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Meet Erode's 1st IM: 14-year-old P. Iniyan

by Sagar Shah - 05/05/2017

When you look at the game played by 8-year-old Iniyan at the World Youth Championships in 2010, you will realize that the talent was unquestionable. However, when you go through this article, you will also understand that talent on its own cannot get you the success. There are a lot of factors that went in to create Erode's first International Master at the age of 14 years. We bring you the entire story and tell you why P. Iniyan is a boy to watch out for in the days to come.

Born in 2002, P. Iniyan became an IM at the age of 14 and currently has a live rating of 2392 

Iniyan started playing chess at the age of five. His father tutored him about the basics of the game. About a year later, when he was six, he went to Mr. Thirumurugan who was coaching in his home-town of Erode. In his first FIDE rated tournament itself, Iniyan got the best youngest player award. In April 2009, at the age of six, he got the rating of 1535. With good performances at under-7 state and nationals (both the tournaments he finished second), Iniyan qualified for Asian and World Youth under-8.


For further development, Iniyan met Mr. Senthilvel, who is the father of IM. S.Nitin. Mr. Senthil agreed to train Iniyan. However it was one and a half hour travel each way for the boy and his mother from Erode to Senthil sir's house. They undertook this journey thrice every week! Due to his guidance and coaching Iniyan got the Silver medal in Commonwealth U-8 (Delhi).


The boy was fast improving, but faced his first huge test at the World Youth in 2010, Greece. Due to miscommunication with the travel agent, he almost missed the interview with the Greece Embassy in Delhi. But luck was on their side. While the visa of many players were rejected, Iniyan got his visa eight hours before the departure thanks to the efforts taken by All India Chess Federation (AICF). Porto Carras, the place where the WYCC was held, was a beautiful resort. Iniyan played well and tied for the bronze in the U-8 section. Here is one of Iniyan's best games from the tournament annotated by him:

[Event "Wch U08"]
[Site "Porto Carras"]
[Date "2010.10.23"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Wong, Yinn Long"]
[Black "Iniyan, P."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B26"]
[BlackElo "1534"]
[Annotator "Iniyan,P"]
[PlyCount "80"]
[EventDate "2010.10.20"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "GRE"]
[SourceTitle "EXT 2011"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2011.11.26"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "2011.11.26"]
[SourceQuality "1"]
{This is one of the earliest games of mine that I have. I still wonder how I
was able to think in plans and implement it well at the age of 8.} 1. e4 c5 2.
Nc3 d6 3. g3 e5 {At that time I played this variation regularly.} 4. Bg2 Nc6 5.
d3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. Qd2 h5 {I didn't want to allow Bh6.} 8. Nge2 Nge7 9. O-O
O-O 10. Bh6 ({A move like} 10. f4 {is better.}) 10... Kh7 {Forcing white to
take on g7.} 11. Bxg7 Kxg7 12. f4 f6 {Without the dark Bishop therre is no
fear of fixing all the pawns on the dark squares.} 13. Qe3 Nd4 14. Rac1 Nec6 {
All black's pieces work in harmony but what to do next? I can't play on the
Q-side because taking too much pieces away from the K-side will allow white to
crash through. So I decided to play on the K-side using my h-pawn as a
battering ram.} 15. fxe5 dxe5 16. Nd5 Be6 17. c4 $2 {Giving up the dark
Squares completely can't be good, but the thing to remember is that we were
both only 8 years old and such positional mistakes were common.} Nxe2+ 18. Qxe2
Nd4 19. Qd2 Rf7 $1 {The start of a very interesting plan.} 20. Rf2 Qh8 21. Rcf1
Raf8 {It must be noted how the difference between white's Bishop and black's
Bishop affects the game. Black's Bishop can change diagonals, exchange itself
to the Knight on d5 if needed and also attack whenit gets the chance. But
white's Bishop is locked down on the g2 square.} 22. Qa5 b6 23. Qa4 h4 {
Black is much faster than white in attack.} 24. b4 hxg3 25. hxg3 Qh5 {
Threatening Ne2.} 26. Qd1 Bg4 27. Qd2 Rh8 $1 ({Simply playing} 27... Ne2+ {
would win an exchange after} 28. Rxe2 Bxe2 $19 {But I saw a forced win and
even though it allows some play, I went for it.}) 28. Rxf6 {otherwise it is
mate.} Ne2+ 29. Kf2 Rxf6+ 30. Nxf6 Kxf6 31. Ke1+ Kg7 32. Rh1 {He saw till this
and thought that he wins my Queen. A typical mistake that some young player
makes is to think that winning the Queen will win the game. It is wrong. Black
has more than enough material for it.} Qxh1+ 33. Bxh1 Rxh1+ 34. Kf2 Rh2+ 35.
Ke1 Nd4 $1 36. Qc3 cxb4 37. Qc1 Rh1+ 38. Kd2 Rh2+ {After playing 37.Rh1 I saw
that 37.Nc2 would be better, so I repeated.} 39. Ke1 Nc2+ 40. Kf1 Rh1+ 0-1

For an 8-year-old Iniyan showed some great depth in his play

When Iniyan won the Tamil State under-9 in dominating style (10.5/11), his parents made the decision to apprach Mr. Visweswaran to work with the boy. Visweswaran, who trains strong players like Adhiban and Vishnu Prasanna, agreed to train Iniyan. From that point onwards Iniyan’s level of play began to improve a lot.

K. Visweswaran's role in the improvement of Iniyan as a player has been monumental

When the Anand-Carlsen match was held in Chennai in 2013 two players from Tamil Nadu made it big. One was 13-year-old Aravindh Chithambaram who won the Grandmaster Open ahead of many GMs, and the other was Iniyan who won the below 2100 category event with a score of 9.0/9! Starting the tournament as the 41st seed and winning the event was a big success.


By 2015 Iniyan had surpassed the barrier of 2200. A string of consistent performances helped him to do that. He won his first Open Fide Rated tournament in RSC International Open, Kochi. He lifted the champion's trophies at two Tamil Nadu state tournaments with a score of 8.5/9 and 9.0/9. This was followed by winning the National Sub-Junior Chess Championship at the age of 13!

Winning the National Sub-Junior in Jammu and Kashmir with a score of 9.0/11 (Photo from the blog of R.R. Vasudevan)

With such strong performances it was now time to think about the norms and the IM title. Visweswaran adviced Iniyan to start playing a lot of norm tournaments. The biggest challenge faced by most of the chess players in playing back to back events is the finance. Travel, stay, food, entry fee, coaching, the expenses simply become too huge to handle. For Iniyan it was a great blessing that an organisation called Olirum Erodu Foundation decided to sponsor him.

Olirum Erodu Foundation (OEF) has the intention that sports players from Erode should make a mark at the world level and till date they are sponsoring all the expenses of Iniyan

Aeroflot Open was the first really big tournament that Iniyan had ever participated in. He played in the B-group and the experience gained by fighting strong opponents was unparalleled. At the Asian Sub-Junior Chess Championship in 2016, held in Mongolia, Iniyan scored 6.5/9 and won the silver medal.

With the former World Championship Finalist Gata Kamsky

With the FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov

Although becoming an IM at the age of 14 seems really cool, Iniyan had to face a lot of ups and downs in the second half of 2016. The two tournaments that were extremely important World Youth Olympiad and World Under-14 didn't go the way he would have wanted them to. He had to back out from the Mumbai Open when in the last round of the KiiT cup in Orissa, he lost his health. After one month of rest he decided to play in two norm tournaments in Spain. He missed the norm in the Montcada Open, but achieved his goal in the next one - the Barbera Open.

Scoring his first IM norm at the Barbera Open 2016

The final stage of becoming an International Master began when three tournaments in Europe were planned – Sitges Open, Lorca Open and Montebelluna Cup. In the first tournament Iniyan started well with 3.0/4 including 2 draws against 2600+ players, but then came the crash and he fell behind.


Although Sitges didn't really end well, the real shock was yet to come. While they were about to leave for the Lorca Open, Iniyan's laptop was stolen! ChessBase India had reported this incident"I work with the laptop for 10 hours a day. When we are on road, we can't search for partners to play and thus it becomes our playing partner as well. I had ChessBase installed in it. It had all the data about the players I have countered, my plans, their weaknesses, my coach K. Visweswaran's inputs and my entire history from the age of seven. Losing it was a big blow."


But Iniyan didn't let this loss affect him. He played on top of his game, scored 6.5/9 and with a rating performance of 2590 made his second IM norm. In fact he missed his GM norm by a whisker! 

Laptop gone, but norm achieved! At the Lorca Open in Spain!

Here's one of his nice wins from the Lorca Open against GM James Plaskett:

[Event "Lorca Open"]
[Site "Lorca"]
[Date "2016.12.28"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Iniyan, P."]
[Black "James H Plaskett"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A56"]
[WhiteElo "2363"]
[BlackElo "2450"]
[Annotator "Iniyan,P"]
[PlyCount "49"]
[EventDate "2016.12.26"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "ESP"]
[SourceDate "2011.01.16"]
[SourceVersionDate "2011.01.16"]
1. d4 c5 2. d5 Nf6 3. c4 e5 4. Nc3 d6 5. e4 Be7 6. Nf3 Nbd7 7. Bd3 (7. Be2 {
would be better. The difference is that my Knight can go to d3 in the future
if my Bishop is on e2.}) 7... O-O 8. O-O Ne8 (8... Nh5 {is possible.} 9. g3 (9.
Nxe5 $4 {is not possible due to} Nxe5 10. Qxh5 Nxd3 {when white loses a piece.}
) 9... g6 10. Ne1 $14) (8... g6 {Planning to play Nh5 and f5.} 9. Bh6 $1 {
Now black's pieces get discoordinated.}) 9. g3 {White wan't to play f4 and
play on K-side.} (9. a3 {With the idea of playing on the Q-side is also
possible.} g6 (9... a5 {Weakens the light squares on the Q-side and white can
continue his play on the K-side.}) 10. b4 (10. Ne1 f5 11. f3 $14) 10... f5 11.
exf5 gxf5 12. Ne1 $13) 9... g6 10. Ne1 Ng7 (10... Bg5 11. f4 (11. Bxg5 $6 Qxg5
$132) 11... exf4 (11... Bh6 12. Nf3 $14) 12. gxf4 Bh6 (12... Bf6 13. Nf3 $14)
13. Nf3 $14) 11. Ng2 (11. f4 $2 exf4 12. gxf4 (12. Bxf4 g5 13. Be3 Ne5 $15)
12... f5 $15) 11... f5 12. Bh6 (12. exf5 Nxf5 $11 (12... gxf5 13. f3 $14))
12... Bf6 (12... fxe4 $1 13. Bxe4 (13. Nxe4 $14) 13... Nf6 14. Bd3 $14) 13. Qc2
$6 (13. exf5 $1 gxf5 14. f3 $16 {The f5 pawn is too weak.}) 13... f4 $1 (13...
fxe4 $2 14. Nxe4 Be7 15. f4 $16) 14. gxf4 (14. Nb5 Qe7 $5 (14... f3 15. Ne1 Be7
16. Qd1 Nb6 (16... Nf6 17. Nxf3 Bg4 18. Bxg7 Kxg7 19. Ng5 Qc8 20. f3 Bd7 21.
Qc2 a6 22. Nc3 h6 23. Ne6+ Bxe6 24. dxe6 Qxe6 25. Rad1 $14) 17. Nxf3 Bg4 18.
Be2 Nxc4 19. Rb1 $14) 15. Be2 $14) (14. f3 fxg3 15. hxg3 $14 {/+/-}) 14... exf4
15. Bxf4 {Although the position is complicated it is easier to play with white.
Black has to prove that he has compensation.} (15. Nxf4 $6 Ne5 16. f3 $13 (16.
Be2 $6 Bg5 $17)) 15... Bxc3 $4 {I can't explain this. Maybe he saw something
after Rxf4 but there is nothing.} (15... Qe7 {Is the best.} 16. Bg3 $14 {
Followed by f4 and white is better.}) (15... Ne5 16. Bxe5 (16. Be2 $16) 16...
Bxe5 17. f4 Bd4+ 18. Kh1 $14 {/+/-}) (15... Be5 16. Bxe5 Nxe5 17. f4 Nxd3 18.
Qxd3 $16) 16. Qxc3 $18 Qe7 (16... Rxf4 17. Nxf4 Qg5+ 18. Ng2 $18) 17. Bh6 (17.
Bg3 {Is also strong.}) 17... g5 (17... Ne5 18. f4 $18) (17... Rf3 18. Bxg7 Qxg7
19. Qxg7+ Kxg7 20. Be2 $18) 18. f4 gxf4 (18... g4 19. Rae1 $18) 19. Bxf4 Ne5 (
19... Rf6 20. Kh1 $18) (19... Nh5 20. Bh6 Rxf1+ 21. Rxf1 $18) 20. Bxe5 {
The simplest.} Rxf1+ 21. Rxf1 dxe5 (21... Qxe5 22. Qxe5 (22. Qd2 Qd4+ 23. Kh1
Bd7 24. Qe2 $16) 22... dxe5 23. Ne1 $18) 22. Be2 {Bringing the Queen into play.
} Bd7 23. Qg3 Rf8 $6 (23... Kh8 24. Qh4 $18) 24. Rxf8+ Kxf8 25. Ne1 {There is
no way to avoid losing the e5 pawn.} 1-0

In third tournament held in Italy, Iniyan got the required 5.0/9 in the closed Round Robin tournament and got his third IM norm

Thus Iniyan became an International Master, the first one from Erode. Truly a proud moment for him and his family. His father Mr. Paneerselvam wrote to ChessBase India, "My son's story shows that belief, confidence and motivation can take you anywhere. Iniyan went to the school regularly until 8th grade, but in 9th thanks to his tournaments he hardly went to the school. I thank the management at the Indian Public School in Erode for their support. Iniyan's mother P. Saranya accompanies him to most of the tournaments. Sister Iniyakeerthi is in fifth grade in the same school. Because of the support of the family, coaches, school, sponsor and federation, my son has managed to become Erode's first IM."

Vishy Anand presents Iniyan with the plaque for becoming Erode's first International Master

On a parting note, we leave you with a great game played by Iniyan at the First Saturday GM norm tournament in March 2017. Some very nice annotations by the boy:

[Event "First Saturday GM Tournament"]
[Site "Budapest"]
[Date "2017.03.13"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Iniyan, P."]
[Black "Torma Robert"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D38"]
[WhiteElo "2378"]
[BlackElo "2499"]
[Annotator "Iniyan,P"]
[PlyCount "75"]
[EventDate "2017.03.04"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "HUN"]
[SourceDate "2011.01.16"]
[SourceVersionDate "2011.01.16"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 d5 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 Nbd7 7. e3 {
I was on my own from this, but I managed to stay in the mainline for quite
some time.} c5 8. Bd3 Qa5 9. Qc2 c4 10. Bf5 O-O 11. O-O Re8 {My opponent was
still moving fast.} 12. Nd2 ({I considered} 12. Ne5 {for some time, but it was
unsatisfactory after.} Nxe5 13. Bxf6 (13. Bxc8 Raxc8 14. dxe5 Rxe5 $15) (13.
dxe5 Rxe5 14. Bxc8 Rxc8 15. Bxf6 gxf6 $15 {And I think that even though his
structure is broken black is slightly better here.}) 13... gxf6 14. dxe5 fxe5
15. Bxh7+ Kh8 {And with such a centre black doesn't have to fear any K-side
attacks.}) 12... g6 13. Bxd7 ({After} 13. Bh3 {I thought that black will play}
Kg7 {Followed by h6 forcing me to exchange both my Bishops (Other wise my h3
Bishop would be trapped). So I thought that it is better to take on d7
immediately.}) 13... Nxd7 14. e4 $5 {I thought that if I played anything else
then he would play f5 and then the e4 break becomes problematic. Also this
rare move was played by Kramnik against Grischuk although it was a Rapid Game.}
Bxc3 (14... dxe4 15. Ncxe4 $13 {With play for both sides, but I suspect that
with the better developed pieces, white should have the better prospects.}) 15.
Qxc3 (15. bxc3 $2 dxe4 16. Nxe4 (16. Be3 Qd5 $17 {/-+}) 16... Rxe4 17. Qxe4
Qxg5 $17) 15... Qxc3 16. bxc3 {Now white has a slight initiative.} f6 $6 (16...
dxe4 {Was played by Grischuk against Kramnik. Kramnik slowly realised his
slight better position after.} 17. Nxc4 Nb6 18. Nd2 $14) 17. Bh4 Kf7 $2 {
He missed my move.} (17... g5 $142 18. Bg3 dxe4 19. Nxc4 f5 20. Nd6 Rf8 $14)
18. a4 $1 {I saw this move only after seeing the moves listed below. None of
the others seemed to work to me. The main problem was that black plays Nb6 and
then Be6 and creates a sort of defensive fortress.} (18. Rae1 Nb6 19. f4 (19.
Re3 Be6 $14) 19... Be6 $14) (18. Rfe1 Nb6 19. Re3 Be6 $13) (18. exd5 Nb6 $132)
18... dxe4 {The only way to fight.} 19. Nxc4 Re6 {Otherwise the Knight lands
on d6 but this seems to be too artificial.} 20. Bg3 ({After} 20. d5 $6 Ra6 $132
{Black can use the hole on c5.}) 20... Nb6 $1 21. Nd6+ Ke7 $2 (21... Rxd6 {
Should be preffered.} 22. Bxd6 Nc4 {And white task is still very difficult.
The light-square blockade is not easy to break at all.}) 22. Nb5 {He missed
this one.} ({He saw only} 22. c4 $16 {Which, I must admit, I didn't even
consider.}) 22... Rc6 23. Nc7 Rb8 (23... Rxc7 {Is a better chance.} 24. Bxc7
Nc4 $16) 24. a5 {Now white is completely winning.} Nd7 25. Nd5+ Ke6 26. Ne3 $1
({Would allow} 26. Bxb8 Kxd5 $18 {When white is obviously winning, but I
wanted to have the Knight on the board.}) 26... Rxc3 27. Bxb8 Nxb8 28. Rfc1
Rxc1+ 29. Rxc1 Bd7 30. Rc7 Nc6 31. Rxb7 (31. d5+ $1 {Would win in a forced
manner.} Kd6 32. Rxb7 $1 (32. dxc6 $4 Kxc7 33. cxd7 Kxd7 $13) (32. Rxd7+ $4
Kxd7 33. dxc6+ Kxc6 $13 {I suspect that in this ending, black can even try to
win.}) 32... Nxa5 33. Rxa7 Nb3 34. Nc4+ Ke7 (34... Kxd5 35. Nb6+ Kc6 36. Nxd7
$18) 35. Nb6 Nc5 36. Rc7 $1 Kd6 37. Rxc5 Kxc5 38. Nxd7+ $18 {Everything is
forced here. The problem was that I thought that both are same and will
transpose, but he had Ke7.}) 31... Nxa5 (31... Nxd4 32. Rxa7 $18) 32. Rxa7 Nb3
33. d5+ Ke7 34. Ng4 $1 {I think that this is the best way.} f5 (34... Nc5 35.
Nxf6 Kxf6 36. Rc7 $18) 35. Nf6 Kxf6 (35... Nc5 36. Nxh7 $18) 36. Rxd7 h5 37. d6
Nc5 38. Rh7 ({Afer} 38. Rh7 {The threat of d7 can't be stopped. For ex:-} Ne6
39. d7 Nd8 40. Rh8 Ke7 41. Rg8 Kxd7 42. Rxg6 $18 {And the win is trivial here.}
) 1-0

As you can see a lot of ingredients have to come together in order to make a strong chess player. The talent was of course there, but the financial support, school backing, right trainers and a strong fighting spirit by the family made it possible. We hope that this continues, and Iniyan soon becomes a grandmaster. Perhaps the 50th?!


(We thank Iniyan's father Mr. Pannerselvam for all his inputs to ChessBase India for writing this article.)