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13-year-old Sreeshwan Maralakshikari is now an International Master

by Sagar Shah - 27/07/2019

This is a story that will warm your heart. It begins with a 13-year-old youngster from Hyderabad, who has a rating of 2462 and two IM norms. Born in 2006, Sreeshwan is definitely one of India's biggest chess talents. While on the chess board things were going great for Sreeshwan, off the board, his family was unable to afford the increasing expenses of his booming chess career. His coaching was cut down and since the last six months he had only played in one tournament. That's when a samaritan from Mumbai came forward to support Sreeshwan's talent by sponsoring his trip to Spain. The youngster travelled to Spain via the ChessBase India Power Group Tour and at the Sant Marti Open 2019 made his third and final norm to become an IM!

I sat down there with glee in my eyes. There is definitely an element of fun when you put a young talent to test. Sitting next to me was 13-year-old youngster Sreeshwan Maralakshikari. Hailing from Hyderabad with a rating of 2462, Sreeshwan is one of India's best talents at chess. But I was not 100% convinced. These days with k=40, it is quite possible that young talents have two or three good events and their rating simply sky rockets. Yes, his rating was quite high for someone who was just 13 years old, but did he also have the skills to back it up? I decided to pose Sreeshwan with a talent test. In the past I have done this with Praggnanandhaa, when he was just an IM. Pragg was simply sublime as he solved one position after another in the hour long test. A year and a half later it was now Sreeshwan's turn. The positions were different, but the aim was the same. To see how quickly the youngster could find the answers to the testing problems. 39 minutes into the test I gave Sreeshwan the Yuri Bazlov study:

White to play and win 

This is quite a tough study, but after just one minute, Sreeshwan says that he has found out the answer! He blitzes out Ne3+ Ke4 Nxg2 Nxg2+ Kf2 and then pauses for a bit and continues ...Nf4

And here Sreeshwan managed to find the sly move Re1+! Kf5 Nxf4 Bc3!

Now it was not so easy to find the move, but Sreeshwan was extremely quick. He spotted Rc1! Bd2 Rc5+ Kxf4 and Ke2!

With a big smile on the face Sreeshwan announced that the bishop was trapped! And indeed it was.

To figure out all these complexities, Sreeshwan hardly took three minutes. It simply convinced me about the tremendous capability this young boy has!

In December 2018, Sreeshwan had made his maiden IM norm at the Lorca Open in Spain

Sreeshwan with his first IM norm

Immediately in the next tournament after Lorca Open, Sreeshwan scored his second IM norm at Roquetas De Mar 2019 in Spain

With two IM norms and an Elo of 2462, Sreeshwan was all set to get his IM title. However, financially things were not so great for the youngster. Ashok Maralakshikari, Sreeshwan's father had lost his job and was finding it difficult to sustain his son's booming chess career. Pursuing Sreeshwan's chess career with the same vigour had become impossible. The December 2018 Europe trip was made possible because of the money collected on the Gofundme website. Here Sreeshwan was, in the best shape of his career, but he wasn't able to participate in tournaments due to the lack of funds. Between January and July, the Hyderabad' lad had played only one tournament - the Asian Youth 2019 for which his costs had been covered by the Government of India. He won the gold in the under-14 section.

 

In April 2019, Avathanshu Bhat from ChessBase India wrote an article on Sreeshwan's past exploits and let the chess world know about his financial situation. That's when some donors came forward and contributed small amounts towards Sreeshwan's growth. On 18th of April 2019, a donor from Mumbai, who wishes to remain anonymous, contributed Rs. 2,00,000 for Sreeshwan to travel to Barcelona for the Catalan circuit in July and August. The donor felt that the worst thing that can happen and should be avoided at all costs is a talent getting wasted due to the lack of support. With his support the Catalan circuit was planned for Sreeshwan through the ChessBase India Power Group Tour.

Sreeshwan sat down on the board to play a classical open tournament after nearly six months | Photo: Niklesh Jain

In the first tournament - Barbera Del Valles, his rustiness showed and Sreeshwan couldn't make his final IM norm:

Sreeshwan finished 20th and lost nine Elo points at the Barbera Open 2019

The Barbera tournament didn't end so well. From the next day itself Sant Marti was about to begin. By now Sreeshwan was in his groove. He began with 4.5/5 and in the seventh round the win against IM Steven Geirnaert ensured that he achieved his third IM norm. 

Sreeshwan's final norm performance at the Sant Marti

Sreeshwan with his final IM norm certificate along with Diana Ruth

Speaking to ChessBase India after Sreeshwan's IM title, Ashok Kumar Maralakshikari (Sreeshwan's father) said, "I would like to thank all the donors who came forward, especially the anonymous donor who contributed Rs.2,00,000. I would also like to thank Microsense who sponsored my wife's expenses to accompany Sreeshwan to Spain. Without the support of all these people it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to make this trip. I am very happy that my son is now an IM."

Microsense Networks has come forward to support Sreeshwan's chess career. A corporate sponsor is sure to boost the youngster's chess career.

After the tournament ended we asked Sreeshwan to send us his favourite tournament from Sant Marti tournament. The boy sent us his win over Lopez Gonzalez. The game began as an exchange Slav, but very soon there were quite some fascinating complications. In the game below you will see Sreeshwan's annotations and you also get to see his chess understanding.

A big congratulations to Sreeshwan's family for persevering hard and making sure that their son fulfills his promise. Now onwards to the GM title!

Sreeshwan is now playing in the Sitges open and after four rounds is on 3.0/4. We will keep you updated. Perhaps, he might make his first GM norm there!

Sreeshwan videos on ChessBase India YouTube Channel

Sreeshwan's talent test with IM Sagar Shah
Interview with Ashok Maralakshikari, Sreeshwan's father
Checking the talent of Sreeshwan Maralakshikari
Sreeshwan's interview after beating Vassily Ivanchuk
Gold medal winner at the Commonwealth 2018 in the under-12 section