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Raahil Mullick becomes an IM at the age of 12 years and 5 months

by Sagar Shah - 06/11/2019

A lot of chess prodigies are being created in India. Talents like Nihal Sarin, Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh and others have already graduated into stable grandmasters. The next set of Indian super talents are already on their way. Recently, we reported about Bharat Subramaniyam, a Chennai lad who became an IM at the age of 11 years and 8 months. Born in the same year 2007 - we now have another youngster who has made the country proud by becoming an IM at the age of 12 years and 5 months. That's Raahil Mullick from Mumbai. In this article you get to know about this young talent and what makes him special. We also have a game annotated by Raahil which showcases his style of play.

Indian chess is blessed to have many bright generations of chess that has taken it to the level where it is today. Beginning from 1980s we had the generation of Pravin Thipsay and Dibyendu Barua. The duo went on to become the second and third GMs of our country. 90s was the generation of Vishy Anand, who became one of the top players in the world of chess, and inspired the next gen. This consisted of Abhijit Kunte, R.B. Ramesh, Sasikiran, Harikrishna, Ganguly, Chanda, Humpy, etc. Next came guys like Vidit Gujrathi, Adhiban, Sethuraman, Abhijeet Gupta. And then we have Aravindh Chithambaram, Karthikeyan Murali, S.L. Narayanan, Vaibhav Suri, Diptayan Ghosh etc. This in turn motivated the next batch which consists of Nihal Sarin, Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh, Raunak Sadhwani, Iniyan, Prithu Gupta, Arjun Erigaisi and others. This last group are players still between the age of 13 and 17 years old, but you can already sense a next wave of talent coming up - youngsters born in 2007. From a new generation of chess taking over a decade to get created, we have now come to a period where even 2-3 years is like a new generation!

The gen-next of Indian chess - Raahil Mullick and Bharath Subramaniyam, both born in 2007

This is the list of players who are born in 2007 and have the highest Elo in the world. | Source: FIDE

If you look at the list carefully you will see that there are only three IMs (Raahil is shown as CM, and will get his title at the next FIDE Congress). Adelard Bai, who is from Chinese Taipei had an Elo of 2033 in August 2019, but in the last two months has gained a whopping 400 Elo points. The growth of Bharath Subramaniyam, Marc Maurizzi and Raahil Mullick has been more stable. We covered Bharath in an article on our newspage when he became an IM at the age of 11 years and 8 months. Let's get to know more about Raahil.

Raahil Mullick became the latest IM of India on 13th of October 2019. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Born on 29th April 2007, Raahil became an IM at the age of just 12 years 5 months and 14 days old. He made his first IM norm at a closed Round Robin tournament in Serbia in July 2019. The second IM norm came at the Abu Dhabi Chess Festival in August 2019. The final norm was achieved on 13th of October 2019 at the First Saturday GM Round Robin tournament October edition. Raahil achieved his final norm with one round to spare.

Raahil's first IM norm performance at a closed Round Robin event in Serbia, achieving his performance with a round to spare

At the Abu Dhabi Masters Raahil beat two 2600+ GMs to achieve his second IM norm, again with a round to spare!

The interesting thing to note about Raahil's victories against Samvel Ter Sahakyan (2632) and Mustafa Yilmaz (2614) is that they both came in the same opening line of the Najdorf. The first 14 moves of the game were the same. We provide you with the games in replayable format below. For analysis you can check Raahil's interview where he explains both of these games in depth.

We like to call Raahil the Najdorf slayer after these two games!

Raahil with his mother and grandmother at the First Saturday GM - October edition where he made his final IM norm | Photo: Nagy Laszlo

Raahil's third IM norm performance, once again with a round to spare! The interesting thing to note is that Raahil made all his three IM norms with a round to spare!

Hailing from Mumbai, Raahil began playing chess when he was just four years old. His father Prashant taught him the rules of the game. Prashant started playing chess along with Raahil at some events and both father and son became rated players! Raahil achieved his rating in August 2014, while Prashant did so in February 2015. 

Prashant accompanies Raahil to many of the tournaments that the youngster takes part in and sometimes plays in them as well!

Raahil's first trainer was Kuldeep Vhatwar, who inculcated in the youngster the love for chess | Photo: Facebook page of Kuldeep Vhatvar

In 2015, Raahil began training with Amruta Mokal, Prathamesh Mokal and Sagar Shah when he was rated around 1200 on the Elo scale. Amruta and Sagar worked with Raahil in person along with online training from Prathamesh until he became the Commonwealth under-10 championship in 2017.

In 2017, Sagar and Amruta began their one year nomadic journey and Raahil continued working solely with Prathamesh (above). The Pune-based IM is also Raahil's current trainer and helped him reach the IM level.

Speaking to ChessBase India, IM Prathamesh Mokal said, "There are many things which are special in Raahil, among those I can say his passion for chess and his utmost sincerity towards everything he does. He gives 100% to the training sessions hundred percent to the homework and self study and hundred percent to his tournament play. The important thing is that I have been observing him doing all this pretty consistently for the last 4 years. It is not easy to find that kind of dedication these days."

Raahil's analysis

Raahil's main strength as a chess player lies in dynamic play. He is able to understand the essence of the position quickly and takes decisions based on the needs of the situations. Here's an example from his recent tournament where he achieved his final IM norm.

 

Raahil Mullick vs Dragan Kosic, First Saturday Round 5

Black has nearly completed his development and seems to have a comfortable position. How did Raahil create some play? Mind you, it is not the most accurate way to continue but it is creative.

White to move and find the only move that gives him an advantage

The secret of being a strong chess player

Being from the same city as Raahil and seeing him train extensively with Amruta (my wife) and also attending my Saturday class helped me to gain some insights into how a strong chess player develops right from a basic level. Here are a few ingredients that I would like to point out that helped Raahil become a strong chess player.

1. Love for the game of chess

It didn't matter to Raahil what he was doing, what was more important for him at every point was chess! Food came later, chess first!

2. Interest in chess as a whole

There are often many kids who only like to see games related to their openings or if they love attacking chess, they loath studying endgames. But this was not the case with Raahil. Show him anything related to chess and he was interested to learn.

3. Supportive Parents

Prashant and Rupali, Raahil's parents are both Ph.Ds. They have gone through the grind, not in chess or sports, but in their own education and learning. They realize that good things take time to happen. They are patient, highly motivating and this helps Raahil to remain in an excellent frame of mind in whichever tournament he plays.

Rupali, Prashant and Raahil in 2017 after Raahil won the Commonwealth Gold

Rupali, Prashant and Raahil in 2019 at the World Youth Championships! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

4. Dedicated coaches

Raahil has worked with trainers who have been able to give him time and worked with him in a dedicated manner - be it his first coach Kuldeep Vhatvar or Amruta Mokal or Prathamesh Mokal, they have all been motivated to train Raahil.

Analyzing a complex bishop endgame with Amruta. Sometimes these sessions would go on for as long as four hours without a break!

Raahil with his current trainer Prathamesh and friend Avathanshu Bhat

The above picture is one of those rare occasions when Prathamesh and Raahil sat opposite each other for a class in person. As Prathamesh lives in Pune and Raahil in Mumbai (a distance of 200 kms), most of their sessions happen online. Prathamesh ensures that each of his sessions take place on time and almost never cancels them. Regular and systematic work has helped him to pump up Raahil's play to the IM level.

 

Speaking to ChessBase India, Raahil's mother Rupali said, "Raahil has been coaching with Prathamesh Sir since the last 4 years. He has been Raahil's rock solid support and source of knowledge all these years. The best thing about Prathamesh sir is how professional he is and he drives the same behaviour in Raahil. He takes every session with the same seriousness and sincerity and that is also the reason why we see the same trait in Raahil. As a coach, he handles Raahil’s losses and wins very stoically - he has never raised his voice or showed disappointment, and neither has he over praised him so that he goes off track. He helps Raahil focus only on the quality of his game, rather than on the result. This helps him come out of a low very quickly. We are lucky to have Prathamesh Sir in this journey."

5. A school that supports

To play in many tournaments Raahil needs to miss his school, sometimes even his examinations. Dhirubhai Ambami International School has been quite supportive towards the chess career of the young boy. The school has a good chess culture and there are several other strong players from the school who have won medals at the national and international level like Dev Shah, Suhaani Lohia and others.

Abhijit Kunte teaching chess at the Dhirubhai Ambani School at a special training session that was organized in 2017

6. Friends in chess

Sometimes chess can get quite overwhelming. After a bad event, you often do not want to look at the game at all. In such cases it helps to have some friends in chess whom you can meet every now and then, unwind and enjoy.

The Saturday group classes at my place were great fun for Raahil as well as other kids. The main aim of these sessions was to have hardcore chess coupled up with some fun and group activities! This continued until 2017 before Amruta and I left on our 365-day nomadic journey.

The chess group slowly turned into a small family!

7. Training camps by well known coaches

Apart from his regular training with IM Prathamesh Mokal, Raahil also attends camps by well-known IMs and GMs. These camps have helped him add a different dimension to his play and broadened his arsenal. Some of these trainers are - GM R.B. Ramesh, GM Pravin Thipsay, GM Vishnu Prasanna, GM Farrukh Amonatov, GM Aleksandr Goloschapov, GM Evgeny Vladimirov, GM Abhijit Kunte, GM Tejas Bakre and IM Anup Deshmukh.

8. Physical fitness

In order to maintain his stamina and so that he can play long games, Raahil indulges in quite a bit of physical activity. He plays badminton, he cycles quite a lot. Even at this tender age he understands the importance of being physically fit.

9. Ability to absorb new things quickly and apply

Raahil absorbs the new concepts he is taught quickly and is able to apply them in his games. Take for example his performance at the Alekhine Cup in Voronezh, Russia. He lost 41 Elo points and was unable to convert many winning games. In his next four events he started playing much better and gained over 200 Elo points. He just understood the concept of not rushing when he was winning and to look at opponent's counterplay in a more systematic way. Here's an example from the Abu Dhabi Masters 2019:

 

Raahil Mullick vs Ter Sahakyan Samvel, Abu Dhabi Masters 2019

Black has just played his rook to g6. Facing a 2600+ rated opponent, Raahil could pick up the rook and still be much better. But the youngster understood that the rook wasn't doing much, while his knight on h4 was a monster. He just ignored the rook and brought his other rook to f1. Within a few moves he managed to win the game! This ability of Raahil to learn from his mistakes and apply them quickly in his next battles, has helped him improve at a quick pace.

10. Confidence and self-belief

Raahil - the "King"

Nothing big has ever been achieved without self-belief and confidence. Raahil always believes in himself. He is not afraid of facing any opponent. That's why even when he was up against 2600+ rated opponents at the Abu Dhabi Masters, he was not afraid to play the same opening line again! He believed in his analysis and it bore fruit.

Previous coverage of Raahil on ChessBase India

When a 1775 rated plays like a GM!

The youngest 2200 rated player in the world is Raahil Mullick