Grandmaster at 15,Vaibhav makes rapid moves

It’s difficult to guess the voice on the other end is of a 15-year-old. Or,15 years,2 months,and 22 days-old to be precise

Written by Shivani Naik | Mumbai | Published:May 4, 2012 12:13 am

It’s difficult to guess the voice on the other end is of a 15-year-old. Or,15 years,2 months,and 22 days-old to be precise — the figure that makes Delhi boy Vaibhav Suri the 27th youngest Grandmaster in the world. The boy gushes about Tigran Petrosian’s playing style when quizzed on his inspirations. He speaks solemnly about the Armenian chess wizard from the 1960s,whose masterly positional exchange sacrifice system of lulling opponents and then pouncing he has extensively read about.

Soon,it’s evident that he reads as much for fun as learning. Vaibhav explains how softwares are the preferred mode of chess-education these days,but he likes lingering on old classical games of those marvellous Russians in book pages,because that helps him understand the chess-as-life metaphor better. Finally,his father Nitin Suri wonders how his teenage kid has deftly side-stepped the temptation of getting himself a Facebook account,abhors socialising,and generally prefers his books and laptop — all of it building up a picture of a wiser-than-his-years Vaibhav.

Until,of course,he starts discussing Harry Potter. Not Ronald Wealsey,Potter’s buddy who is facile at chess,but the hero Potter — who cracks fantastical mysteries and is all brave and courageous. Vaibhav then proceeds to correct a stereotypical assumption with disarming honesty: “I train only for 3-4 hours max. 7-8 hours would be too much to sit in one place. Maybe Vishy Anand and all those big Grandmasters put in that sort of preparation playing important meets. I’m not that level.” Not yet.

But Vaibhav is smart enough to not fall into the trap of taking ‘youngest’ labels often attached to the newest chess prodigy. The Class 10 student is indeed India’s youngest GM. “It feels good for a few minutes. But then in some years I won’t be the youngest,” he says matter-of-factly,adding,“Best to move on,and look forward to how to improve my rating in the future.”

It was in June 2010 that he picked his first GM norm,but there were a few frustrating losses in between the IM norm and cracking the GM puzzle. “Initially I struggled because I was new to the IM strength,so the first few months had many losses. But I persisted and worked harder on my game to get the second norm at Visakhapatnam.” And,finally,he crossed the threshold by winning the 3rd Luc Open at Salle Debeyre in Lille,France,last Sunday,defeating four GMs and drawing four on his way to the title and the 2500-mark.

Early start

Vaibhav started playing chess at 9,and within six months of learning the game from his sister,he started beating her — and their father — regularly. “My business kept me away from my family for 12-14 hours a day. Chess was like a get-together for our family of 4,the only sport in which all of us could be involved,” remembers Nitin.

The young Vaibhav then moved to professional coaches. With Ukrainian GM Alexander Goloschapov training him,Suri wants to reach an ELO rating of 2600 soon. But with the boards-year sneaking upon his idyllic chess world,he might need to take time out for studies. “He gets good grades but he’s not a 90 percent kid. We’re happy he enjoys chess,and will support him in every way,though we’ve told him about the pros and cons of taking it up as a career,” mother Vandana says.

But Vaibhav has made up his mind. “I’m pursuing chess seriously,” he declares — the next month devoted to following Anand-Gelfand on the net. The boy also admires Magnus Carlsen besides the Indian legend he hopes to meet some day. “And I like Barcelona’s football. Their style’s as beautiful as chess.”

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