A gang of young Indians in search of a GM title in Budapest


Twenty-year-old international master Rathanvel VS is one step away from becoming a Grandmaster. His colleague IM Ajay Krishna is pursuing his first of the three standards required for the title. They share a studio, take turns cooking and goading each other to reach the 2,500 ELO goal. Rathanvel and Krishna belong to the traveling caravan of young Indian chess players camping in Budapest, living by the week, tournament after tournament, stretching their hopes and finances.

Since the pandemic, over-the-board competitions in India have come to a halt and players in the country have been forced to consider tournament opportunities in other parts of the world. Budapest, with its buzzing chess scene and regular normative events, has become a favorite haunt for Indian GM title hunters. A week ago Raja Rithvik R, 17, from Hyderabad, withdrew from the peloton in the Hungarian capital, becoming India’s 70th managing director. Of the 13 players at the recent Vezerkepzo GM-MIX group tournament in the city, seven were Indians. Third-year engineering student Rathanvel won the event, earned nearly 20 ELO points and earned his second GM standard. He has a few other tournaments lined up in Budapest. If he fails to retrieve a third standard through them, he plans to stay behind and continue the hunt.

Rithvik can only be relieved to have crossed the finish line. He is currently playing his last round robin in Budapest. “It’s been quite a long time,” the national sub-junior champion told ESPN. “I won my first GM standard in December 2019 and then everything froze. I had my tenth exams last year and then the lockdown took place.” Rithvik spent months locked up at home playing chess online for long hours and using his dining table to play table tennis. His mother accompanies him to Budapest, so it is a concern for him. “Vegetarian food is not easy to find in Europe, so it helps to have my mom with me to cook our meals,” he says. Ratanvel and Ajay get by with rice mixes.

International organizer Laszlo Nagy, who organized the First Saturday tournaments – dubbed “Mr First Saturday” – monthly chess competitions on the first Saturday of each month that give players the opportunity to win the FIDE titles – for nearly two decades now. Nagy also prompted 45-year-old general manager Atilla Czebe to get started in organizing tournaments. It was at events organized by the Czebe that Abhimanyu Mishra became the youngest general manager in the world, Rithvik achieved his final standard and Rathanvel reached his second. GM Standard tournaments typically involve players seeking out paying standards from tournament organizers, who in turn invite the Grandmasters to appear for a fee. GM Standard tournaments must be played over nine rounds and have at least three GMs from three different countries competing in their field. In addition to three standards, a player seeking a GM title must also hit the ELO 2500 ranking mark.

“The situation in India is difficult,” Czebe told ESPN. “The players want to play but there are no tournaments at the moment. My friend Laszlo has been running GM tournaments even during the lockdown and he suggested that I also try to compete in Budapest. , our city is in the middle of Europe, has an old tradition of chess and the government has also supported me. I organized the first tournament in January of this year, I took a little break, then I came back with a second in April. From May we started to have more and more players, especially from India. “

Krishna Teja, another Indian MI who is moving to Budapest for the next two months, says more than the GM title itself, he looks forward to the financial freedom it is likely to bring. “I won the Asian junior championships, the U-25 nationals, the U-17 silver, the U-19 bronze and a few Commonwealth medals, but I couldn’t find a sponsor,” he says. . “My father used to spend all his earnings and savings on my failures. Since the pandemic his business has been hit and he has had to sell some of our assets so that I can continue to travel and play. pandemic situation, I had no choice but to compete overseas to win a GM title. Becoming GM can open up the prospect of participating in cash prize events and I wouldn’t have to worry accommodation and food costs.

While Krishna plans to stay in Europe for the “next two or three months,” Rithvik is likely to return to India later this week. He had sounded his last GM standard with dinner at an Indian restaurant in the Hungarian town with his mother and expects bigger celebrations to await him at home. “Outside of the board, we have all known each other for some time and are good friends,” says Krishna. “We’re happy that one of us hit GM’s target. It pushes the rest of us too.”


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