Checkmate queen: Meet Velpula Sarayu, a 17-year-old chess player from Warangal

CE speaks with 17-year-old chess player Velpula Sarayu who is making heads turn with her recent Grandmaster-level performance
​  Velpula Sarayu,currently ranked 6 in India, is a former National Under-13 Girls champion (2019) and National Under-17 Girls runner-up (2023)  ​
​ Velpula Sarayu,currently ranked 6 in India, is a former National Under-13 Girls champion (2019) and National Under-17 Girls runner-up (2023) ​

HYDERABAD: Velpula Sarayu, a 17-year-old chess player from Warangal, Telangana has made some ripples in the chess world with her Grandmaster-level performance ratings that rose sharply in just three months. Sarayu, currently ranked 6 in India, is a former National Under-13 Girls champion (2019) and National Under-17 Girls 2023 runner-up. At the World Youth championships 2019, she  beat Divya Deshmukh.
She started playing chess at the age of 10, a game introduced to her by her father and has beaten strong Indian talents such as IM Vaishali Rameshbabu, WGM Divya Deshmukh, WGM V Varshini, and WIM Savitha Shri. 

However, this year she has made some headlines with her remarkable performance. She started with an 1845 FIDE rating just three months ago and played one national game National Women’s Championship in Gujarat, which increased her rating by 96 Elo points. 

Velpula has long been considered highly underrated after lacking tournament practice in India, according to Chessbase India. “I expected her to get WIM and WGM norms, but this performance really amazed me as well. She is a player who loves chess the most. She has good discipline, patience, and parents who really help her enjoy the game,” her coach IM Krishna Teja told

Analysing her sudden rise in rankings, she attributes it to her calculation skills and her ability to handle pressure. She says she doesn’t have any specific training for each tournament; instead, her coach prepares her based on the opponent list. Mentally preparing for tournaments involves focusing on chess as her main priority and avoiding unnecessary pressure, according to Sarayu. “I used to do some mental and breathing exercises earlier but now I mainly practice pranayama during tournaments,” she said. In three international tournaments in Europe (Monteolivete Open, Pontevedra Masters and Leca Chess Open), she gained 120 points in the first tournament, 211 points in the second one, and 131 points in the third, bringing her rating to 2387. At the Pontevedra Open, she scored 6.5/9, secured second place and earned her maiden IM, WGM and WIM-norm, a rare feat for any Indian player in recent times. 

Before August, she played in the 18th IGB Dato Arthur Tan Malaysian Open Tournament 2023 with a rating of 2051 and increased it by 114 points, resulting in her live rating now being 2501, Sarayu told CE. Facing challenges is a part of her journey, and she is motivated by her goals. Acknowledging that positional chess is challenging for her, she is convinced that given extra practice and training, she would improve in all aspects. “I learn from my opponents during tournaments and my playing style is attacking. My favourite chess opening is the Sicilian,” she said.

On being asked how she adapts her game to different opponents, she replied, “I play without thinking too much about the result and focus on enjoying the game. I sometimes feel stressed during important matches but remind myself to concentrate on the game.”

We asked if she has any role models or whether she sees herself getting influenced by any of the remarkable players, to which she sharply replied, “I don’t have any role models. Although, I do get inspired by watching young Indian chess players like Gukesh D and R Praggnanandhaa.”

When asked how she got interested in chess and when she started, she mentioned that she began playing at the age of 10 when her father taught her to move the pieces. Since then, she has continued playing chess and has made it her priority. She spends most of her day at Velocity Academy in Hyderabad, training under Krishna Teja.

As someone who gives her undivided attention to the game, she says she only goes to school to write exams and does not really attend classes. At the academy, a usual day looks like taking chess lessons from 10 AM to 1 PM, followed by game analysis and guidance from her coach. She also studies openings during this time.

She said her short-term goal is to become a Woman Grandmaster (WGM), and her long-term goal is to become a Grandmaster. Her biggest support comes from her family, including her father, her mother (a homemaker), and her twin sister. Her advice for young chess enthusiasts, especially girls, is to enjoy playing chess without focusing too much on the results.

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The New Indian Express