Nihal Sarin has long been considered a prodigy who would carry Indian chess to greater heights. Having earned the Grandmaster title at just 14, Nihal also is the youngest player in chess history to cross 2600 Elo rating points.
Cut to three years later, Nihal Sarin now means business. Long being termed a short-format and online beast, the 17-year-old seems to be coming of age in the classical over the board form of the sport with his performance at the recently concluded FIDE Grand Swiss Chess 2021, Riga is a testament to that.
Nihal Sarin was never a favourite to earn the two candidates slots up for grabs, neither was the youngster considered a strong contender to qualify for the 2022 Grand Prix. But, the Kerala boy did give his opponents a run for their money.
Up against some of the top in the world, Nihal Sarin showed immense composure to stay unbeaten throughout and end the event with a total of 6.5 points out of 11. Not only was he unbeaten, but Sarin also finished the tournament as the highest-ranked Indian in the open section. His total of 6.5 placed him 18th overall, just half a point behind China's Yu Yangi who finished fourth.
In the first round, Nihal made quick work of the 55-year-old veteran Kiril Georgiev in just 36 moves with the white pieces. The Indian's only other victory in Riga came against Ukrainian Temur Kuyabokarov with black. The remaining nine rounds ended in draws.
But, those draws came against some of the best in the world including the likes of World Number 3 Fabiano Caruana, the rising Russian star Daniil Dubov, the veteran Armenian Gabriel Sargissian and others.
Nihal Sarin started entered the 2021 Grand Swiss with a rating of 2650 and he goes back 11 Elo points richer and pushing himself up to number 81 in the world rankings.
He competed in the tournament at an Elo strength of 2729, much higher than his current rating of 2662.
Such was his show that even the country's first Grandmaster and former World Champion, Viswanathan Anand, could not stop himself from appreciating the youngster.
"Amazing performance! He has played this event very well. He played top seeds and handled it excellently," Anand tweeted.
Nihal Sarin has for long mesmerised people across the world with his abilities to outplay his opponents, and the Indian chess fraternity would surely hope this to be the beginning of something big.