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Who will be India's 50th grandmaster?

by Sagar Shah - 24/08/2017

India got its first grandmaster in the form of Vishy Anand in 1988. Slowly the number increased with great talents of Indian chess like Barua, Thipsay, Kunte and others flowing in. Recently there has been a surge in chess popularity in the country and this is being shown in the sharp growth of grandmasters. We now have 49 GMs. The last one was Abhimanyu Puranik, making his final norm at the Abu Dhabi Masters. The million dollar question now is: Who will be India's 50th GM? We give you the candidates for the golden jubilee grandmaster! 

The number of grandmasters in India is growing at an exponential rate. When ChessBase India started towards the end of 2015, we had 39 grandmasters. Within one year and eight months we have seen the number increase to 49. While, we do not take the full credit for this (!), we do believe that the trend is only going to get better.


Abhimanyu became India's 49th grandmaster on 21st of August when he scored his final GM norm at the Abu Dhabi Masters 2017 (photo by Lennart Ootes)
Now the million dollar question on everyone's mind is: Who will be the 50th grandmaster from India? We pulled out some data from the FIDE website and these are our brightest hopes for future grandmasters (note all players are above 2400 Elo).

Next possibilties for GM in India: 

India no. Name Title Rating Birth year
30  Karthikeyan, P.  m 2497 1990
 33  Stany, G.A.  m  2491  1993
 35  Praggnanandhaa R  m  2487  2005
 37  Nihal Sarin  m  2485  2004
 40  Thejkumar, M. S.  m  2481  1981
 47  Visakh N R  m  2458  1999
 48  Prasanna Raghuram Rao  m  2455  1994
 48  Swayams, Mishra  m  2455  1992
 50  Saptarshi, Roy  m  2449  1986
 51  Vignesh N R  m  2448  1998
 52  Shyaamnikhil P  m  2447  1992
 53  Gusain, Himal  m  2446  1993
 55  Das, Sayantan  m  2436  1997
 56  Raja Harshit  2434  2001
 58  Nitin, S.  m  2421  1992
 59  Das, Arghyadip  m  2419  1985
 62  Mohammad Nubairshah Shaikh  m  2410  1998
 62  Satyapragyan, Swayangsu  m  2410  1982
 64  Iniyan, P  m  2404  2002
 64  Harsha Bharathakoti  m  2404  2000
 64  Sai Agni Jeevitesh, J  f  2404  1998
 67  Abhishek, Kelkar  m  2403  1992
 68  Girish, A. Koushik  m  2401  1997


P. Karthikeyan

Three GM norms + 2500 Elo, yet he is not a GM - P. Karthikeyan (Photo by Lennart Ootes)

P. Karthikeyan - this man already has passed 2500 Elo and had also made his three GM norms. However, there has been some technical issues with his third GM norm. That's the reason why he is still an IM. Karthikeyan needs another foreign GM norm to become India's next GM.

Thejkumar M.S.

Thejkumar with his wonderful wife Jayashree M.K (Photo from Thejkumar's facebook page)

I rate Thejkumar's chances of becoming the grandmaster the highest because he has all the GM norms and a live rating of 2492. He gained eight points at an open tournament in Sri Lanka and 3.5 at the National Challengers 2017 (from where he withdrew due to bad health). He will be taking part in the Kandy Open in Sri Lanka next and there are high chances that he would gain the required 8 Elo points. That being said, Thejkumar has been close to GM title since many years now. He achieved his GM norms nearly five years ago. It's highly commendable that he has been able to maintain his level of play and is still just a stone's throw away from the GM title. If he does it, he will become Karnataka's first GM.

Stany G.A

IM Stany G.A from Karnataka (Photo by Priyadarshan Banjan)

The man who is in a race with Thej for becoming Karnataka's first GM and India's 50th is Stany G.A. The 24-year-old has crossed the rating barrier of 2500 and has one GM norm. He needs the other two norms to become a GM.

R. Praggnanandhaa

The youngest IM in the world (photo by Lennart Ootes)

The youngest IM in the world R. Praggnanandhaa is trying to achieve the title of becoming the youngest GM in the world. By performing well at the Hoogoveens tournament in Vlissingen recently Praggnanandhaa has surpassed 2500 Elo mark. But he still has to make all his three norms. All that he needs are three good events. The boy could become India's 50th and also the youngest GM in the world!

Nihal Sarin

Nihal Sarin has phenomenal understanding of chess (photo from Nihal's Facebook page)

India's other prodigious talent Nihal Sarin has a hefty rating of 2485 (-2 at the Abu Dhabi Masters). And he also has one GM norm. It is quite possible that Nihal finishes his title in the next few months.


I would rate one of these four players to have the best chance to become India's 50th grandmaster. There are a few more players who are also in the race:

Swayams Mishra from Odisha has all his GM norms and a rating of 2455. (photo by Amruta Mokal)

Vignesh N.R. gained 22 Elo points at the Abu Dhabi Masters taking him to 2470 and he also achieved his second GM norm (photo by Amruta Mokal)

Would it be too much to put me in the same league as the above players?! I do have a live rating of 2407 and two GM norms! But number 50 seems to be a little bit too early I guess! The rate at which GMs are growing in India, I think I can aim to become the 100th grandmaster of the country! (photo by Amruta Mokal) 

Norms vs Ratings

A very important question asked by many people is: What is better - having the norms or reaching the rating threshold. Well, with my experience I would say, reaching the rating threshold is much better than having the norms. The reason is simple: You need only three good tournaments to achieve your norms, while you need to be playing consistently well over a long period of time in order to reach, let's say 2500 for the GM title.


That being said, having the norms has its own upside. You can play in any tournament and gain rating while for making norms you have to select only norm events. Currently there are only five to six open norm tournaments happening in India. For eg. Thejkumar has the norms, so now he doesn't have to think about the tournaments to play. He can go to any place and gain rating points.


I have seen many cases of people making three norms and not able to reach the rating threshold, but I haven't seen many who have made it to 2500 Elo and not become GMs. Well, who knows, with the new k factor = 40 rule, we might well witness the trend changing.

Top countries with highest number of grandmasters

The table below is sorted by the number of GMs – the first column gives you the ranking by average rating of the top ten players. For instance China is second because its top ten have an average rating of 2710. Germany, which has more than twice as many GMs, is in place 14, because the top ten GMs average just 2624. Clicking on a country will give you a list of all the titled players – it is long for Russia and Germany. These stats were provided by FIDE and represent the status for July 2017.

#CountryTop øGMsIMsTitled
17Czech Rep.25903480307
#CountryTop øGMsIMsTitled
42Bosnia Herz.2502924102

ChessBase India coverage on previous GMs of India:

We are proud to say that after ChessBase India came into existence India has created ten new GMs. Each of these grandmasters was covered on our newspage. These are the articles that were published immediately after a player achieving the title and many of them had images which were quite moving. Take for example the one below:

That's Annasaheb Gagare, Shardul's father, minutes after the boy from Ahmednagar became India's 42nd GM (photo by Priyadarshan Banjan)

I might sound immodest when writing this, but the role of ChessBase India in the growth of chess in the country cannot be underestimated. Reading about various players, getting timely news and updates helps people to learn from others, motivates them to give their best, and last but not the least feel proud that they are newsworthy. Who knows, after reading this article someone would get inspired to become India's 50th grandmaster and surpass all the names mentioned above!

Articles on past GMs on ChessBase India

Interview with Swapnil Dhopade: 40th GM of India

S.L. Narayanan becomes India’s 41st grandmaster

42nd GM of India Shardul Gagare

Diptayan pulls it through

44th GM of India K. Priyadharshan

45th GM Aryan Chopra

Flash: Srinath Narayanan is India's 46th Grandmaster!

Himanshu Sharma is India's 47th GM and Haryana's first!

Breaking news: Anurag Mhamal is India's 48th grandmaster

India gets its 49th grandmaster - Abhimanyu Puranik!

List of grandmasters of India

Who do you think will be India's 50th GM? Do let us know in the comments section below. We will come back to this article to see who got it right when India does get its 50th GM.