The path to GM: Vaishali’s steady ascent

by Shahid Ahmed
12/3/2023 – Vaishali Rameshbabu became the third Indian woman player (after Humpy Koneru and Harika Dronavalli) to earn the grandmaster title. Vaishali obtained the title by scoring a win against FM Tamer Tarik Selbes at the 2023 El Llobregat Open. Since her brother Pragganandhaa is also a grandmaster, Vaishali and Pragg became the world’s first-ever brother-sister grandmaster duo! | Photo: ChessBase India

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


First ever brother-sister GM duo

Vaishali and Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu just became the first-ever brother-sister grandmaster duo. Vaishali, aged 22, surpassed the 2500 rating mark at the El Llobregat Open in Spain, the only requirement she had left to earn the highest title in chess — she had already accumulated not three but four GM norms.

Notably, the two siblings will participate in the 2024 Candidates Tournaments, set to take place in Toronto. Fittingly, this will be the first time that both the open and the women’s events will take place concurrently.

At the moment, Pragg is ranked 14th in the (open) live ratings list, while Vaishali is ranked 13th in the women’s live ratings list.

Sagar Shah goes over the game that granted Vaishali the GM title

First GM norm: Xtracon Open 2019

Vaishali earned her first GM norm at the Xtracon Open in July 2019 in Helsingør, Denmark. She defeated GM Samuel Sevian (USA), GM Johan Salomon (NOR), GM Jonny Hector (SWE) and drew GM Sebastien Maze (FRA) for a 7½/10 final score.

She obtained a 2553 TPR and gained 58 Elo rating points. Six out of her ten opponents were grandmasters.

The moves 26.e5! and 27.e6! prove that Vaishali is not shy in taking her chances and doing what the position requires her to do.

27...Qb6+ 28.Kh2 Ne3 29.Qh4 Rde8 30.f5, giving up an exchange for activity.

There followed 30...Nxf1+ 31.Rxf1 Bxb5 32.Nxb5 and White converted her advantage into a full point eventually.

Vaishali Rameshbabu

Vaishali en route to her victory over GM Johan Salomon | Photo: Xtracon Open

Second GM norm: Fischer Memorial - Heraklion 2022

Vaishali scored her second GM norm at the 8th Fischer Memorial - Heraklion in April 2022 in Crete, Greece. She scored 7/9 points, obtained a 2596 TPR, gained 21.4 Elo points and tied for first place with IM Yoav Milikow (ISR). She drew against GM Spyridon Kapnisis (GRE) and GM Ioannis Nikolaidis (GRE).

Vaishali played a magnificent exchange sacrifice against Georgios Mitsis (GRE, 2344) with 20...Rxf4 21.gxf4 Qxf4. There is nothing immediate for Black. However, the bishop pair, the rook ready to swing from the b- to the f- or g-files and the white king being vulnerable on the kingside justified the youngster’s decision. Vaishali went on to win the game comfortably.

Vaishali Rameshbabu

Vaishali at the 2022 Fischer Memorial 2022 | Photo: Cretan Chess Tour

Third GM norm: Qatar Masters 2023

Almost one and a half years after scoring her second GM norm, Vaishali earned her third GM norm at the Qatar Masters in October 2023 in Doha, Qatar.

Vaishali fulfilled the norm requirements in just eight games. She defeated GM Sethuraman S P (IND) and GM Shamsiddin Vokhidov (UZB), and drew against GM Temur Kuybokarov (AUS), GM Karthikeyan Murali and GM Aditya Mittal.

White needed to let go of the d4-pawn with 23.Rf3 exd4 24.cxd4 Bxd4 25.Nf1 d5, getting better chances in the ensuing struggle. Instead, 23.Rd2? just invited trouble — 23...g4 24.hxg4 Qe7 25.Kg1 Qh4 26.Nh5 Nxg2!

Black went on to win the game eventually. The win took slightly longer due to Vaishali’s imprecise play in time trouble. However, Sethuraman blundered again to give his opponent a decisive advantage. This time she ensured that her opponent could not fight back.

Vaishali Rameshbabu

Vaishali defeated Sethuraman exactly a year after obtaining a memorable win against the very same opponent | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

Fourth GM norm: Women’s Grand Swiss 2023

Despite not needing it, Vaishali obtained a fourth GM norm at the Women’s Grand Swiss in November 2023 on the Isle of Man. She obtained an outstanding 8½/11 score to become the champion, remained undefeated, finished a half point ahead of the field, obtained a 2658 TPR and took her live rating to 2497.

The woman from Chennai defeated three former women’s world champions — GM Mariya Muzychuk (UKR), GM Antoaneta Stefanova (BUL) and GM Zhongyi Tan (CHN) — and signed draws against the eventual runner-up, GM Anna Muzychuk (UKR), and the winner of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, GM Aleksandra Goryachkina.

The Vaishali, Nagalakshmi and Praggnanandhaa interview | Video: ChessBase India

Vaishali Rameshbabu

Winner of the Women’s Grand Swiss! | Photo: FIDE / Anna Shtourman

Vaishali’s trainers

The new grandmaster worked with one of the best trainers in the world, GM FST R B Ramesh, for the better part of her career. Currently, she is working with GM Sandipan Chanda at WACA (WestBridge Anand Chess Academy).

R. B. Ramesh

GM FST R B Ramesh

Sandipan Chanda

GM Sandipan Chanda

Replay Vaishali’s games


Shahid Ahmed is the senior coordinator and editor of ChessBase India. He enjoys covering chess tournaments and also likes to play in chess events from time to time.