Bharath Subramaniyam - IM at the age of 11 years and 8 months
Indian chess has been blessed with a spurt of young talents coming up and becoming IMs and GMs at a very tender age. But behind every such accomplishment goes in tremendous hard work and dedication by the player, his parents, coaches and the entire team. Here's the story of Bharath Subramaniyam from Chennai who became an IM at the age of 11 years and 8 months. Bharath is a lively lad, full of laughter and mischief. However, when he sits on the chess board, he is picture of concentration and confidence. In this article we tell you about Bharath's journey, with inputs from his father and also his coach R.B. Ramesh. Pragg and Gukesh couldn't break Karjakin's record of world's youngest GM, but who knows maybe Bharath might be the chosen one!
Bharath Subramaniyam began playing chess by watching and learning from his elder brother Balasubramaniam. Very soon he picked up the game and was put into the T Nagar chess academy on 15th of August 2012. He was just 4 years and 10 months old at that point! AL Kasi, Srinivasa Rangan and Bala were his initial coaches. Bharath played his first tournament in January 2013, a school tournament for kids. He achieved his initial rating of 1008 in 2014. From there on, it was steady progress. Says Hari Shankkar, Bharath's father, "He was a normal kid but he caught everyone's attention was when he won the Tamil Nadu state under 9 title at the age of 6 years and 6 months. It was a well contested event with all the current stars like Gukesh, Pranav.V, Nikhil Magizhnan, Srihari LR, Manish Anto Cristiano and Pranesh taking part."
During July 2014, Bharath moved to Chess Gurukul and was trained by GM RB Ramesh and WGM Aarthie Ramaswamy. Bharath got an opportunity to train with the then FM Praggnanandhaa, WFM Vaishali, IM Aravindh Chithambaram, Akash PC Iyer, Priyanka.K, Mahalakshmi and other stars. In an interview with ChessBase India in 2015, after winning the World under-8 title Bharath had said, "I am being coached by GM R.B. Ramesh and WGM Aarthie Ramesh. We have regular classes, where I attend them with players who are much higher rated than me. For example, GM Aravindh Chitthambaram is also present at those lectures, and being in the same class as him gives me opportunities to understand how higher rated players think. Other than that there are camps conducted by Ramesh Sir before major events. I owe a lot to him for the increase in my calculations and speed. I keep working on the middle game combinations regularly. Before the round I make it a point to solve tactics to get my mind sharp. Also I work for 3-4 hours during events to prepare openings against a particular opponent by looking at his style of play. On regular school days I work on chess for three hours."
It is quite unique that Bharath who was just seven years old back then got to sit in the same class as GMs and IMs. Talking about it, his father said, "We owe a lot to Ramesh sir, as normally lower rated players like Bharath, who was just 1324 in rating, is not allowed to train with IMs and higher rated players.Thanks to this opportunity, Bharath learnt to calculate well and improve his visualization skills. Sometimes, Ramesh made Bharath sit as mute spectator during GM training sessions that he was doing. This was a great opportunity."
During 2015, Bharath won the Asian Under -8 championship held in Korea and also the World under-8 at Greece. In May 2016, Bharath was a bronze medalist in Tamil Nadu state Under-17. Bharath was also a bronze medalist at Nationals Under 9 held in Jalandhar, Punjab. During May 2017, Bharath won the bronze medal at the Tamil Nadu State Junior Championships (under-20). For a nine year old to win a bronze in an under-20 event was truly special. After dominating the age group events for several years, Bharath made his first IM norm in December 2018 at the Sunway Sitges. He achieved his second IM norm at the Dubai Open 2019 and the final one at the Goa GM International 2019. Within seven months of scoring his first IM norm, Bharath had become an IM. As on today Bharath (2405) is world no.3 in under-12 section (rating wise) behind Marc Maurizzi (2412) from France and Siddharth Jagadeesh (2410) from Singapore.
Says Bharath's father, "We are thankful to many people who have supported Bharath. Bharath played a lot of training games with IM Navin Kanna over the last 3 years since 2016. Navin was more like our family member and had spent lot of time playing games, analyzing them with him and giving feedback. He even travelled with Bharath for various tournaments. Apart from Navin, Bharath had been playing with IM Praveen Kumar for a long time too. Recently, he had started playing training games with some GMs too especially Kidambi and Karthikeyan.P. Regular home tournaments were also organized in which International masters were invited to play. All of this helped Bharath to improve his level of play."
From January 2018 onwards, Bharath has started to train with mind sports trainer, Mr. Krishna Prasad. He brought in lot of positive thinking to Bharath's play. Bharath had some psychological issues during games on which Mr. Krishna Prasad started working. There was quite a bit of progress after this and we can directly see it in his results.
Style of Bharath's play:
R.B. Ramesh, Bharath's trainer summarizes the play of his protege in the following words, "Bharath is one of the extremely talented players I have worked with as a coach. As a chess player he is very hard working in classes, loves chess a lot, is always willing to make changes in his thinking process, calculates fantastically without too much effort, fights well in tough situations and very curious to learn and improve. He is very friendly off the board, cracks jokes and makes others laugh. He is also sensitive when others do the same to him!"
Ramesh is not just all praise for the youngster. He feels that Bharath has many things that he can improve in his games, "Bharath should learn to show variety in his opening choices during a tournament, understand the importance of move orders in openings. He is in the process of accumulating lot of knowledge in chess and in due course that will help him a lot."
We were quite curious about Ramesh allowing Bharath to be in the same training session as Aravindh, Pragg, Vaishali and others, even when the youngster was just 1300 rated. What was the thought behind it? "Making young upcoming players to sit alongside strong established players provides an opportunity to the younger players to observe and learn how strong players behave, focus, analyse, approach chess. This will work as long as everyone behaves responsibly in the class and do not disturb the stronger players. If I feel a child is talented then I would prefer to have all the talented, serious players, irrespective of their current level to sit together and learn from each other."
Bharath had annotated two games for ChessBase India back in 2015 when he was just 8 year old. Here are the two games with Bharath's annotations, that show his chess understanding even when he was quite young:
One of the things that I noticed when I went through Bharath's games is that he is not at all afraid to change from advantage to another. And this is a positive trait because it shows his flexible thinking and the ability to assess new positions accurately. Here are a few examples.
Bharath's win against Iniyan at the Dubai Open 2019 showed that the boy is not afraid to indulge into complications right from the opening:
Born in October 2007, Bharath has around 10 months left to eclipse Karjakin's youngest GM record. Whether he will fare better than Pragg or Gukesh in this endeavour is unclear, but we are sure that just like Pragg and Gukesh, Bharath too will become one of the finest GMs of Indian chess in the years to come!
Videos of Bharath: