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Mature beyond his years: Raunak Sadhwani

by Sagar Shah - 02/11/2016

He is one of the biggest talents of India. Born in 2005, 10-year-old Raunak Sadhwani already boasts of a rating of 2246. The boy made headlines when at the recently concluded National Juniors (under-19) 2016 he finished third ahead of many competitors who were nearly twice his age. In this article we bring you an intimate potrait of this prodigy from Nagpur, who is sure to make it big in the years to come.

I was present at the IIFLW rating tournament which took place in Mumbai in January 2016. ChessBase India had put up a shop outside the tournament hall and a lot of people would come to me to ask about the different ChessBase products. A shy 10-year-old boy was waiting around the stall for quite some time. I asked him his name and he replied in a very soft and low voice, "Raunak Sadhwani". I had read about Raunak in the past, but this was the first time that I saw him in person. He spoke to me with great respect and affection. Just as his round was about to begin I wished him luck and off he went.


One hour into the game, I entered the playing hall, and saw Raunak playing on the top board. The shy and respectful kid had suddenly transformed into an aggressive and determined chess player. With his fingers covering his forehead, Raunak's concentration was unbreakable. He was trying to find the best move in the position, and the look on his face said that he was going to find it all costs.

That's what I am talking about! (picture by Priyadarshan Banjan)
After a few hours when the round ended Raunak came to meet me. The ten-year-old had once again transformed into the shy and respectful young boy!
Chess is a pretty intense game. Youngsters spend loads of hours working on it to hone their skills. It's quite possible that their over-the-board habits rub off on their day to day behaviour. This can be quite dangerous. But, here was a boy who very clearly kept a distinction between the two things. Such maturity at a young age is not very common.
Raunak went on to win the IIFLW Juniors event and pocketed the winner's purse of Rs.1,50,000
The first question that everyone asked Raunak was, "What are you going to do with this huge prize sum?" The boy's reply was instant, "I haven't qualified for the World Youth Championships through Nationals, and I will use this money to fund my trip." The boy already had an aim when he came to play the tournament!

Some of Raunak's past achievements:


Bronze medal at under-10 Asian Youth 2015 in South Korea
Commonwealth under-10 gold medal at New Delhi, 2015
State under-9 champion in 2014. Subsequently he went on to win the National title as well!
Raunak's achievements in the past were already enough to have an article dedicated to him. But in October 2016 he did something which surpassed everything that he had achieved till date.
Raunak won the third place at the National Juniors (under-19) 2016
Born on 22nd of December 2005, 10-year-old Raunak was battling against opponent's nearly twice his age. And these were some of the best junior players of our country. Raunak started as the 19th seed at the event and went on to grab the third spot. He gained 73 Elo points and now has a rating of 2246.
The top three spots at the National Juniors 2016: 1st - Kumar Gaurav, 2nd - Nubairshah Shaikh, 3rd - Raunak Sadhwani
Rk. SNo   Name FED Rtg Club/City Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3   TB4   TB5 
1 42   Kumar Gaurav IND 1926 Bihar 8,5 0,5 8,0 75,0 79,0 58,75
2 1   Mohammad Nubairshah Shaikh IND 2418 Maharashtra 8,5 0,5 6,0 71,5 77,5 59,00
3 19 CM Sadhwani Raunak IND 2173 Maharashtra 8,0 0,0 7,0 73,0 77,5 54,25
4 8   Muthaiah Al IND 2299 Tamilnadu 8,0 0,0 7,0 72,0 77,0 53,25
5 11 IM Krishna Teja N IND 2268 Andhra Pradesh 8,0 0,0 7,0 69,5 75,0 51,25
6 20   Prasannaa.S IND 2158 Tamilnadu 8,0 0,0 7,0 68,0 72,5 50,50
7 7 FM Rajdeep Sarkar IND 2306 West Bengal 8,0 0,0 6,0 65,5 71,0 50,75
8 16 WFM Tarini Goyal IND 2203 Chandigarh 8,0 0,0 5,0 63,0 67,5 49,50
9 4 IM Das Sayantan IND 2388 West Bengal 7,5 0,0 7,0 71,0 76,5 49,50
10 24   Sai Agni Jeevitesh J IND 2077 Telangana 7,5 0,0 7,0 62,5 67,0 44,25

Full standings here.

We asked Raunak to annotate his favourite game from the National Juniors and he sent us his win against Bharat Subramaniyam. And yes, don't miss out on the training question on move 38.

[Event "National junior under19 2016"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.10.12"] [Round "7.11"] [White "Raunak, Sadhwani"] [Black "Barath, Subramaniyam"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B33"] [WhiteElo "2173"] [BlackElo "1904"] [Annotator "Raunak Sadhwani"] [PlyCount "111"] [SourceDate "2016.10.18"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 {The Sveshnikov is my opponent's regular line.} 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. c4 b4 12. Nc2 O-O 13. g3 Bg5 14. h4 Bh6 15. Bh3 {Planning to exchange the bishop, because after the exchange White can play g4-g5.} Bxh3 16. Rxh3 Rb8 {Black wants to go for b3 to activate his rook.} 17. Kf1 (17. b3 { [%cal Ge1f1,Gf1g2,Gg3g4] was a better move here planning to prevent black's b3. }) 17... b3 $1 {Creating counterplay on the queenside.} 18. axb3 Rxb3 19. Nce3 (19. Rxa6 $4 Qc8 $19) (19. Ra2 {This looks passive} a5 $1 $15) 19... Rxb2 20. Nf5 {After sacrificing a pawn, both white knights are very active here.} Nd4 21. Rxa6 (21. Nxh6+ gxh6 22. Qc1 Rc2 23. Qxh6 f5 $1 {Here Black has very good chances .}) 21... Nxf5 22. exf5 Kh8 23. Qa1 $6 (23. g4 {was a better continuation.} Qc8 24. Ra4 Qc5 25. Qe1 Rfb8 26. Kg2 $15) 23... Qc8 (23... Rc2 $1 24. Qa4 Rc1+ 25. Kg2 Qc8 $17) 24. Qxb2 Qxa6 25. Qe2 Rc8 26. g4 $1 {[%csl Gh8][%cal Gg4g5,Gh3b3] Planning for g5 and bringing the rook to b3.} Rxc4 27. Rb3 $1 {Black has a back rank problem.} Rc1+ 28. Kg2 Qa8 (28... Qxe2 $4 29. Rb8+) 29. Qf3 (29. Qb5 $1 g5 (29... Bd2 30. Ra3 Qd8 31. Qb7 $18) 30. Ra3 $3 Qd8 31. Qb7 Rc8 32. Ra7 $18) 29... Bd2 30. f6 g6 31. Ra3 (31. Rb2 $1 {was better} Bc3 32. Nxc3 Qxf3+ 33. Kxf3 Rxc3+ 34. Ke4 Rc8 (34... h5 35. Rb8+ Kh7 36. g5 $16 ) 35. Kd5 $16) 31... Ba5 32. Nb4 {Here I was in time trouble.} (32. h5 $1 gxh5 33. gxh5 Qg8+ 34. Kh3) 32... e4 (32... Qxf3+ 33. Kxf3 Rc5 34. Nc6 Rxc6 35. Rxa5 h5 $11) 33. Qe3 {[%cal Ge3h6] Attacking the rook and also planning to play Qh6. } Rc5 (33... Rc8 34. Ra2 Rg8 35. Qg5 e3+ 36. f3 e2 37. Nd3 $16) 34. Qh6 (34. Nd5 $3 {A good tactical move.} Rxd5 (34... Qxd5 35. Qh6 $18) (34... Qg8 35. Ne7 Qf8 36. Qf4 $16) 35. Qxe4 $1 Kg8 36. Rd3 $18) 34... Qg8 35. Na2 $6 (35. g5 $1 { was better} d5 36. Nc6 Rxc6 37. Rxa5 Rc8 38. Rxd5 $16) 35... Re5 (35... g5 $1) 36. Nc3 e3 37. fxe3 Bb6 $4 (37... Bxc3 {was a better defence} 38. Rxc3 Rc5 39. Rb3 Rc8 40. Rb6 d5 41. Kf3 Qf8 42. Qxf8+ Rxf8 43. Rd6 $16) {[%tqu "En","My opponent's last move was a mistake. How should I take advantage of it?","","", "c3d5","Blocking the a8-h1 diagonal.",10]} 38. Nd5 $1 {Blocking the a8-h1 diagonal.} Bd8 (38... Rxd5 39. Ra8) 39. Ra8 Re8 40. Ne7 Qf8 41. Qxf8+ Rxf8 42. Nc6 Be7 43. fxe7 {A good combination that gave me the full point.} Rxa8 44. Nd8 Ra2+ 45. Kf3 Kg7 46. e8=Q Ra7 47. g5 Rc7 48. Nc6 h6 49. Ne7 Rxe7 50. Qxe7 hxg5 51. hxg5 d5 52. Kf4 Kh8 53. Qxf7 d4 54. Ke5 dxe3 55. Kf6 e2 56. Qg7# 1-0

Lokmat Samachar covered Raunak's achievement and...

...the boy even managed to bring chess on the front page of the Times Of India Nagpur edition! 

Image result for Swapnil Dhopade and Raunak Sadhwani

Raunak is currently trained by GM Swapnil Dhopade

We contacted Swapnil to ask him what he thinks is special about Raunak, "Chess wise I think his intuition is very good! And in general he is very sincere. If I tell him to solve some positions or tell him to study some opening material he will do it without fail. This is the quality I really admire in him."

"If you were to ask me about his weaknesses, I think that his opening repertoire was very narrow until now. We are working on it. I am training him to play different openings and all sorts of positions. As you can see he employed some new openings in this National Juniors in crucial rounds and did well."

Ever since Raunak visited the Barcelona FC stadium in June 2016 he has developed a liking towards the game. He wants to use football as a means to stay fit.

Raunak studies in fifth grade and his school studies have never really been a problem. "15 days before his finals exams he starts studying and scores 80%", says his mother. "He goes to school regularly. However, after coming back he devotes all his time to chess. Sometimes we take half day leaves from school so that he will get more time for chess practice. But this happens mostly before important tournaments."

Raunak with his father Bharat Sadhwani in Spain

Enjoying the snow of Mongolia with his mother Heena Sadhwani

The family has a chemical repacking business and each of the parent take turns to accompany Raunak to various tournament. One who is back home takes care of the business and their other son Armaan.

Raunak with his four-year-old brother Armaan

"Currently he has no sponsor", says Bharat. "We are saving money and funding his trips, but this way we are still not able to give as much exposure as is required at this age. If he gets a sponsor for his European tournaments it will be a great help for his career."

Vishy Anand and Garry Kasparov are Raunak's favourite chess players

Although Raunak dreams big and aims to become a World Champion like Anand and Kasparov, Heena knows what is more important, "First we want him to become a strong chess player. Titles and achievements can wait."


We will next see Raunak in action in the under-15 Nationals and Delhi Open in Jan 2017. ChessBase India wishes Raunak the best and hopes that the little boy will make it big in the years to come.