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Karthikeyan Murali: Struggling in studies to youngest Indian in Chess World Cup

Karthikeyan Murali is the youngest Indian Grandmaster in the Chess World Cup but the 19-year-old has credited the game for turning around his struggling academic career

other sports Updated: Aug 17, 2017 23:41 IST
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Chess World Cup,Viswanathan Anand,Karthikeyan Murali
Karthikeyan Murali will be the youngest Indian Grandmaster to feature in the Chess World Cup that will begin in Georgia on September 2.(HT Photo)

Chess is considered the ultimate brain game. For Karthikeyan Murali, a youngster from Chennai, it is a life changer. Before he took up chess, he was struggling in academics. When he started playing at the age of five, his grades improved. His improvement in studies coincided with chess success. Such has been his progress that Karthikeyan has secured qualification for the Chess World Cup to be held in Georgia in September.

What makes Karthikeyan’s achievement notable is that at age 19, he is the youngest Indian Grandmaster to play in the tournament. The 2017 Chess World Cup features seven Indian Grandmasters, including top Indian players like Viswanathan Anand and Pentala Harikrishna.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, Karthikeyan said chess helped him improve in studies. “In earlier days, when I was in second and third standard at Velammal School, I could not concentrate and I struggled to memorise. I could not understand anything. When I started playing, I could implement whatever I learnt in the game in my academics and there was improvement,” Karthikeyan said.

The 19-year-old said, “When I reached 10th standard, I became International Master and secured 93 per cent. I did not look back and in 12th standard, I scored 95 per cent.”

Academics plus international success

Karthikeyan’s academic improvement spurred him for more success in chess. In 2011, he won the U-12 World Championship held in Caldas Novas, Brazil. In 2013, he won the U-16 World Youth Chess Championship in Al Ain, and in 2014 he helped India win the U-16 Olympiad gold in Gyor, Hungary. That same year, he completed all the requirements to become a Grandmaster.

Speaking about his success, Karthikeyan said, “Winning the U-12 world championship gave me more opportunities to play in international tournaments. The win in the U-16 World Cup was special because it was a tough tournament. There were two Grandmasters and four International Masters,” he added.

National dominance

In addition to international success, Karthikeyan had performed wonderfully in national tournaments. In 2015, he defeated Vidit Gujrathi in the National Premier Chess Championship in Tiruvarur. He won the national championship in 2016 by defeating Gujrathi again. Karthikeyan said the win in 2015 equipped him to handle pressure.

“In 2015, I had lost the first couple of games. I made a comeback and then I maintained the momentum to clinch the title. In 2016, I had some luck. Due to the mistakes of my opponent, I managed to secure the title. The win in 2015 made me realise that I could perform,” Karthikeyan added.

‘Greatest tournament’

Karthikeyan is also the fourth youngest player overall to feature in this tournament. The Chess World Cup will feature 128 players in a knock-out system. The two players who enter the final secure direct entry into the Candidates tournament in 2018 that determine who will play the current world champion.

The 19-year-old said he is trying to improve in several areas. “The format of the tournament is such that you can get eliminated early. The World Cup is one of the greatest tournaments. If I reach anywhere between round five or eight, it will be great,” Karthikeyan said.

First Published: Aug 17, 2017 19:25 IST