Prodigious chess player Nihal Sarin, was adjudged the BYJU's 'Young Athlete of the Year (Male)' at the Sportstar Aces Awards 2022 on March 19.
Starting this month, Sportstar will track the progress of the BYJU’s Young Athletes – Esha and Nihal Sarin, throughout the year. We will bring you their updated rankings, highlights from the past month, expert views on their latest performances and more.
Nihal Sarin played three tournaments in April: the Fagernes Open in Norway, Menorca Open in Spain, and the Bundesliga in Germany.
He finished inside the top 10 in both Norway and Spain. At the Fagernes Open he finished sixth, while in Spain, he took the eighth place though he was just half-a-point behind the champion.
At the Bundesliga, the world’s most prestigious chess league, he debuted for Hamburger SK in the Bundesliga. He scored a significant victory against World No. 7 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.
The month saw the 17-year-old from Kerala playing 18 games; he won nine of them, lost one and drew eight.
Nihal has also won two rounds at the ongoing online junior Speed Chess, in which he is the two-time defending champion.
Nihal says things started a bit slowly for him in April. “In March I had done well to finish second in Belgrade, which was among the strongest events of the year but somehow April started a bit slowly in the Fagernes Open in Norway,” he elaborates. “I tried to play interesting chess but somehow I was always trying too hard – it was not flowing.”
He says things started getting better with the Menorca Open in Spain. “A couple of games I ended up drawing, but slowly things were beginning to fall in place,” he says. “I played well in the last couple of games there. Things got set perfectly by the time I reached Germany for the Bundesliga.”
His best game of the month was of course the win against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. “I prepared well, I was feeling good and also I found a nice variation during my pre-game preparation where I can push him to make mistakes without taking too many risks myself,” he says. “It went as per plan. As soon as the main opening theory ended, he offered me a draw on move 24. I thought I could keep putting him under pressure instead, so I declined and kept pressing. I won a pawn but it wasn’t much of an advantage for me. But he eventually went wrong and his position started crumbling.”
It was Nihal’s first win against a World top 10 in classical time control. In faster time controls he has already beaten top players.
He is currently undergoing the Indian team’s training camp for the Chess Olympiad in Chennai. “And I am defending my Junior Speed Chess titles online,” he says. “After that I will be playing at the Sharjah Open, followed by the French League in June first half and a strong closed tournament in Armenia. Then we may have another camp before the Olympiad July-August.”
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