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Sharan Rao becomes the latest International Master of India

by Shahid Ahmed - 11/08/2023

FM Sharan Rao crossed 2400 in the live ratings on Saturday 15th July at 42nd St. Veiter Jacques Lemans Open 2023 in Austria. After scoring his final IM-norm at Karel Janeček Open, part of 5th Prague International Chess Festival 2023, Sharan finished second at this event and fulfilled the IM title requirements. The Mangalore man earned his first IM-norm at 8th Sunway Sitges Open 2021. Then he secured his second norm at 1st Maharashtra GM Open 2022. He gained a staggering 174.8 Elo rating points in August 2023 FIDE Rating list. Although it must be noted that Prague event concluded on the last date of June. Still, his performance has been extremely impressive, considering the fact that gaining Elo rating points for an adult is not as easy as for someone below the age of 18 years. Photo: Shahid Ahmed

Final IM-norm and 175 Elo rating points in 32 days

Sharan Rao made a great start to 2023 by finishing as the runner-up at Republic Day Cup All India Blitz Open 2023. He became Karnataka State Rapid champion at the end of April. The first overseas triumph of the year occurred in Bulgaria at LJ Slovakia Below 2300 Rating Tournament 2023. Then he delivered a stellar performance at Karel Janeček Open, part of 5th Prague International Chess Festival 2023. Days before becoming India's latest IM, he won 2nd Georgi Rakovski Chess Festival Below 2400 Rating Tournament 2023. In Austria he crossed 2400 in the live ratings and also secured second place at 42nd St. Veiter Jacques Lemans Open 2023. Even after becoming an IM, he did not slow down and performed admirably at 4th Paul Keres Classic Open and Rapid in Estonia. A series of consistent performance by Sharan throughout the year rewarded him handsomely with the International Master. His journey towards the GM title continues at 29th Abu Dhabi Chess Festival 2023 starting in five days from now. 

Sharan Rao became the latest IM of India last month | Photo: Shahid Ahmed

"When I got my first IM norm in Sitges in December 2021, I didn't really know what an IM norm was and how to get one. But ever since then, my only target was to become an IM, guess that's the reason it took me so long to become one. This Europe trip I was mainly targeting to win events and not lose games rather than increasing my rating, looks like that turned out well. Nevertheless, it obviously feels good becoming an IM simultaneously." - Mangalore, Karnataka's Sharan Rao on becoming India's latest IM.

First IM-norm: Sunway Sitges 2021

Sharan scored his first IM-norm at 8th Sunway Sitges Open in 2021. He scored 5.5/10 having a performance of 2480, including wins over GM Arjun Kalyan, IM Dinara Saduakassova (KAZ), IM Irene Kharisma Sukandar (INA), IM Gerard Ayats Llobera (ESP), drew against IM Muhammad Lutfi Ali (INA) and then IM Pedro Antonio Gines Esteo (ESP).

Sharan - Arjun Kalyan, Round 1

Position after 26.Nd7!

26.Nd7 is a fantastic fork by Sharan Rao. He is threatening both Nf6+ another fork and also attacking the b6-pawn. The best response for GM Arjun Kalyan was 26...Qxc2 27.Nf6+ Kh8 28.Rxc2 Rxc2 29.Qa1 Rd2 and Black is very much in the game. 26...Qe7?? 27.Nxb6+- Rxc2 28.Nxc8! forces Black to concede an exchange as Nxe7+ comes with a check. 28...Rxc8 29.Rxc8 and White went on to win the game soon.

Sharan Rao started his 8th Sunway Sitges Open 2021 tournament with a huge victory over GM Arjun Kalyan | Photo: Rupali Mullick

Sharan scored 5.5/10, performed at 2480 and gained 72.2 rating points en route his maiden IM-norm

Second IM-norm: 1st Maharashtra GM Open 2022

Sharan secured his second IM-norm at 1st Maharashtra GM Open 2022. He defeated GM Deepan Chakkravarthy, GM Enamul Hossain (BAN), IM Ortik Nigmatov (UZB), IM Mohammad Nubairshah Shaikh, drew against GM Azer Mirzoev (AZE), GM Van Huy Nguyen (VIE), GM Vishnu Prasanna and IM Neelash Saha, with a performance of 2505. 

Sharan - Deepan, Round 3

Position after 18...Qb6?

18...Qb6? allowed White to do a nice tactic 19.Nac6! Computer says 19.Bxd5 to be better but for a human Nac6 more aesthetically pleasing. 19...Bxd4 20.Qxd4 Rxc6 21.Bxc5 Rxc5 22.Qxc5 Qa5 23.a4 and White won the game in another ten moves.

FM Sharan Rao received his second IM-norm at 1st Maharashtra GM Open 2022 | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

Sharan secured his second IM-norm scoring 7/11, performed at 2505 and gained 68.2 Elo rating points

Third IM-norm: Karel Janeček Open, 5th Prague International Chess Festival 2023

FM Sharan Rao made a blazing start 4.5/5 at Karel Janeček Open part of 5th Prague International Chess Festival 2023. He defeated IM Ameya Audi, IM Yahli Sokolovsky (ISR), drew against GM Mitrabha Guha and IM Jakub Kosakowski (POL) with a performance of 2544 and gained 66.12 Elo rating points.

Sokolovski - Sharan, Round 9

Position after 12...Qxb2

IM Yahli Sokolovsky (ISR, 2464) grabbed Black's knight at h6 12.Bxh6. Sharan responded sharply 12...Qxb2. 13.Nd2 Nxe5 14.Qg3 Nxd3 15.Qxd3 Qxc3 16.Qe2 d3 17.Qf3 gxh6 18.Nb3 Bc6 19.Rac1 Qb4 20.Red1 Bb6 21.Qxf7 Rd7 22.Qxe6 Qd6 23.Qe1 Rhxh7 Black converted his positional advantage into a material one with precise play. He won the game in another nine moves.

FM Sharan Rao with his third and final IM-norm certificate | Photo: Prague International Chess Festival

FM Sharan Rao scored 7/9, gained 66.12 Elo rating points en route his final IM-norm

Live rating 2400+ : 42nd St. Veit Jacques-Lemans Open 2023

FM Sharan Rao fulfilled the last hurdle of rating at 42nd St. Veiter Jacques Lemans Open 2023 A in Austria. He scored an unbeaten 7.5/9 to finish second and cross 2400 in the live ratings when he defeated Sebastian Hoffman (GER) in the final round of the tournament.

Sharan Rao with his second prize at 42nd St. Veiter Jacques Lemans Open 2023 after becoming India's latest IM last month

"Initially I had been going to Derik's Chess School until the year 2013 where Mr.Prasanna Rao and Mr.Derik Pinto motivated me into the game of chess. Mr.Arvind Shastry helped me in the year 2014, after that I went into studies and lost track of chess until 2018. Now mostly it's just me and my laptop sitting for hours and hours. But sometimes I had my friend, Dhrikshu Vasant with who I used to play some blitz practice games over the board all night long relating some interesting openings." - Sharan on whom he is currently working with.


"I'm playing a few more tournaments in Europe until July end, August onwards will mostly take some break and focus on my students performance, whom I have left hanging when I was playing in Europe." - Sharan's answer on what's next for him (He answered these immediately after becoming India's latest IM after 15th July 2023).

Replay Sharan's games


The game that helped Sharan Rao win Rs.90,000! | Video: ChessBase India
My opponent was a little confused - FM Sharan Rao on beating GM Deep Sengupta | Video: ChessBase India
FM Sharan Rao (2274) defeats another Grandmaster at the 1st Maharashtra International Open 2022 | Video: ChessBase India
These three gentlemen won Rs.2,10,000 among them at the Gujarat GM International 2018 B-group | Video: ChessBase India