time on the clock, so I tried to play that game without any mistakes. I was able to win that game also.

SS: How did it feel to win the title?

TR: I felt so happy and proud when I carried my country’s flag to the stage to take the award, and when they played my national anthem. This is the most challenging tournament I have played so far. I gained a lot of experience and made lots of new friends.

Thehas Rithmitha

Thehas being congratulated by his coach Yasiru after winning the title! Both the teacher and disciple are visibly happy

SS: What is your aim in chess?

TR: I want to be a grandmaster some day. It is a difficult target, but I will try my best.

Thehas Rithmitha

If this young boy can achieve his dream, he will become Sri Lanka’s first grandmaster!

SS: Who is your idol in chess?

TR: I really like Hikaru Nakamura because he excels in blitz chess. I too enjoy playing blitz chess myself.

SS: What are your upcoming events?

TR: From the National Youth Chess Championship held in Sri Lanka, I got selected to participate in World Youth Chess Championships 2023 in Egypt, and Asian Youth Chess Championships 2023 in the UAE. I’m really looking forward to doing my best in these upcoming tournaments.


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.