Chennai teen Arjun is India’s 68th GM

April 22, 2021

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India got its 68th Grandmaster on Tuesday evening when Arjun Kalyan, an 18-year-old from Chennai, achieved the 2,500 ELO rating mark after he beat Dragan Kosic of Montenegro in the fifth round of the GM Round Robin “Rujna Zora-3” chess tournament in Serbia.

Son of a hotel-owner father and an athlete mother, Kalyan had had come close to achieving the feat last week, but he passed the mark of 2,500 on the ELO ratings only on Tuesday to achieve the feat.

Kalyan needed to score a win in the previous round of the event to get the GM norm. However, he made a mistake and lost that game. But the win over Kosic did the job for him.

Kalyan’s early coach was AL Kasi in an academy in Chennai, and now he is also coached by IM Saravanan and Ukrainian GM Aleksandr Goloshchapov.

To become a Grandmaster, a player has to achieve at least three GM norms, plus his/her ELO rating has to have passed 2,500 at some point.

Interestingly, Kalyan has five GM norms, but the mark of 2,500 on the ELO ratings had been proving elusive for him. Two years ago, playing in Italy, he needed “3-4 points” to cross the 2500 barrier, as he says. “But I failed to do so. This time, things were a little shaky but I am happy to have pulled it off,” said Kalyan.

After coming close to the GM title in 2019, in early 2020 he took a break from chess to focus on his studies. Then, during his XII Board exams, he suffered an eye injury while playing badminton. Now he’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in commerce in a Chennai college.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he did not play a tournament for over a year, prolonging his wait for the GM title.

“I had to undergo a surgery well, but I was happy to have not missed out on the exams,” said Kalyan, looking back on the difficult times last year. Kalyan took the Board exam with vision only in his right eye and obtained nearly 95% marks.

In the past, Kalyan has recorded impressive draws against GMs Alexei Shirov and Nigel Short.

In 2019, he was among 14 youngsters who coached by former world champion Vladimir Kramnik at a 10-day camp in Chennai. — TNS

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