Chennai, Dec 26 (IANS) Warangal-based 19-year old chess Grandmaster (GM) Arjun Kumar Erigaisi has had a great run in the international chess arena in 2021 and 2022.
One of the 2022 milestones, for Arjun and also for Indian chess, is the signing a five-year $1.5 million sponsorship deal with the Singapore-based Quantbox Research.
The sponsorship deal takes out the big financial worry from his mind so that he can focus on strengthening his chess prowess and gear up to achieve his target — becoming a world chess champion.
Perhaps in one of the biggest sponsorship deals in Indian chess, Quantbox was started by Prashant Singh, an ex-chess player and a big fan of Arjun.
“There will be no change in my playing schedule. The sponsorship does not come with any strings attached like Elo rating to be achieved, tournaments to be won and others. The sponsor has not stipulated any targets so that I can focus on my target — the world championship cycle,” Arjun told IANS in an interview.
The first step towards his goal of becoming a world champion is to get qualified to play in the Candidates Tournament 2024.
To qualify for the Candidates, one has to play and finish in the top three in the World Cup Championship 2023 to be held in Baku in Azerbaijan, or figuring in the top two slots in the FIDE Grand Swiss Tournament 2023 — simple process, but tough.
There are other qualification paths like securing the highest number of points playing in certain FIDE rated tournaments — part of the FIDE circuit, Arjun said.
“The roadmap towards the world chess title is to work on my chess. GM Srinath Narayanan is my coach and mentor now. I am also working with Uzbekistan GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov,” Arjun said.
“However, staying overseas like India’s former world champion Viswanathan Anand and training is not in my immediate plans,” he said.
According to Arjun, the short-term goal is to increase his rating to 2,750 points.
“It is not easy to go on increasing the rating upwards from 2,700 levels. Focusing on rating is important up to a certain level. The target Elo rating in the short-term is 2,750,” Arjun said.
According to him, a minimum Elo rating of 2,700 is needed for a chess player to turn professional and make a livelihood out of chess. The income may come from tournament appearance fees and cash prizes. Now there are online tournaments for players to win cash prizes as well.
At the FIDE Chess Olympiad held in Chennai earlier this year, Arjun crossed the 2,700 rating and won the silver for playing on the board three. He had scored 8.5 points out of 11 and remained undefeated in the Olympiad.
The string of tournament successes in 2021 and 2022, and the climbing Elo ratings gave Arjun the necessary confidence to turn a chess professional.
Before Covid-19 or between March 2020 and March 2021, his ELO rating was 2,559 points. He was toying with the idea of pursuing academics as there was not much money in chess.
“I used to be good at mathematics while in school. In 2021, I worked on my chess. There were online tournaments,” he said.
However, from April 2021, his rating started going up with a series of tournament successes. In October 2022, with a rating of 2,728, Arjun was ranked 21st in the world.
Now Arjun is ranked third in the world juniors and 26th in the world open with an Elo rating of 2,722.
Queried about his daily routine, Arjun said it differs but what is fixed is working on chess for 8-9 hours and an hour of physical exercise.
“I also play table tennis with my sister and father. I like watching movies,” he said.
On his chess idol, Arjun said it is Anand, and world champion Magnus Carlsen.
Looking back, Arjun said he started playing chess with his elder sister E. Keerthana, who had played in the 2011 national U-9 meet. Their father, neurosurgeon E. Srinivas, began following chess soon after while their mother E. Jyothi manages the family hospital.
Be that as it may, Arjun’s immediate target is the World Rapid and Blitz Championship starting in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Sunday.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org).
After inking $1.5 mn sponsorship deal, chess GM Arjun targets world title