Vaishali made her third grandmaster norm in Qatar

by Thorsten Cmiel
10/27/2023 – Vaishali Rameshbabu's many successes have always been overshadowed by those of her younger brother, Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu. At the Qatar Open, however, the 22-year-old made her third GM norm and will get GM title when she reaches 2500 Elo. Her current live rating is 2471.7. Thorsten Cmiel takes a look at Vaishali's grandmaster performance at the Qatar Masters, the second strongest Open of the year. | Photos: Qatar Chess

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Achieving norms is something special for all players and a hurdle to overcome. Having a highly skilled brother or sister can be a source of motivation, but it can also be another obstacle. Vaishali has now overcome this "problem".

Some time ago I talked about this with Vaishali and her coach Ramesh RB. She is very thoughtful. And indeed, there is no reason to be jealous of each other's success or to feel inhibited. Vaishali and her brother Praggnanandhaa, Pragg, have enjoyed similar success. Vaishali won two bronze medals at the Chess Olympiad 2022 in her home town Chennai - the Indian Women team finished third and won bronze and Vaishali won another bronze medal for the third best individual result on board three.

Pragg also secured two third places. Most recently, they both won silver medals with the Indian teams at the Asian Games. Vaishali is 22 years old and has been playing chess for almost 17 years. In 2012 (U12) and 2015 (U14), Vaishali won two World Junior Championships, just like Pragg, who, like his older sister, won two World titles (U8) and (U10) in 2013 and 2015. The Asian and national titles will probably only be counted by historians.

Achieving a Grandmaster norm in the second strongest open tournament of the year, while playing against Grandmasters in eight out of ten rounds and performing very well, is a magnificent accomplishment. Vaishali has now obtained her third norm and, of course, also won the women's prize of $5,000.

The best women players at the Qatar Open: 1. R. Vaishali 5.0/9 2. Divya Deshmukh 5.0/9 3. Alua Nurmanova 4.5/9. Zhu Chen congratulates.

The young Indian player started with four points out of five games, defeating her compatriot, Sethuraman, and Shamsiddin Vokhidov from Uzbekistan. In the sixth round, she was paired against Gukesh. Both are from Chennai and have been students at the Westbridge Anand Chess Academy (WACA) since 2021. Vaishali came close to even beating the Indian number one. However, the 17-year-old Grandmaster handled the complications better.

With a solid plus two, Vaishali was still on course for her third Grandmaster norm. In round 7 was followed a hard-fought game against Aditya Mittal.

The two players were the last to leave the tournament hall. Unfortunately, the game was no longer broadcasted from the fifty-seventh move onwards, presumably due to a technical error.

In the penultimate round, the Indian player faced an opponent who himself aimed to achieve a Grandmaster norm, but in the end narrowly missed it in the final round. Vaishali, however, who had White played more solidly than usual and achieved the desired result and her third Grandmaster norm, no matter how she would play in the final round.

There she lost a tenable rook endgame against the tournament senior, Gregory Kaidanov, who had lost against Magnus Carlsen in the previous round. After the game, Kaidanov was the first to congratulate Vaishali on her third GM norm.

After the final round, Vaishali gave a brief interview to Chessbase India. She quickly analyzed her game against Vokhidov from the fifth round. Outstanding.

Pragg did not play in Qatar but instead attended several PR events in India. He has been helping his sister with her opening preparations. The pair will join their mother on the Isle of Man for the Grand Swiss. Vaishali was in Qatar with her mother, Nagalakshmi, who has become a popular subject for photographers. Although Nagalakshmi doesn't play chess herself, she seems to be able to judge the state of a game by the expressions on her children's faces and to empathise with them when things aren't going well.

Vaishali and Nagalakshmi

Vaishali is just over thirty rating points away from becoming the third Indian Grandmaster after Koneru Humpy and Harika Dronavalli. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to reach this milestone. There is a cautionary tale: India's Vijayalakshmi Subbaraman had all her norms in place in 2005 but only achieved a rating of 2485. She continued to try to break the rating barrier for some time, but was only able to achieve the title of GM-elect, which means that she could become a grandmaster under certain conditions or circumstances.

Stars have to give autographs.

The games of Vaishali at the Qatar Masters

I will never mention again that Vaishali is Pragg's sister, unless the two of them achieve a common goal, such as both becoming individual world champions. Because Vaishali is an outstanding player in her own right.


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Thorsten Cmiel is FIDE Master, lives in Cologne and Milano and works as a freelance finance journalist.