Chess: Shreyas Royal, 13, breaks UK record for youngest ever grandmaster result
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Shreyas Royal, 13, broke the UK record for the youngest ever grandmaster performance on Sunday when he scored seven points from nine games in a giant field of 474 competitors in the €15,000 Bavarian Open at Tegernsee, Germany.
The Greenwich teenager won six games, drew two, and lost only to the top seeded four-time Ukraine champion, Anton Korobov. There was a 14-way tie for first place, from which Germany’s Jan-Christian Schröder was judged the winner on tiebreak rules based on strength of opposition, while Royal was officially placed fifth.
Royal’s first GM result, of three needed for the title, was a remarkable and significant achievement. At 13 years 9 months, he broke the existing UK record for a first GM norm by several months. The record for the youngest UK GM title is still held by David Howell, who achieved it at 16 years one month in January 2007. Howell went on to become one of England’s leading players, along with Luke McShane who also achieved the GM title at 16.
Royal’s recipe for success was imaginative attacking play, notably in his fifth round win, which took only 28 moves with the black pieces as he demolished the Czech GM Jiří Štoček’s optimistic plan of queen’s side castling.
In the ninth and final round, Royal’s German opponent Christian Koepke thought he saw a chance to gain material in the diagram, where Black’s last move was Nc5-d3 forking White’s b4 rook and e5 bishop. Can you see what Royal had prepared in reply? The answer is given along with the weekly puzzle solution.
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, England was briefly the No2 chess nation behind the former Soviet Union, but the golden generation grew old and there has been no new English player in the world top 100 since Howell and Gawain Jones emerged in the late 1990s. Royal has just shown that he has the potential to change that.
More immediately, he has a serious chance to score two further norms and complete the requirements for GM before his 15th birthday in January 2024. That would place him among the select group of 40 grandmasters who have earned the title at age 14 or younger. A glance at the list shows that many of them are among the current stars of world chess.
Four years ago it seemed likely that Royal’s family would have to leave the UK due to the expiration of his father’s work permit, but the then Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, made a personal decision to allow him to stay. He is home schooled, and the many hours a day he spends developing his chess skills has led to a surge in the past year, when he took only a few months to acquire his current title of international master, which awaits formal Fide ratification. His coach, GM John Emms, has this year captained England’s over-50 teams to gold medals at the world and European championships.
Royal’s progress has been helped by financial support from Tata Consultancy Services, a part of the Tata Group which sponsors the “chess Wimbledon” at Wijk aan Zee in the Netherlands. Sponsoring individual English players has a good history. Decades ago there was backing for Nigel Short, Howell and McShane as they advanced to the top.
Lucas van Foreest v Evgeny Bareev, Wijk aan Zee 2019. White to move and win. White is material up, while Black seems to have counterplay with queen and rook. In the game, Black immediately resigned on seeing White’s next move.
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