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The journey of a 10-year-old boy who beat a 2650+ GM!

by Venkatesh. M - 17/04/2017

Pranav Venkatesh is just 10 years old, but already has a live rating of 2233! Born in 2006, he started playing chess at the age of five and a half years. In this article Pranav's father Venkatesh tells us about their journey of knowing absolutely nothing about the world of chess to becoming a national champion. Reading this you get a feel of how many ingredients need to mix well together in order to churn out a super chess talent! And yes, don't miss out the section where we analyze the game between Pranav and Salem Saleh where the youngster beat his 2652 rated opponent!

This is about my son, Pranav. V - The boy whose family did not have any background in chess and how he went on to become the National champion.


Pranav was introduced to the royal game by accident. Yes, he got attracted to it the very first time he saw it. We had gone to distribute wedding cards to a relative in Chennai and that is where my nephew, who was about 8 years old, was playing chess with pieces that represented animals of the forest!

The pieces looked really attractive. Something like the image above! 

I played a few games with my nephew and lost all of them. This would have triggered the spark within Pranav, who was around five and a half years old back then, to see that his father getting beaten by another youngster. When we returned home, Pranav started pestering me, like any other kid would have, for the chess set with animals. We went all around Chennai searching for it, but without any success! We had to settle for the regular chess set and I started teaching him piece movements and basic rules of the game. In one week's time I was unable to keep pace with the speed at which Pranav was improving. I was losing even though I tried playing my best! The complex knight moves and other little combinations somehow came to him very naturally.


That's when I decided to send him to a chess academy. We enrolled with the VBS Chess Academy, Saligramam in Chennai. He spent one and a half hour on the weekend for a year from 2012 to 2013. And this is where he won his first chess cup!

No matter how strong you become, the first cup is always special. Pranav finishing fourth in the academy tournament.

Having no real knowledge at how Pranav could improve at chess, I would often listen to the suggestions of other parents and try them out. For eg. many of the parents told us that Pranav must play as many tournaments as possible when he is young. That was when he played his first under-7 district tournament in 2013. After some decent shows at these events we started playing at rapid and open tournaments in and around Chennai.


When Pranav started to show improvement we were suggested to change the academy for his faster improvement. We joined T.Nagar Chess Academy and spent about 2 years under the guidance of Mr. A.L.Kasi and Team. Mr.Kasi identified the star qualities in him and guided him until June 2015. At TCA he got a good start and environment that gave him exposure to play lot of good players. Playing their weekend Rapid and Blitz tournaments was something that Pranav loved!

Winning the National Schools in 2014 with a score of 8.0/9

Under-9 National Champion in 2015 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat

WIM Raghavi.N and Priya.P of Creative Minds Chess Club took over the mantle of guiding Pranav from 2015. They not only worked on openings, endgames and middlegames but also on how to analyze his game and learn from his mistakes. Raghavi, mentored him throughout the major tournaments, even at times when she was busy with her exams or studies for MD, ENT. She focussed a lot on learning from the Classical games, the games of the masters from the past.


With all of this training and right guidance, Pranav was able to achieve fourth place in the Asian Youth Championship held at Mongolia in 2016. Says Raghavi, "Pranav has qualities in him that surely point towards a world class player. He doesn't let losses affect him and he always fights back. He has a brilliant tactical vision. The only thing that he always needs is someone to be pushing him to work hard. Once he starts working on chess on his own he will become an extremely strong player."

WIM Raghavi's training helped Pranav's improvement in a big way

As Raghavi had to take up her higher studies in medicine, we changed to Vijayanand Chess Academy under the guidance of Mr. Vijay Anand. He contributed a lot for improving his game and focus more on the positional aspect of chess.

Receiving the prize from Humpy Koneru and her father!

Winning the world bronze in Batumi, Georgia in under-10 category

The Indian medal winners at the World Youth 2016 in Georgia

It was indeed a proud moment for us when Vishy Anand handed the trophy to Pranav on winning he IIFLW Juniors 2016-17 in Mumbai

Thanks to Pranav we got a chance to share the podium with the five-time World Champion!

Pranav analyzing his last round win with IM Sagar Shah
ChessBase India also interviewed me on my role as a chess parent
One of Pranav's biggest achievements came just a few days ago when he defeated GM Salem Saleh (2652) at the Dubai Open. Check out the annotated game at the end of the article.

Pranav is now studying in the fifth grade in the Velammal Vidyalaya, Mel Ayyambakkam, Chennai. The school encourages him and supports us to help him achieve his aim of becoming a grandmaster in chess. I would like to thank the school and Mr. Velavan, who is the chess incharge, for motivating him to achieve his passion.

Pranav is ranked currently fourth in the world in the list of players born in 2006. He is gaining 84 Elo points in the Sharjah and Dubai and his rating would be 2233.

Perseverance is the key, and without any doubt the support from all ends is very much needed. Right now Pranav is seeded 4th in the World list in his category (under-12). We aim big but without financial support it’s hard to reach the destination. Pranav has not played any International Open circuit tournament in Europe due to financial constraints. He will definitely prove good if provided with sponsors to participate in big events out of India. We have stretched more than what we could and will strive hard to succeed in reaching Pranav’s passion and goal of becoming a Super GM. But a help or sponsor from somewhere would ease our journey.


You can follow Pranav's achievements and updates on his Facebook page.

Games of Pranav V. analyzed by IM Sagar Shah

This last round game helped Pranav win the bronze medal at the World Youth 2016 in Batumi, Georgia.

[Event "World Cadets Championship U10B"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.10.30"]
[Round "11.2"]
[White "Pranav, V."]
[Black "Wang, Jason"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B40"]
[WhiteElo "1994"]
[BlackElo "1999"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "135"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. g3 Nc6 4. Bg2 d5 5. exd5 exd5 6. d4 {This was the same
opening that Magnus Carlsen played against Vishy Anand in their World
Championship Match in Sochi.} Bg4 7. O-O cxd4 (7... Nxd4 8. Qe1+ $1 Be7 9. Nxd4
cxd4 10. Qe5 Nf6 11. Qxd4 O-O 12. Nc3 $14) 8. h3 Bxf3 9. Qxf3 Nf6 10. Bg5 Be7 {
This has been seen in many top games and the overall conclusion is that Black
should be fine here.} 11. Nd2 O-O 12. Rad1 {Pranav doesn't hurry to recover
his pawn. Instead builds up his position by bringing the pieces to the best
possible squares.} Ne4 $6 (12... Rc8 {was better with an equal position.}) 13.
Bxe7 Nxd2 14. Rxd2 Qxe7 15. Qxd5 Qb4 16. Rdd1 (16. Rfd1 Qxb2 17. Qb3 $1 Qxb3
18. cxb3 Rac8 19. Bxc6 Rxc6 20. Rxd4 b6 $11) 16... Rad8 $6 (16... Qxb2 {
should have been tried.} 17. Rb1 Qxc2 18. Rxb7 Rac8 $11 {I don't think Black
can really be worse here. White will recover his pawn and the game would most
probably end in a draw.}) 17. Qb3 Qxb3 18. axb3 {Now this is unpleasant
endgame for Black. The bishop is clearly superior to the knight and the
pressure can be mounted on the d4 pawn.} Rfe8 19. Rd2 Re7 20. Rfd1 Red7 21. Kh2
Kf8 22. g4 Rd6 23. Kg3 Ke7 24. f4 Kd7 25. h4 Kc7 26. Re1 R8d7 27. Bf1 a6 28.
Bd3 g6 29. Kf3 Nb4 30. Be4 Re7 31. Red1 Red7 32. Kg3 Nc6 33. Bf3 Na5 34. Bg2 d3
$6 {Black gets ambitious and hence loses his patience.} 35. Rxd3 Rxd3+ 36. Rxd3
Re7 $16 {White is a clear pawn up and faced no difficulties in converting this
position.} (36... Rxd3+ 37. cxd3 Nxb3 38. Bd5 {This is the move that Wang must
have missed as after} Nc1 39. Bxf7 Nxd3 40. g5 $18 {followed by f5 and h5,
White is clearly winning.}) 37. Kf2 Nc6 38. Bf3 Nb4 39. Rd4 Nc6 40. Rd2 Nb4 41.
c3 Nc6 42. b4 Nb8 43. g5 {Fixing the opponent's pawn on light squares.} Nd7 44.
Re2 Rxe2+ 45. Kxe2 Nb6 46. Kd3 Nc8 47. Bd5 Nd6 48. c4 b6 49. c5 bxc5 50. bxc5
Nf5 51. Bxf7 Nxh4 52. Bg8 Nf5 53. Bxh7 Ne7 54. Kc4 {White has won the second
pawn.} Kc6 55. b4 Kd7 56. Kb3 Kc6 57. f5 Nxf5 58. Bxg6 Nd4+ 59. Kc4 Ne6 60.
Be4+ Kc7 61. g6 Ng7 62. Kd5 Kd7 63. Ke5 Ke7 64. Bd3 Ne8 65. Bxa6 Nf6 66. Bc4
Nd7+ 67. Kf5 Kf8 68. Be6 {A fine win for Pranav, thereby securing his bronze
medal.} 1-0

Salem Saleh, rated 2652, is a dangerous tactician. He has been UAE's top grandmaster for many years now. When he faced Pranav in the first round of the Dubai Open 2017, it was a typical case of a higher rated player taking things lightly. Salem sacrificed a pawn in the opening for which he got good compensation. However, he made some weak moves after which he already was facing a pawn down position with nothing to show for it. He got desperate at that point trying to sacrifice one pawn after another. We all know that a 2650+ GM on the ropes is the most dangerous opponent to have. He tries every trick in the book to save himself. 10-year-old Pranav remained unfazed. He calculated all the lines carefully and scored a fine win! A ten-year-old beating a 2652 grandmaster is not something you see everyday!

[Event "Dubai op 19th"]
[Site "Dubai"]
[Date "2017.04.03"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Pranav, V."]
[Black "Salem, AR Saleh"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C48"]
[WhiteElo "2149"]
[BlackElo "2652"]
[Annotator "Sagar,Shah"]
[PlyCount "117"]
[EventDate "2017.04.03"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "UAE"]
[SourceTitle "Mega2017 Update 25"]
[Source "Chessbase"]
[SourceDate "2017.04.14"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "2017.04.14"]
[SourceQuality "1"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bb5 {Pranav goes for the Classical four
knights system which was used by the great masters of the past.} Bc5 5. Nxe5 (
5. O-O {is the main move.}) 5... O-O (5... Nxe5 6. d4 Bd6 7. f4 (7. dxe5 Bxe5 {
Looks fine for Black.}) 7... Neg4 8. e5 Bb4 9. exf6 Nxf6 {Black should not be
complaining.} 10. Qe2+ Qe7 11. Qxe7+ Bxe7 $11) 6. Nf3 Nd4 7. Nxd4 Bxd4 8. d3 $6
(8. O-O $1 Bxc3 9. dxc3 Nxe4 10. f3 Nf6 11. Bg5 $14) 8... d5 $1 {Black has
decent compensation.} 9. O-O c6 10. Ba4 Bg4 (10... Bxc3 11. bxc3 dxe4 $11) 11.
Qd2 Re8 12. exd5 b5 $6 (12... Nxd5 13. Nxd5 Qxd5 14. c3 Be5 15. d4 Bc7 $44 {
And White is a pawn up but Black has loads of activity and should not be worse.
}) 13. Bb3 b4 14. Ne4 (14. Qf4 $1 $16 Be5 15. Qxb4) 14... cxd5 15. Ng3 (15.
Nxf6+ Qxf6 16. Bxd5 Rac8 $44) 15... a5 16. Ba4 Re7 17. Re1 Raa7 18. Rxe7 Rxe7
19. c3 Be5 20. Nf1 (20. d4 Bf4 $1 $19) 20... Bd6 21. Bd1 Bf5 22. Bf3 Qc7 23. g3
Bh3 24. Ne3 $14 {Slowly and steadily White is consolidating his extra pawn.}
Qd7 25. a3 $1 b3 (25... bxa3 26. bxa3 $16) 26. d4 Qb5 27. a4 Qd7 28. Qd1 $18 {
Black has no compensation and the b3 pawn is also very weak.} h5 29. Qxb3 h4
30. Qb5 Qc8 31. Qd3 Re8 32. Bd2 Ne4 33. Bxe4 dxe4 34. Qc4 Qd8 35. Qe2 Qf6 36.
Qh5 Bd7 37. Nd5 Qe6 38. c4 h3 39. Ne3 Rb8 40. Bc3 {Salem has tried all his
tricks but Pranav remains solid. Not giving him any opportunities.} Bb4 41.
Bxb4 Rxb4 42. Qxa5 Rxb2 43. Qc3 Qb6 44. Rc1 Rb3 45. Qc2 Rd3 46. c5 Qh6 47. c6
Bc8 48. Rb1 Rxd4 49. a5 Kh7 50. a6 Bxa6 51. Nf5 Rd2 52. Qxe4 Qf6 53. Qg4 Bc8
54. Qxh3+ Kg6 (54... Kg8 55. Ne7+ Qxe7 56. Qxc8+ $18) 55. g4 $1 Qg5 (55... Qxf5
) (55... Bxf5 56. Qh5#) 56. Nh4+ Kf6 57. Nf3 Qg6 58. Nxd2 Bxg4 59. Qg3 {
Keeping his nerve against a 2652 world class grandmaster, Pranav was able to
inflict the biggest upset of the entire Dubai Open 2017.} 1-0

About the Author

Venkatesh is the father of Pranav and husband to Indumathi V. He works as the technical lead at Sonata Software limited. He decided to share his son's journey with an aim that other parents and upcoming chess players could benefit from it.