E. Arjun, India’s 54th Grandmaster , went from being an also-ran to grabbing the limelight in the space of eight months. And the Telangana boy owes his new-found status to Tamil Nadu player S. Jayakumaar with whom he shared a room during the Olympiad (Under-16) championship in Gujarat late last year.

“Yes, that was the first time I went alone for an event. And I am really grateful to him for being so helpful and friendly, sharing all his thoughts on the game and even advising me on how to prepare for the big matches,” says the 14-year-old Arjun, on arrival in Hyderabad on Wednesday.

“Frankly, till then, I was not really sure how to prepare for the big events on my own. That, I feel, was the turning point of my dramatic transformation,” insists the young chess prodigy.

Like many, Arjun too started playing chess for fun before taking it too seriously at the age of eight. And once he went to coach B. Sampath in Warangal and started studying former world champion Anatoly Karpov's games, he was sure that he can be a successful chess player too.

Some of his notable feats include silver in the 2015 Asian under-15 in South Korea, gold in the 2016 National under-13, silver in the National under-15. He also won a double in 2017 Asian under-14 and a silver in the 2017 World Youth (under-14).

Arjun says that he is good in openings and needs to improve a lot in middle and end-games. The 2017 Asian youth championship in Uzbekistan gave him the feel for the first time that he can dream big and chase it too.

Immediate goal

Arjun says he admires Italian-American GM Caruana Fabiano and that his immediate goal is to cross the ELO 2600 rating (his current rating is ELO 2531).

“Definitely, it is an unbelievable experience to be the Grandmaster when I did not even achieve an IM norm at the start of this year. Everything happened so fast and I am grateful to all the coaches including Sampath Sir, A. Sudarshan, Rama Raju and Victor Mikhalevski for making this happen."