Re-writing history

G. Akash (centre), who won the National Premier chess tournament, with the trophy. He is flanked by runner-up Ujrathi (left) and second runner-up GM S. Arun Prasad.-AMITABHA DAS SHARMA G. Akash (centre), who won the National Premier chess tournament, with the trophy. He is flanked by runner-up Ujrathi (left) and second runner-up GM S. Arun Prasad.

“I expected to finish among the top 10, but the title was never within my target,” says G. Akash, India’s youngest National champion. By Amitabha Das Sharma.

The new National chess champion, G. Akash’s ascent to the top was unexpected. The Standard XI student (he is studying computer science) of Jawahar Higher Secondary School in Chennai is the youngest National champion. In fact, he turned 16 on the day the 50th National Championship got underway in Kolkata on October 1. And 14 days later, when he outshone the field with nine points from 13 gruelling rounds, Akash was looked upon as the new chess prodigy of the country.

in doing so, Akash surpassed the reigning World champion, Viswanathan Anand, and India’s second Grandmaster Dibyendu Barua, who were a few months past 16 when they won their maiden National titles.

Interestingly, Barua’s chess academy was a joint organiser of the National Championship, which returned to Kolkata after 36 years.

“I expected to finish among the top 10, but the title was never within my target,” said the soft-spoken champion, who received the International Master title and a Grandmaster norm on winning the National title.

The young champion, who also qualified to represent India in the World Cup, to be held in Tromse, Norway, next year, thanked his stars for winning rather fortuitously. With the unchallenged leader, GM M. R. Venkatesh, defaulting on the ‘zero tolerance’ time rule, things became easy for Akash.

Venkatesh, who looked set for the title, reached the venue four minutes late in round 11, forcing the chief arbiter, R. Anantharam, to declare his opponent, Akash, the winner by default. This rearranged positions and put Aaksh in the lead. “I finished third in the National Challengers, which helped me qualify for this tournament. In the Challengers, I slipped from the lead as I lost twice in the last three rounds. But things surprisingly changed for me here as I came from nowhere to win the crown,” said Akash, who won twice and drew once in the final three rounds at the Nationals.

Starting rather late, at the age of 10, Akash showed remarkable progress becoming the Tamil Nadu State champion in under-13 and under-15 tournaments. The player also won the state under-25 event, giving the first signs of his precocious talent.

“The World Cup is something I never thought about. I will really have to train hard now to get myself to the level,” said Akash, a big fan of the young Norwegian Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen.

“As an Indian I cannot deny the contributions of (Viswanathan) Anand as the world champion. But Carlsen brought in a touch of novelty to the sport, which was so long dominated by older players,” said Akash, who is looking for inspiration from the third youngest Grandmaster in the world.

FACTFILE Name: G. Akash Date of birth: October 1, 1996 Birthplace: Chennai, Tamil Nadu Title: International Master School: Jawahar Higher Secondary School Coach: Grandmaster R. B. Ramesh Hobbies: Badminton and listening to music Idols: Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen

First title: YMCA Rapid Chess Championship (Chennai) at the age of 10

Achievements

• Became the youngest ever to win the Tata National Premier Chess Championship in October 2012 at the age of 16 years and 14 days, beating both Viswanathan Anand and Dibyendu Barua by a few months.

•Won the Tamil Nadu State Championships four times, once each at U-13 and U-15 levels and twice in the U-25 tournament.

Compiled by Priyansh