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Aditya Mittal’s inspirational journey of becoming an IM at the age of 12

by Paras Gudka - 18/03/2019

Born in September 2006, Aditya Mittal became an IM at the age of 12 years and 5 months when he achieved his final norm at the Aeroflot Open 2019. Even though it's just been seven years since Aditya started playing chess, the story of his achievements from a beginner to a master is worth narrating. ChessBase India author Paras Gudka made his way to Aditya's home in Mumbai and sat down with the boy and his family to know about one of India's brightest chess talents. Aditya's life is a story of grit and determination. In spite of innumerable obstacles, the boy overcame each one of them and has emerged victorious. A famous Indian GM made a prediction in 2016 that Aditya is so talented he would become a GM in six years. The way he is progressing, we think it might just take him three!  

Born on 19th September 2006 Aditya Mittal is just 12 years and 5 months old. He became India's latest IM when on 27th February 2019 Aditya scored his final IM norm at the Aeroflot Open 2019 

Fortune favours the brave - The fearless Aditya Mittal

In June 2018, 12-year-old Candidate Master Aditya Mittal had an accident where he slipped and fell on the wet floor of a temple in Ahmedabad just before the penultimate round of the Under-13 national championships. He was in excruciating pain and had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Even in such a dire situation, all he could think of was his next game where he would be up against Delhi’s Aaryan Varshney, the eventual winner of the tournament.

 

Unfortunately, it was learnt that he had suffered fracture in one leg and left forearm. He was operated and was advised complete rest for 2-3 months, which meant lying flat on his back for the first few months with the plaster, followed by rigorous physiotherapy sessions to regain muscle mass. The immediate future, as far as his chess is concerned, looked grim for the little champ but did he take it lying down or did he rise to the occasion? Considering that he scored his IM norms in three consecutive tournaments between December 2018 and February 2019 and is now Mumbai and India’s latest International Master, the answer is obvious. 

Aditya's phenomenal rating growth. As on March 2019 his Elo is 2454 | Source: FIDE

How did it all begin though? According to Aditya’s parents Nitish and Kusum, he was a bright child and from a very young age and before he had even turned five, he was already playing chess after receiving basic instructions from his elder brother Vinayak and putting together puzzles of 250-300 pieces in no time at all. Within six months of beginning training under his first coach, Sanjay Chhabra, in Gurgaon where the Mittals lived, Aditya was fortunate enough to play against GM Viswanathan Anand at a simultaneous exhibition organised by NIIT in Rajasthan. When asked if he remembers the event, he gushed, ‘Yes, I was on top of the world and it was a great feeling because Anand is the idol of any chess player in India.’ He was just five-and-a-half years old then.

Five and a half-year-old Aditya Mittal takes on Vishy Anand in a simul 

From here, he started participating in tournaments and even came first in the under-7 category in a district tournament in Gurgaon before going on to become the state champion. In 2012, Nitish, an employee of Indian Oil Corporation, was transferred to Mumbai and Aditya got to participate in his first national championship in Pondicherry where he represented Haryana. After moving to Mumbai, the six-year-old began training with a new coach, Prasad Ghate.

Aditya with his first coach in Mumbai Prasad Ghate

Aditya’s first big break came in 2013 when, as an unrated player, he won the under-7 national championship in Pune despite having missed the final round, also due to a fracture. Wanting Aditya to progress further, his parents sought out Chennai-based TJ Suresh Kumar to coach him through to the next stage. Their investment paid off when Aditya won the bronze medal in the under-8 Open category at the 2014 Asian Youth Championship in Uzbekistan and received the title of Candidate Master as a result.

Coach TJ Suresh Kumar helped Aditya to take his game to the next level

He wasn’t as fortunate at the 2014 World Youth Championship in South Africa, going medal less but finishing in top 6. He later participated in the 2015 and 2016 editions of the Asian Youth Championship in South Korea and Mongolia, respectively, winning medals in both. For a short period, Aditya was trained by Chennai-based IM P Karthikeyan and Mumbai-based GM Pravin Thipsay, who further chiselled his natural talent for the game into championship material.

GM Pravin Thipsay wrote this article in 2016 predicting that Aditya should become a GM in six years. Well, it seems like the youngster will achieve this feat in half the time!

Buoyed by his potential, well-known Mumbai-based organiser and coach Praful Zaveri encouraged the Mittals to start taking Aditya to international tournaments as he was sure that he would do well. Nitish and Kusum made sure he was ready for the intense competition at that level by progressively entering him in C, B and A category tournaments in India. They also made sure that his studies weren’t being affected adversely before he could go international.

In August 2016, Aditya participated in his first open tournament outside India—the Abu Dhabi International Masters Tournament—where he managed to score 2.5 points from 9 games. By this time he was rated 2140 and set on achieving his goal of becoming a Grand Master. After Abu Dhabi in 2016, Aditya’s next international tournaments were the Sharjah and Dubai international opens in 2017 where a collective gain of 28 Elo points saw him breach the 2200 mark for the first time. Ukrainian coach GM Alexander Goloshchapov was roped in from 2017 when it was clear that Aditya was finally ready to take a stab at the IM title in a very serious way. A slew of international appearances followed in Poland, the Czech Republic, Malaysia and even Russia before his unfortunate accident in Ahmedabad.

 

Aditya’s phenomenal rise in chess did not escape the notice of the top-most levels of Indian bureaucracy and in November 2016, on the occasion of Children’s Day, he was presented with the ‘National Child Award for Exceptional Achievement in Sports’ by non-other than the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.

The National Child Award for exceptional achievement in sports medal - now this is something you cherish for a lifetime!

What have been the main obstacles to his growth as a chess player? With both his parents working full-time, it hasn’t been easy accompanying Aditya to coaching camps and tournaments. His health and lack of finances have proved challenging as well. Luckily for the Mittals, sponsorship from a Pune based NGO called Lakshya Sports with the support of Sony Pictures India has been helping them offset about thirty per cent of the costs incurred in coaching and tournament related expenses. It goes without saying that getting some more financial help is critical and will support Aditya in a big way and make him reach his goal of becoming a GM faster.

Aditya's sponsors Lakshya and Sony Pictures Networks have supported his chess career in a big way 

Aditya hasn’t been as lucky with his health though – already having had to abandon two tournaments at their tail ends due to fractures. With his most recent injuries, he also had to give up on opportunities to participate in tournaments in Europe that had already been planned for. Despite these challenges, Aditya didn’t wallow in self-pity and instead kept practising by himself, first on his laptop during two months of bed rest and then with the help of Thane based IM Rakesh Kulkarni who would visit his home in Goregaon whenever possible. Unwavering support from family, friends, his school -Vibgyor High, Malad (East), and well-wishers during these trying times has also helped immensely.

 

In October 2018, after almost four months of not participating in any tournaments, they decided to enter him in the first international tournament in Goa and see if he could play while on a wheelchair. He scored 6 points from 10 games in the Category A event, defeating two IMs and drawing against one GM. It was just as well that he got this experience as in his next three tournaments—the EKA IIFL International in Mumbai, the Delhi International and the Aeroflot Open in Moscow—he was still bound to a wheelchair but it didn’t stop him from achieving the three IM norms and a rating of 2400 Elo points that he required to become India’s latest International Master.

The Goa GM International where Aditya made a strong comeback to chess with 6.0/10 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The dream team - Aditya with his mother Kusum | Photo: Mumbai IIFLW 2018-19 | Photo: IIFLW 2018-19

How did he celebrate after accepting a draw in the final game in Moscow that made him an IM? By playing blitz games against his opponent, Gukesh D. That is how much he and the other Indian youngsters making their mark in the chess world love this game! On asking Aditya of his future plans, he was quick to reply that he wants to become a Grand Master in the next six months. Depending on his recovery, his fans might see him back in action in the Emirati circuit of Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi and international tournaments happening back in India. This author has little doubt that before 2019 ends, Aditya will be Mumbai’s newest Grand Master.

Aditya's chess career through pictures

Aditya's ever supporting and lovely family - father Nitish Mittal, brother Vinayak and mother Kusum

Aditya and his brother Vinayak with the four-time World Champion (back in 2011!) Vishy Anand

Silver medal at the under-10 Asian Championships in South Korea, 2015

Aditya's fans in South Korea!

Asian bronze in under-10 at Mongolia 2016

Aditya felicitated by Maharashtra Chess Association with a laptop along with GM Shardul Gagare, GM Vidit Gujrathi, Akanksha Hagawane and WGM Soumya Swaminathan

Third IM norm at the Aeroflot Open 2019 in Moscow | Photo: David Llada
Aditya, the singer!

Two gems from Aditya's chess career:

There are many beautiful games that Aditya has played in his career till date. We have chosen two over here. One of them is an all-time favourite of the readers and Aditya's fans - against GM Niaz Murshed. And the other against GM Semen Lomasov is Aditya's favourite. Let's first have a look at his beautiful win against GM Murshed form the KIIT Open 2017.

 

Aditya Mittal vs GM Niaz Murshed

Niaz Murshed has just moved his knight from d7 to b6. How should White continue? Mind you, even the computer doesn't find this idea easily!

In fact this game was so popular that Agadmator, the famous YouTube chess analyst, presented it on his channel and it now has 193,000 views!

 

Now let's go to Aditya's favourite game. It took place at the recently concluded Aeroflot Open 2019, where Aditya made his final IM norm.

 

Aditya Mittal vs Semen Lomasov

White to play. How do you get the advantage?

Articles on Aditya on ChessBase India

Aditya has been ChessBase India's key annotator for many important top level games. His annotation skills are phenomenal. You can know more about it through the articles given below:

Aditya analyzes Aronian vs Rapport

12-year-old Aditya Mittal analyzes three games from Tata Steel 2019

Aditya Mittal and Sreeswan Maralakshikari score two back to back IM norms

Videos on ChessBase India:

The 11-year-old who reads Dvoretsky's books!
Aditya shows his win over P. Iniyan from the Delhi GM International 2018
Interview with Aditya after he scored his maiden IM norm
Interview with Aditya's father Nitish Mittal in January 2019
Interview with Aditya Mittal in Hindi after he achieved his second IM norm at the Delhi International 2019
Praggnanandhaa and Aditya analyze their game after they played each other at the Aeroflot Open 2019