Nihal Sarin

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Nihal Sarin
Nihal sarin
Born (2004-07-13) 13 July 2004 (age 14)
Thrissur, Kerala, India
TitleGrandmaster (2018)
FIDE rating2606 (June 2019)
Medal record
Representing  India
World Youth Chess Championship
Gold medal – first place 2014 Durban (South Africa) Under-10
Silver medal – second place 2015 Porto Carras (Greece) Under-12
World Youth Blitz Chess Championship
Gold medal – first place 2013 Al-Ain (UAE) Under-10
Asian Youth Rapid Chess Championship
Gold medal – first place 2014 Tashkent (Uzbekistan) Under-10
Asian Youth Blitz Chess Championship
Gold medal – first place 2014 Tashkent (Uzbekistan) Under-10

Nihal Sarin (Malayalam: നിഹാല്‍ സരിന്‍ born 13 July 2004) is a 14-year-old Indian Chess Grandmaster with a FIDE rating of 2606. He is currently the youngest player and third youngest in history to reach a rating of 2600, accomplishing this feat at age 14.[1] He is considered by some to be among the greatest natural talents in chess history.[2]

Nihal was the 2014 World Under-10 Champion, winning the title ahead of several talented peers in Durban, South Africa.[3] In 2015, he came close to winning the Under-12 championship in Porto Carras, Greece but had to settle for silver on the tiebreak.[4]

In an article on the World Chess website analyzing his game, GM Parimarjan Negi, who was once the world's second-youngest grandmaster, referred to Nihal as "mature beyond his years", and writes about one of the key moves with the white pieces in his analysis:

"It's hard to say if this is objectively the strongest move - probably not - but it sure is creative! At the moment, it is very hard to see the idea behind fxg4 - and Black (opponent) didn't see it either in the game. Nihal shows great intuition to realize that securing the e4 square for his knight would prove crucial - after all, there are too many options to calculate these lines precisely."[5]

In a 2015 ChessBase report following his display at the World Under-12 Championships, the ChessBase editor Albert Silver wrote:

"Tied for first with 9.0/11 is the quite remarkably talented player from India, Nihal Sarin. The Indian player was already gold in the Boys Under-10 in 2014, ahead of Abdusattorov. If he put in 100% of his energy, who knows what he might achieve, since all this is achieved in spite of his difficulty in staying seated!"[6]

Early childhood[edit]

Nihal was born on 13 July 2004 in Thrissur in the Indian state of Kerala. He spent his first few years in Kottayam.

He could recognize the capitals and the flags of all the 190 odd countries by the age of three. At the same age, he also had managed to know and recite from memory the scientific names of most of the insects and plants.[7] By the time he was in upper kindergarten, he was speaking fluently in English. By the time he turned six and enrolled into the first standard he knew the multiplication tables till sixteen.[8]

Nihal learned chess at the age of six. In order to not make him feel bored during school vacations, his father introduced Nihal to a chess set and his grandfather A. A. Ummar taught him the rules at Kottayam where he was a student of Excelsior English School. Nihal was formally taught chess by Mathew P. Joseph Pottoore, the school's chess coach who instructed once a week in the beginning and later became the most influential person in Nihal's early chess development.

First successes[edit]

In 2011-12, Nihal and his family moved to Thrissur where Nihal joined Devamatha CMI Public School.

Nihal won the Kerala state championship in Under-07 category in 2011, the Under-09 title twice, the Under-11 title twice and Under-15 (Sub-Junior) title once. He became runner-up in State Senior championship in 2015, Irinjalakuda at the age of 10 years, thus becoming eligible to represent Kerala in the National Challengers Championship 2015. He was twice the State Under-19 (Juniors) Runner-up at the age of 8 & 10 years respectively.

Nihal was the National Under-9 Champion, 2013 in Chennai, the National Under-11 Bronze medalist in 2014 at Puri, and the National Under-11 Silver medalist, 2015 in Pondicherry.[9]

The World Youth Championships[edit]

Nihal won the gold medal in the World Blitz Championship in the Under-10 category in Al-Ain in 2013.[10] In the same category, he was the Rapid and Blitz gold medalist in the Asian Youth Championship in Tashkent in 2014.[9]

Nihal's first big break came at the World Youth Chess Championship in the Under-10 category, which was held in Durban, South Africa in September 2014. He scored 9.0/11 to be crowned the Under-10 World Champion. For this achievement, he was conferred the Candidate Master (CM) title by FIDE.[11]

The next year in 2015, he won the silver medal in the Under-12 category of World Youth Chess Championship (WYCC, Greece) starting as the 28th seed among 202 participants from 73 countries. In the last rounds of the tournament, Nihal successively defeated the top two seeds of his category: IM Awonder Liang in round seven, and FM Nodirbek Abdusattorov (rated 2432) in round eight. He was conferred the FIDE Master title by the World chess Federation (FIDE) in the same year as he had crossed live Elo rating of 2300.[6]

In the 2016 edition of the tournament held in Batumi, Georgia, Nihal scored 8.5/11 and tied for the second spot with three others. He had to settle for the fourth place on tiebreak.[12]

At the World Youth Chess Olympiad in December 2017, Nihal played for India Green, helping the country secure a Silver medal. He also won an Individual Gold on board three.[13]

International tournaments[edit]

Nihal started playing competitive chess as a seven-year-old in the middle of 2011. He is a product of regular FIDE rated tournaments held in his home state Kerala and other parts of India under the aegis of the Kerala Chess Association and the All India Chess Federation.

In 2014, Nihal began to work with Ukrainian GM Dimitri Komarov, an experienced coach with international success in his playing days. Right after his World Youth success in 2014, Nihal scored his first victory over a titled player—IM Jonathan Westerberg of Sweden—at the World Junior Championship 2014 in Pune, India.[14] For a year, Nihal was a regular in all the tournaments of importance held in India including the National Challengers Championship in Nagpur. He would regularly hold titled players to draws.

In February 2016, Nihal played his first International Open outside India — the prestigious Cappelle la Grande Open — and registered his first International Master norm. In the process, he defeated a grandmaster for the first time in his career.[15]

In Hasselbacken Open 2016 held at the turn of April in Stockholm, Nihal beat Lithuanian GM Eduardas Rozentalis who is famous for his creative play.[16][17] The database website Chess-DB dubbed this performance as the ‘Game of the Day’ on 8 May 2016.[18]

At the Sunway Sitges Open 2016, Nihal registered his second International Master norm by scoring 5.5/9.[19] His third International Norm was registered in the Aeroflot B Open 2017 held in February, where Nihal scored 5.5/9 as well, performing at 2539, to cross the 2400-mark and become an International Master.

At the TV2 Fagernes International 2017, Nihal tied for the second place to finish with 6.0/9. He was fourth on the tiebreak and stayed undefeated throughout the tournament. In the process, he scored his maiden Grand Master norm.[20] In 2017, Nihal increased his rating by 192 elo points to cross 2500 in rating.

At Reykjavik Open 2018 held in March, Nihal scored 6.0/9 with a rating performance of 2668 to score his second GM norm. The average rating of his opponents was 2543. He scored wins against grandmasters Ahmed Adly and Elshan Moradiabadi and drew with Richard Rapport, Gata Kamsky and Mustafa Yilmaz.[21][22]

Nihal made his debut at the Isbank Turkish Super League in July 2018, leading the team Genc Akademisyenler on the first board. He scored 6.0/12 against an opposition made up of an average rating of 2590.

At the Abu Dhabi Masters 2018 held in August, Nihal tallied 5.5/9 with a rating performance of 2626 to secure his third GM norm.[23] He became the 53rd Grandmaster of India and the twelfth youngest in history at the time.[24][25][26]

Nihal made his debut in a super-tournament by competing in the TATA Steel Rapid Championship 2018. Starting as the last seed, Nihal scored 3.0/9, with draws against Viswanathan Anand, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Sergey Karjakin, Pentala Harikrishna, Vidit Gujrathi, and Surya Shekhar Ganguly, losing only three games to Hikaru Nakamura, Levon Aronian, and Wesley So.[27][28] The event marked Nihal's first game against the legendary five-time world champion Anand who graciously commented after the game, "Going by the evidence so far, I would not rule it out (Nihal becoming a world champion in future). It’s a long journey forward. At the end, he is just 14. I felt that he would really struggle in this tournament and he would be a bit out of place. It seemed the opposite. He seemed quite comfortable here. Not fully there, but he’s a huge talent what I’ve seen of him." Anand was quoted as saying by PTI.[29][30]

Nihal ended 2018 with a spectacular performance at the World Blitz Championship in Saint Petersburg, Russia where he scored 13.5/21 with a rating performance of 2777, taking the 11th place on tiebreak.[31][32]


Nihal's early coach Mathew P. Joseph Pottoore taught him the basics and made him fall in love with chess. From this point on, Mr. M.B. Muralidharan, Prof. N.R. Anil Kumar, Mr. C.T. Pathrose & K.K. Manikantan helped him to polish his skills. Nihal was trained by E.P. Nirmal from 2013 until 2015, helping him develop from a raw talent to a rising player.[33]

He is trained by Ukrainian GM Dimitri Komarov from 2014 and GM Srinath Narayanan from 2016 until the present day.[34] Since 2016, Nihal began working independently on his game as well.[8]

Popularizing chess[edit]

In his effort to popularize the sport of chess at the grassroots level, Nihal occasionally performs Simultaneous Exhibitions. At the age of 10 years at Thodupuzha, Kerala, he played simultaneously against 112 players of all age categories winning all his games.[35]

He was also a guest competitor in the Malayalam TV quiz show Aswamedham in March 2015. It is a popular Malayalam reverse quiz game show hosted by G.S. Pradeep and aired on Kairali TV.[36]

On the occasion of Children's Day in 2016, Nihal was chosen as one of the recipients of 'National child award for exceptional achievement' awarded by the then President of India Mr. Pranab Mukherjee.[37]

On the day Nihal had become a grandmaster, his home state Kerala was ravaged by the 2018 Kerala floods, the biggest natural disaster in the state's history. Nihal contributed by raising Rs. 174,463/- (approximately US$2500) via a live YouTube show hosted by Indian chess news portal ChessBase India.[38][39][40]

Personal life[edit]

Nihal's father Sarin Abdulsalam is a Dermatologist and works at the Thrissur Govt. Medical College as an assistant professor. His mother Shijin Ammanam Veetil Ummar is a Psychiatrist and also works as an assistant professor in the same institution. Nihal has a younger sister named Neha Sarin.


  1. ^ World Chess Federation. "FIDE Chess Profile". Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Nihal Sarin in Hamburg (2): fun with chess". Chess News. 19 April 2017. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  3. ^, Dipl.Ing. Heinz Herzog -. "Chess-Results Server - World Youth Chess Championships 2014". Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  4. ^, Dipl.Ing. Heinz Herzog -. "Chess-Results Server - World Youth Ch 2015 - Open under 12". Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  5. ^ "Mature Beyond His Years". World Chess. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  6. ^ a b "WYCC 2015 final: India! India! India!". Chess News. 7 November 2015. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  7. ^ P, Jinoy Jose. "He's got the moves". @businessline. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  8. ^ a b "When chess becomes a language... - ChessBase India". Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  9. ^ a b "The Boy's Gambit: Inside the world of Nihal Sarin, a chess champion at the age of 10". The Indian Express. 15 March 2015. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  10. ^ Kumar, P.K. Ajith. "Little Nihal showing big promise". The Hindu. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  11. ^ "WYCC 2014: The winners and the stories". Chess News. 1 October 2014. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  12. ^ "World Cadets: Indians back with four medals - ChessBase India". Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  13. ^ "World Youth Chess Olympiad: Another fine show by Nihal". Sportstarlive. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  14. ^ "10-year-old Nihal Sarin shocks Westerberg at world junior championships". 7 October 2014. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  15. ^ "Cappelle: Anurag shines for India - ChessBase India". Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  16. ^ "TV: 11 year old Nihal Sarin shows his win vs. GM Rozentalis in Hasselbacken Chess Open | Hasselbacken Chess Open". Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  17. ^ "Hasselbacken 07-09: Adhiban joint first - ChessBase India". Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  18. ^ "Eduardas Rozentalis vs Nihal Sarin (2016) -". Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  19. ^, Dipl.Ing. Heinz Herzog -. "Chess-Results Server - III Sunway Sitges International Chess Festival - Group A". Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  20. ^ "Fagernes International: Nihal Sarin announces his arrival". Chess News. 16 April 2017. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  21. ^ Doggers (PeterDoggers), Peter. "Adhiban Wins Reykjavik Open 'With The Spirit Of Fischer'". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  22. ^ "Reykjavik Open 2018: 13-year-old Nihal Sarin proves his genius by inching closer towards being a Grandmaster". Firstpost. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  23. ^ Staff, Scroll. "Nihal Sarin becomes India's 53rd Grandmaster with a draw in the 8th round at Abu Dhabi Masters Chess". Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  24. ^ (Rakesh), Rakesh Kulkarni. "Prodigy Nihal Sarin Becomes A Grandmaster At 14". Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  25. ^ "Relieved that GM title is done and dusted: Nihal Sarin - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  26. ^ "From being a restless kid to achieving Grandmaster title: Story of Nihal Sarin's phenomenal rise in chess arena". Firstpost. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  27. ^ "Tata Steel Chess India Rapid: Nakamura is champion". Chess News. 14 November 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  28. ^ Rao, Rakesh. "Tata Steel Chess: 'Promising' Nihal Sarin gains praise". Sportstar. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  29. ^ Staff, Scroll. "Chess: Viswanthan Anand 'not ruling out' prodigy Nihal Sarin becoming future world champion". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  30. ^ "YouTube". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  31. ^ "14-year-old Nihal Sarin's blitzkrieg in Saint Petersburg! - ChessBase India". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  32. ^ "World Blitz Championship: Magnus Carlsen, Kateryna Lagno clinch blitz titles; Nihal Sarin impresses with 11th place finish". Firstpost. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  33. ^ "When chess becomes a language... - ChessBase India". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  34. ^ Narayanan, Srinath. "Coaching 14-year-old GM Nihal Sarin has taught Srinath Narayanan more than he could imagine". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  35. ^ "Under-10 World Chess Champ Nihal Routs 112 Opponents - The New Indian Express | DailyHunt". DailyHunt. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  36. ^ KairaliOnline (29 March 2015), Best of Kids' Aswamedham: World Junior Chess Champion Nihal Serin | 29th March 2015 | Part 2, retrieved 16 January 2017
  37. ^ "President gives awards to children for their achievements on Children's day today". Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  38. ^ "YouTube". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  39. ^ "14-year-old Nihal Sarin raises Rs.1,74,463 through ChessBase India show for Kerala - ChessBase India". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  40. ^ Kumar, P. k Ajith (23 August 2018). "Chess prodigy Nihal Sarin goes live on YouTube to raise flood relief fund for Kerala". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 16 January 2019.

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