KOCHI: While the pandemic-hit 2020 has been challenging for most people, for young chess prodigy Nihal Sarin, it produced a string of successes, the latest being a gold in the FIDE U-18 World Youth Chess Championship.
The Indian Grandmaster from Kerala is making a habit of winning whichever tournament he takes part in and it was his sixth major individual silverware this year ensuring he goes into 2021 on a high.
In the final of the U-18 category of the FIDE online World Cadets and Youth Rapid Chess Championship, he beat GM from Armenia Sargsyan Shant, who was also the third seed.
"The finals were indeed very difficult. In the first game, I had to dig deep and defend tenaciously, while in the second game, although I was dominating for the most part, the game swung wildly under time pressure. I had to be very resourceful to find a way out and come out on top," said Nihal.
The 16-year-old said that unsurprisingly it was Shant who was the toughest opponent that he had come up against in the whole tournament.
In the past three months, Nihal has won four titles, and even though he has not decided on the next competition he will participate in, the plan is to sustain the winning habit.
"I'm very happy about ending this year well. Hope it gets better next year," he said.
After landing a silver for India at the Asian Team Championship, he won gold at the Chess Olympiad. He was the winner of the Karpov Trophy after beating multiple Grandmasters including Etienne Bacrot in the quarterfinal, Ivan Cheparinov in the semifinal, and Ivan Cheparinov in the final.
He then went on to win the Junior Speed Chess Championship as well as the ChessBase India Super Juniors Cup before the latest gold.
"I do not really think about ranking my victories," he said, when asked about where he would rank this latest triumph.
In terms of preparations for the championship, Nihal says that it was just the usual tried and tested methods.
"It was just the usual stuff. Prepare openings with computers, with trainer and just focus. The tournament was online and that was the main difference (compared to normal circumstances), but since I'm used to playing online chess, I was not perturbed by it," he said.
India had a good outing in the championship with GM D Gukesh and Women International Master (WIM) Rakshitta Ravi also clinching gold. Meanwhile, Mrinmoy Rajkhowa pocketed a bronze medal in the U-10 Open group.
"Three golds are very nice considering that it was online and hence a very different experience for a lot of young children," he concluded.