Raunak Sadhwani becomes India's 65th Grandmaster

In the ninth round, Raunak Sadhwani beat Russia's Alexander Motylev to reach five points, one more than needed, to be a Grandmaster.

Raunak Sadhwani has become a Grandmaster at 13 years, nine months and 28 days.   -  John Saunders

Last October, in the opening round of Chess.com Isle of Man International at Douglas, Viswanathan Anand escaped to a 74-move win over a 12-year-old Raunak Sadhwani, an International Master rated 2438.

“I was very, very lucky to win,” admitted Anand as he reflected on the game where the youngster temporarily gained a winning position. “When I saw the pairing, I knew it could be tough because Sadhwani was ridiculously underrated. And of course, over the board, he played much stronger than his rating. So I feel relieved to have won.”

In fact, a couple of weeks before this game, Anand in an interview had named Sadhwani as one among the country’s incredibly talented youngsters. “My words almost came to haunt me during my game against him,” said Anand in good humour.

Almost one year later, the Nagpur-lad lived up to Anand’s words of praise and played way over his rating to complete the formalities of becoming India’s 65th Grandmaster.

Returning to the same venue for the now-rechristened FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss, Sadhwani gained his third and final Grandmaster norm in style. On Saturday’s ninth round, he stunned Russian GM Alexander Motylev to reach five points – one more than needed – to be a Grandmaster in 13 years, nine months and 28 days.

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Sadhwani, part of the recent training camp for chosen Indian teenagers under former World champion Vladimir Kramnik, entered the world’s strongest Swiss league tournament with a rating of 2479, for a starting rank a distant 129th out of 154 participants.

In nine rounds, Sadhwani faced all Grandmasters rated over 2650, won two, drew six games on the trot and lost one for a performance-rating of 2721 to be placed 43rd. So far, Sadhwani has gained 28 rating points, that takes him past the stipulated rating of 2500 needed to become a GM.

Sadhwani’s first GM norm was came in the 2019 Aeroflot Open and the second in the 2019 Porticcio Open.

For this final norm, Sadhwani started his campaign by upsetting Sanan Sjugirov (Russia, 2662) and drew with sixth seed Sergey Karjakin (Russia, 2760), Surya Shekhar Ganguly (2658), Ivan Sarin (Croatia, 2667), Pavel Eljanov (Ukraine, 2663), Peter Leko (Hungary, 2670) and Gabriel Sargissian (Armenia, 2690) in succession.

Sadhwani’s lone defeat came in the eighth round against Markus Ragger (Austria, 2684) but he quickly made amends in the following round by nailing Alexander Motylev (Russia, 2651).

With this, Sadhwani joins the growing list of country’s teenaged GMs that includes enormously-talented Nihal Sarin, R. Praggnanandhaa and D. Gukesh, among others.