2017 has been a good year for Indian chess. There are six male players in the World Top 100, and three female chess players in the World Top 100. While Baskaran Adhiban has had an excellent run over the past two years, and Harika Dronavalli has impressed with bronze at the World Women’s Championships of 2017 with a bronze medal, Vidit Santosh Gujrathi’s rise has been meteoric.
The 22-year-old from Nashik has taken the chess world by storm recently by holding World Champion Magnus Carlsen to a draw at the Isle of Man Open, which has made the world sit up and take note of his achievements. After finishing first in Team Solvay at the Spanish Higher League held in Linares in August 2017, Gujrathi became only the fourth Indian ever to cross the 2700 ELO rating mark, certified by FIDE, the world body for chess, and in the process, rose to 41st in the World Chess rankings.
Vidit Gujrathi started off quite young, winning the 2008 World Youth Chess Championships in the U-14 category, blitzing through to 9 points out of a possible 11, thus becoming an International Master. In 2009, he almost repeated his feat, eventually coming second to another Indian S.P. Sethuraman, in the U-16 category.
With incredible runs in the World Junior Chess Championships in 2011 and 2013—he won the bronze medal in 2013 at Turkey—Vidit firmly established himself as the next big thing in Indian chess. He earned his second and his third GM norms with 8 points out of 11 at the 2011 Nagpur International Open, and a third-place finish at the 2012 Rose Valley Kolkata Open Grandmaster’s Chess tournaments respectively, before joining internationally renowned chess player Anish Giri’s preparatory team of seconds.
In 2016, Vidit Gujrathi was part of the Indian team which stood fourth at the World Chess Olympiad in Baku, which came as another major milestone in Gujrathi’s career. Vidit has also been fortunate enough to have gained valuable experience under the tutelage of Grandmasters like Alon Greenfeld and Evgeny Vladimirov, both of whom have contributed to his growth and maturity as a chess player.
Vidit has reached new peaks of success in 2017. He won the bronze medal at the Asian Continental Championships, a 9 round Swiss tournament held in May in China, with five straight victories, and only one loss, to eventual winner Hao Wang. It guaranteed him a place at the 2017 Chess World Cup. At this tournament held in Georgia, Vidit Gujrathi did well to beat higher ranked opponent Lê Quang Liêm by scoring 11/2 points to his ½ point.
He progressed to the third round of section eight, where he was beaten by eventual silver medallist Ding Liren—a considerably better performance compared to Vishwanathan Anand’s second round exit. At the recently concluded Isle of Man Open, Vidit finished in joint third position, just one point behind champion Magnus Carlsen.
In a very heartfelt statement immediately after his last match at the Isle of Man tournament, Vidit spoke about how good it felt to earn adulation and encouragement from the current World Champion Magnus Carlsen. Reportedly, Carlsen was overheard talking to fellow Norwegian Tarjei Joten Svensen about how he counted himself lucky enough to get away with a draw against Vidit. For the biggest name within the Chess circut to praise the 22-year old Indian so- it is not at all surprising that Vidit considered it his biggest takeaway from the tournament.
Nonetheless, while Vidit himself may be modest enough to say that Elo points do not particularly matter to him, the fact remains that after the Isle of Man tournament, he is currently with a live rating of 2721.2. Finishing at 6.5 out of a possible 9 points is no mean feat. And this tournament has ensured that Vidit, currently ranked 3rd among Indians in the FIDE rankings list, reached a high ranking of World No 34 after gaining 8 Elo points from this tournament.
Though nobody can predict the future, Gujrathi’s consistent performance over the last 18 months has proved that he can hold his own against some feared opponents. Here’s hoping that this young Grandmaster goes on to bring greater glory to himself and to his country.