06 Jul Top 25 Indian Chess Players of Present Times
Even though chess is said to have originated from the game “ Chaturanga” played in India, the country has been slow to produce world class chess players. It was in 1961 that Manuel Aron, the first titled player from India earned his International Master (IM) title. But it was actually Chess legend Viswanathan Anand, who popularized the game to its present levels in the country. He is also credited for putting India on the map for Chess expertise with his stellar performances across all formats. Today, Indians have taken to chess like fish to water, and it’s is rapidly regaining its position as one of the most adored, admired and played game in the country.
According to FIDE, the International Chess Federation, as of January 2021,Indian chess players include 68 Grandmasters, 124 International Masters, 20 Woman Grandmasters, and 42 Woman International Masters, and a total of 33,028 rated players.
As of January 2021, the top 10 active Indian chess players have an average rating of 2670, 4th highest in the world behind Russia, United States, and China. The top 10 active women Indian players have an average rating of 2405, 3rd highest in the world behind China and Russia.
Juniors are also not far behind. The top 100 junior players of the world include 16 Indian players, amongst them Nihal Sarin is at Rank 6. The top 100 junior girl players of the world include 13 Indian players, amongst them Vaishali Rameshbabu is at Rank 8.
Here is the list of top 30 Indian Chess players of all time, starting with the Grandmasters, and we hope you love reading about them as much as we enjoyed compiling their stories!
1. Viswanathan Anand – Highest Ranking – 2817
One of the few players in the world to surpass the Elo rating of 2800, Vishy is a former World Chess Champion having the distinction of winning it 5 times. “ The Lightning Kid” who is known for his razor sharp moves in blink-and-you-missed-it manner,, Anand became the fourth player in history to pass the 2800 Elo mark on the FIDE rating list, after Kramnik, Topalov, and Garry Kasparov in April 2006. He occupied the number one position for 21 months, the sixth-longest period on record.
2. Pentala Harikrishna – Highest Ranking – 2770
Harikrisha became the youngest Grandmaster from India in 2001, a record now held by Gukesh D. He was Commonwealth Champion in 2001, World Junior Champion in 2004 and Asian Individual Champion in 2011.He represented India at seven Chess Olympiads from 2000 to 2012 and won team Bronze at the World Team Chess Championships in 2010. At the Asian Team Championships, Pentala won team gold once, team silver twice and individual bronze once. In February 2013, Pentala’s FIDE rating passed 2700 for the first time. He broke into the top ten players in the world in November 2016 with a FIDE rating of 2768.
3. Vidit Gujrathi – Highest Ranking – 2726
Vidi, the third highest rated player in India is also the fourth Indian player to have crossed the Elo rating threshold of 2700.In 2006, he received the title of FIDE Master when he finished second in the Asian Youth Championships in the U12 category. His International Master title followed in 2008. In the same year, he won the World Youth Chess Championship in the Open U14 section, the first Indian to achieve the feat. In 2013, Vidit won a bronze medal in the World Junior Chess Championship in Turkey in the Junior (U-20) category.
Vidit finished third in the Hyderabad International Grandmasters chess tournament in 2013, winning Rs 1.5 lakh.Vidit has also been performing in the top 10 of other tournaments, including the Commonwealth Championship in 2008. He was the captain of the historic Gold winning Indian team in FIDE Online Chess Olympiad 2020.
4. Krishnan Sasikiran – Highest Ranking – 2720
4 time Indian Chess Championship winner Krishnan Sasikiran completed the requirements for the Grandmaster title at the 2000 Commonwealth Championship. In 2001, he won the prestigious Hastings International Chess tournament. In 2003, he won the 4th Asian Individual Championship as well as the Politiken Cup in Copenhagen.
Sasikiran tied with Jan Timman for first place in the 2005 Sigeman & Co Chess Tournament.Sasikiran won a gold medal in the 2006 Asian Games’ team event. He is also a very successful correspondence chess player. In 2015 he achieved the title of an international Master and in 2016 he became Senior international Master. He fulfilled the norms for both titles at the Marian Vinchev Memorial and the Palciauskas Invitational
5. Adhiban Baskaran – Highest Ranking – 2701
Known as the “Beast” due to his hyper-aggressive style of play, Adhiban was the 2008 World Under-16 and the 2009 Indian Champion. n 2007 he won the Asian under-16 championship in Tashkent. Adhiban played on the first board for the gold medal-winning Indian team at the Under-16 Chess Olympiad of 2007 and 2008.
In the Tata Steel Tournament in 2012, he, he tied for 3rd–4th with Daan Brandenburg with a score of 8.5/13 In the Chess World Cup 2013, Adhiban caused an upset in the first two rounds, beating 2710-rated Russian GM Evgeny Alekseev in the first round, and Alexandr Fier in the second one.
Adhiban won the 2013 Sants Open where 23 GMs and 28 IMs participated, with a score of 8.5 points out of 10. In July 2014 he won the Masters open tournament of the Biel Chess Festival. In the following month, he contributed to India’s bronze medal at the 41st Chess Olympiad scoring 7/11.
He was also a member of the winning team of the Spanish League 2015, Solvay, along with teammates Pentala Harikrishna, Surya Shekhar Ganguly, Aleksander Delchev, Sergio Cacho Reigadas, Jesus Maria De La Villa Garcia, and Elizbar Ubilava.
In January 2016, Adhiban won the 2016 Tata Steel Challengers Tournament in a 3-way tie. The co-leaders were GM Alexei Dreev and GM Eltaj Safarli, all of whom earned 9 points out of 13 (+6-1=6). Because Adhiban defeated them both, he had the better tiebreaks and was therefore awarded the spot in the next Tata Steel Masters tournament.
Despite being the lowest rated player at the 2017 Tata Steel Masters Tournament, he managed to finish third with a score of 7.5 points out of 13 (+4-2=7). He defeated Sergey Karjakin, Dmitry Andreikin, Richárd Rapport, and Radosław Wojtaszek.
6. Surya Shekhar Ganguly – Highest Ranking – 2676
Surya Shekhar Ganguly became an International Master at the age of 16 and a Grandmaster at the age of 19.He has won 40 individual gold, 21 individual silver and 6 individual bronze medals in National as well as International tournaments. He was six-time National champion (2003–2008) and Asian champion in 2009.
He worked in the team of seconds that assisted Viswanathan Anand in winning the World Championship matches against Vladimir Kramnik, Veselin Topalov and Boris Gelfand in 2008, 2010 and 2012 respectively.
7. S.P. Sethuraman – Highest Ranking – 2673
The winning streak of Sethuraman was evident at a very young age when he won the 2004 Asian U-12 Championship in Singapore and then went on to win the 2009 World U16 Championship. In the year 2009 itself, he achieved the three norms required for the grandmaster title. In 2014, Sethuraman won the team bronze medal with the Indian team at the 41st Chess Olympiad, and won the Indian National Premier Championship that gave him a chance to play in the Chess World Cup 2015.
Sethuraman knocked out Sanan Sjugirov and compatriot P. Harikrishna in first two rounds. Sethuraman was the winner of the Asian Chess Championship 2016 and finished second in the Aeroflot Open in 2018 with a stellar record of 6½/9 (+5–1=3)
8. Parimarjan Negi – Highest Ranking – 2671
Having won the GM title at the age of 3 years, 4 months, and 20 days, Parimarjan Negi is the the sixth (now seventh) youngest grandmaster in history. Currently pursuing his Post Graduate from MIT, Negi is a Mathematics graduate from Stanford.His winning ways were visible early on as a 9 year old when he won the U-10 division at the Asian Youth Chess Championship. In 2006, he earned his final GM norm by drawing with Russian Grandmaster Ruslan Sherbakov with a score of 6/9.In 2008, Negi won the Philadelphia International Open Tournament with an undefeated record and score of 7/9. Several wins later, Negi went on to prove his worth as a formidable opponent in 2012 and 2013, winning the 11th Asian Chess Championship, Cappelle-la-Grande Open (twice in 2012, and 2013) and reclaiming his title for Politiken Cup in 2013 ( first won in 2009).
9. Abhijeet Gupta – Highest Ranking – 2612
Abhijeet is the first player to have won the Commonwealth Chess Championship 5 times. He was crowned the Grandmaster in 2007. On 15 August 2008, he won the World Junior Chess Championship in Gaziantep, Turkey, ahead of many other strong players, including Maxim Rodshtein, David Howell and Hou Yifan. He is the third Indian to win this prestigious championship, after Viswanathan Anand and Pentala Harikrishna.n 2020, Gupta won the 8th Delhi international open with a score of 8.5/10.Abhijeet Gupta played for the Indian national team in the 2012 Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey, where he won an individual silver medal.
10. Sandipan Chanda – Highest Ranking – 2656
Sandipan Chanda from the state of West Bengal, India, earned his Grandmaster Title in 2003. In 2004 he won the Curaçao Chess Festival with 7.5/9, a half point ahead of Alexander Shabalov. He played for India in the Chess Olympiads of 2004, 2006 and 2008. He scored a notable win over Sergei Tiviakov in 2007 at a tournament in Ottawa playing as White, which was selected for inclusion in John Nunn‘s The Mammoth Book of the World’s Greatest Chess Games.
He was Viswanathan Anand’s second for the World Chess Championship 2013 match. In 2016 and 2017 he won the Open Dutch Chess Championship.
11. Aravindh Chithambaram – Highest Ranking – 2641
Two-time winner of the Indian Chess Championship (2018, 2019) Aravindh learned to play chess at the age of seven from his paternal grandfather, who introduced him to the game in order to motivate the 7 year old to take up the sport. Aravindh won the Indian U19 Chess Championship at the age of 12. He competed in the World U14 Chess Championship in 2012, placing second to Kayden Troff.
He won his first major tournament in 2013 when he scored 9/11 for a performance rating of 2728 at the Chennai Grandmaster International Open, defeating four grandmasters and two international masters in the process. This result earned him his first grandmaster norm; at the time he had not achieved any of his international master norms. He earned his international master title in 2014 and his grandmaster title in 2015.
12. S.L. Narayanan – Highest Ranking – 2626
23 year old Narayanan started his career as a spunky 9 year old, having won the U-9 Kerala State Championship in 2007. The first time Narayanan played against a Grandmaster was in January 2010, during the Parsvnath open chess tournament at Delhi, Narayanan got a walkover as his first round opponent and third seed Ehsan Maghami Ghaem failed to turn up on time because of a delayed flight. When asked, Narayanan said “it is only fair to give him a chance; besides being able to play a GM is a high deal”.
Narayanan won the silver medal for the Under 12 category in the Commonwealth Chess Championship which was held at Delhi in May 2010. In that tournament, he drew with Grandmaster Parimarjan Negi and won over WIM Kiran Manisha Mohanthy when he was just 12 years old. He won 4th in the Commonwealth chess 2019 held in New Delhi. Narayanan was qualified for the Chess World Cup 2019. On 12 April 2020, Narayanan faced Magnus Carlsen in the semi-finals of the Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup.
13. Koneru Humpy – Highest Ranking – 2623
The reigning women’s World Rapid Champion became the youngest woman ever to achieve the title of Grandmaster in 2002 at the age of 15 years, 1 month, 27 days, beating Judit Polgár‘s previous record by three months (this record was subsequently broken by Hou Yifan in 2008). In October 2007, Koneru became the second female player, after Polgár, to exceed the 2600 Elo rating mark, being rated 2606.
In 2002, she became the eighth female Grandmaster in the world. In 2005, she won the North Urals Cup, a round-robin tournament featuring ten of the strongest female players in the world at the time.
She participated in the Women’s World Chess Championship for the first time in 2004 and since then, she has competed in every edition of the event held with the knockout format. Koneru took part in the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix 2009–2011 and finished in overall second position, in turn qualifying as challenger for Women’s World Chess Championship 2011.Koneru finished runner-up in the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix series also in the 2011–12, 2013–14 and 2015–16 editions. She won the individual bronze at the Women’s World Team Chess Championship 2015.
In 2019, she became women’s World Rapid champion after coming back from a two-year maternity sabbatical. In 2020, Koneru won the BBC Indian Sportswoman of the year award, following a public vote.
14. Nihal Sarin – Highest Ranking – 2620
Still in his teens, Nihal is a chess prodigy. He achieved the title of Grandmaster at age 14. He is also the fourth youngest player in history to cross the Elo rating mark of 2600, accomplishing this feat at age 14.Nihal was the world under-10 champion in 2014 in Durban, South Africa
Nihal won the Gold Medal as part of the Indian team in the 2020 FIDE Chess Olympiad held online. He won the U-18 World Youth Championship held online in rapid format in 2020. In 2019, aged 15, Nihal had become the youngest Indian to play in the World Cup 2019 where he managed to reach the second round.
Nihal started playing competitive chess as a seven-year-old in the middle of 2011. He is a product of regular FIDE rated tournaments held in his home state Kerala and other parts of India. Nihal was an integral part of the Indian Chess Team that won the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad 2020.On April 19, 2021, the 19 participants faced off against current world champion Magnus Carlsen in a Blitz format with 3 minutes being allotted per move with no time increment. Nihal was among two of the 19 participants who were able to defeat Carlsen in the event.
This game marked Nihal’s first victory against the world champion in an official event. Nihal had previously beaten Carlsen in an unofficial online Blitz game on May 27, 2020, prompting the world champion to remark that Nihal was “one of the young guns” and “one of the better blitz players around.”
In his effort to popularize the game of chess at the grassroots level, Nihal occasionally performs Simultaneous Exhibitions.
15. Karthikeyan Murali – Highest Ranking – 2617
Two-time National Champion Karthikeyan Murali was awarded the Grandmaster title in 2015. He started learning chess at the age of 5 years. In December 2011, he won the Under 12 section of the World Youth Chess Championships.
In 2014 he tied for third place at the Abu Dhabi Masters tournament and helped the Indian team to win the Under 16 Chess Olympiad in Győr, Hungary. In this latter competition he also completed all requirements for the title Grandmaster. Known to make grand comebacks and win from seemingly hopeless situations, Murali thrives under pressure.
In 2015, Karthikeyan won the 53rd National Premier Chess Championship of India ,edging out Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, whom he defeated in the direct encounter, on tiebreak, after both scored 8½ points from 13 games. Karthikeyan also won the 54th edition of the championship held in Lucknow in 2016. Though he had a slow start, and lost the match against eventual runner-up Aravindh Chithambaram, a crucial win against top seed Vidit Santosh Gujrathi on time control, followed by double withdrawals helped in gaining the lead and ultimately winning the championships.
In January 2019, Karthikeyan placed second in the Gibraltar Masters open tournament among a field of over 250 players. In June 2019, he placed second in the Asian championships aided by a win with black against Alireza Firouja in which Karthikeyan sacrificed his queen on move 9.
16. Geetha Narayanan Gopal – Highest Ranking – 2611
Gopal created history by being the first Grandmaster from his state, Kerala at the age of 18 and he was also the 16th Grandmaster of India. Gopal started chess at the age of 10. He was initiated to chess by his father. He won his first National Championship in Chandigarh in 2001. He became the National Junior champion (U-20) at the age of 15 in 2004.
He won his first international championship in his first international exposure in 2003 in Dubai Juniors, Dubai. His team India won bronze in the prestigious World Team Chess Championship in 2010. In 2007 , he received the Tigran Mets Medal from the Republic of Armenia during the Lake Sevan 2007 where he was the joint winner.
17. Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa – Highest Ranking – 2608
16 year old Praggnanandhaa is a chess prodigy. He is the fifth-youngest person ever to achieve the title of Grandmaster (GM), behind Abhimanyu Mishra, Sergey Karjakin, Gukesh D and Javokhir Sindarov.
Praggnanandhaa won the World Youth Chess Championships Under-8 title in 2013, earning him the title of FIDE Master at the age of 7. He won the Under-10 title in 2015.In 2016, Praggnanandhaa became the youngest international master in history, at the age of 10 years, 10 months, and 19 days. On 23 June 2018 he achieved his third and final Grandmaster norm at the Gredine Open by defeating Luca Moroni in the eighth round to become, at the age of 12 years, 10 months and 13 days, the then second-youngest person ever to achieve the rank of grandmaster (Karjakin attained the title at 12 years and 7 months).While Abhimanyu Mishra achieved the feat in 12 years, four months, and 25 days.
In December 2019, he became the second-youngest person to be rated 2600 Elo. He did this at the age of 14 years, 3 months and 24 days. In April 2021, he finished in 10th place with a score of 7/15 (+4-5=6) including wins against Teimour Radjabov, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Sergey Karjakin, and Johan-Sebastian Christiansen as well as a draw against World Champion Magnus Carlsen in the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.
18. Vaibhav Suri – Highest Ranking – 2600
Vaibhav Suri became an International Master in 2010.Vaibhav Suri became one of the world’s youngest GMs in 2012, at the same age when the legend Bobby Fischer became one. Vaibhav got the GM title with his win in the Luc Open in Lille, France with his score of 7.5/9 (TPR, an astonishing 2780).Vaibhav built on his successes of 2012 by placing 2nd in the 2013 Delhi Open, half a point behind Aleksej Aleksandrov and alongside Marat Dzhumaev and Henrik Teske, scoring 7.5/10, his only loss being against Aleksandrov. He followed up strongly with outright second with 7/9 at the International Open in de Lille in France in April, picking up another 20 ratings points.
Vaibhav started the year with 6/10 in the Delhi Open in January 2014 and followed with =2nd with 7.5/10 at the 6th KIIT International GM Open – 2014 held in May 2014 in India. He scored a strong 6/9 at the Abu Dhabi Masters in August, adding 15 points to his rating for October.
19. Abhimanyu Puranik – Highest Ranking – 2598
Puranik became a Grandmaster (GM) in 2017 and has a rating of 2440 in rapid category, 2460 in blitz and 2584 in classical. The first memorable moment in his chess career arrived when he became Candidate Master (CM) in 2010, then, he proved his talent by becoming International Master (IM) in 2015. He was also the World Junior silver medalist behind Parham Maghsoodloo in 2018.
20. Deep Sengupta – Highest Ranking – 2527
Deep is India’s 22nd player to be awarded the title Grandmaster by FIDE. In 2000, he won the World Youth Chess Championships in the Under 12 category. He also pocketed titles in seven international rating and GM tournaments across the globe, including ones in Dubai and Bangladesh. He has been a Commonwealth champion in U-12, U-14 and U-16 categories, and has won six national titles.
For his final Grandmaster norm in 2010, Deep scored seven points out of a possible nine and finished third on tiebreaker. He lost only one game to the eventual champion, French Grandmaster Gharamian Tigran (rating 2609), in the third round and, in the last round, he conceded two draws to Song Julien and Bauer Christian.
21. M.R. Lalith Babu – Highest Ranking – 2594
M.R. Lalith Babu was awarded the title of Grandmaster by FIDE in 2012 when he was 19. Lalith Babu took the silver medal at the Asian Junior Chess Championship in 2008 and as a result he was awarded the title of International Master. Babu emerged as the strongest player at the Leiden Championship 2009 in the Netherlands, overcoming some of the big names like GMs Van den Doel and Savchenko during the tournament.
22. Magesh Chandran Panchanathan – Highest Ranking – 2586
Magesh Chandran Panchanathan was awarded the title of Grandmaster by FIDE in 2006.
In 2003, Asian Junior Chess Championship in Sri Lanka. In 2005 he shared first place with Kamil Mitoń in the 33rd World Open, played in Philadelphia over the Independence Day weekend.
In the same year he came first in the UTD GM Invitational Tournament. In 2008 he tied for 3rd–6th with Nguyen Anh Dung, Sadikin Irwanto and Susanto Megaranto in the Kuala Lumpur Open. In 2009 he tied for 1st–4th with Alexander Areshchenko, Koneru Humpy and Evgenij Miroshnichenko in the Mumbai Mayor Cup and in 2010 tied for 3rd–6th with Vladimir Malaniuk, David Smerdon, Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury in the Doeberl Cup in Canberra.
In 2011 he tied for 2nd–4th with Tigran L. Petrosian and Abhijeet Gupta in the 3rd Orissa International GM Open Chess Tournament and came third at Berkeley In 2012 he won the Philadelphia Open outright with 7/9 points.
23. Aryan Chopra – Highest Ranking – 2585
Aryan Chopra is an Indian chess prodigy who became a grandmaster in 2016, at the age of 14 years, 9 months and 3 days. The title was officially awarded by FIDE in 2017. He became the second youngest Indian to become Grandmaster, after Parimarjan Negi.
Currently he is India’s fifth youngest Grandmaster. He started playing chess at the age of 6, when due to an accident, he was forced to remain indoors. Chopra was part of the world team that convincingly beat the US team 30.5-17.5 in the 2017 Match of the Millennials held in St. Louis. He played in the under-17 section and scored 3.5/6 to help the world team win the section 19-13.
Chopra finished third in the 2017 Abu Dhabi Chess Masters tournament, behind winner Amin Bassem and runner-up Nigel Short. He beat multiple grandmasters and gained 22 elo points on his way to scoring 6.5/9 points. He ended the tournament with a notable victory over GM Levan Pantsulaia of Georgia with black pieces.
24. Diptayan Ghosh – Highest Ranking – 2581
Diptayan qualified as a grandmaster at the age of 17 after achieving his third and final norm required for the title at the HD Bank International Chess Open Tournament in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in March 2016.
Ghosh won the gold medal at the Asian Youth Chess Championships in the Under 10 section in 2008 and the Under 12 in 2009. He was a member of the gold medal-winning Indian team in the World Youth U-16 Chess Olympiad in 2013 and 2014.
25. Arjun Erigaisi – Highest Ranking – 2575
Arjun earned the title of grandmaster in 2018 at the age of 14 years, 11 months, 13 days making him the 32nd youngest person ever to achieve the title of grandmaster. He is also the 54th GM from India. He is one of the fastest players to achieve IM and GM norms within a year.
Known to be really good in his middle and end-games, Arjun is widely tipped to be one of the best young talents to emerge from his state. He was also the winner of a silver medal in 2015 Asian Youth Championship in Korea.
Bulbul, a Finance professional-turned-content writer, is a content and digital marketing consultant. She is an avid follower of the game of chess, she has developed a life-long affinity towards the game because of its simplicity and uniqueness. In her free time, she loves to read, create graphics, and do Yoga.