The state of Indian chess at the end of 2023 | Data

Indian GMs (L-R) Arjun Erigaisi, R Praggnanandhaa, D Gukesh, Vidit Gujrathi and Pentala Harikrishna show their silver medals at the presentation ceremony of the Men’s Chess Team event at the 19th Asian Games, in Hangzhou, China.
| Photo Credit: PTI

The year 2023 was yet another good one for Indian chess. Two chess stalwarts — Grandmasters (GMs) R. Praggnanandhaa and Vidit Gujrathi — qualified to play in the 2024 Candidates Tournament which will determine the challenger to the current World Champion, Ding Liren, of China.

Praggnanandhaa managed to qualify by finishing runner-up in the Chess World Cup held in July-August 2023. Magnus Carlsen, the highest-rated player in chess today, won that tournament.

Table 1 | The table shows the chess players qualified to enter the 2024 Candidates Tournament

*Expected to withdraw. If he does, Nijat Abasov of Azerbaijan will take his spot.

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Vidit scored an emphatic victory in the FIDE Grand Swiss Tournament held in October-November 2023 to secure a place in the eight-player Candidates Tournament along with 2023 World Championship runner-up Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia; Carlsen, the five-time World Champion who is expected to withdraw as he has expressed no interest in contending for that crown again; Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura of the U.S.; and Nijat Abasov of Azerbaijan, if Carlsen withdraws.

Two other slots are available in the Candidates Tournament. Caruana leads the 2023 FIDE Circuit, a system comprising the top chess tournaments in 2023, but he has already qualified via the Chess World Cup. This has opened up the possibility for Indian GM, D. Gukesh, to qualify as he is ranked second in the Circuit after winning the highest ELO-rated tournament held in India, the Chennai Grand Masters, last week. However, Indian GM Arjun Erigaisi can still upend Gukesh’s chances if he wins the World Rapid Championship, which is to be held from December 26 to 28. And GM Anish Giri of the Netherlands can also take this spot if he features in the Top 3 of the Rapid Championship or finishes first in the World Blitz Championship.

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Gukesh has one foot in the door leading to the Candidates Tournament even after enduring a roller-coaster of a year when he became the top-rated Indian GM and then lost ELO points due to relatively poor performances in the Grand Swiss tournament, among others. Gukesh is set to end 2023 as India No. 5 behind the semi-retired Viswanathan Anand, Praggnanandhaa, Vidit, and Arjun (Table 2).

Table 2 | The table shows the top 11 Indian players in the world top 100 and their ELO ratings.

The last slot for the candidates (Table 1) will be awarded to the highest FIDE-rated player left.

If Gukesh or Arjun make it to the Candidates Tournament, there will be three Indians in the eight-player tournament, allowing for a chance for another Indian world champion since Anand won it five times before Carlsen began his era of domination.

Table 3 | The table shows the top 10 countries, the average ELO ratings of top 10 players, the number of players in top 100 list (live ELO ratings) and the number of Grandmasters (GMs) in the country.

Other countries having players in the top 100 include Uzbekistan (4), Romania (3), England (3), Poland (3), Netherlands (2), Iran (2), Hungary (2), Serbia (2), Israel (2), Norway (1), Bulgaria (1), Vietnam (1), Turkey (1), Austria (1), Croatia (1), Czech Republic (1), Sweden (1), Egypt (1), Slovenia (1) 

This will be the icing on the cake in yet another strong year for Indian chess, with six Indians having an ELO rating above 2700, and veteran GM P. Harikrishna being the sixth. GMs SL Narayanan (live ELO: 2694.2) and Nihal Sarin (2692.6) also came close to the Super GM mark, while GMs Aravindh Chithambaram (2662.3), Raunak Sadhwani (2654) and Abhimanyu Puranik (2640.4) also managed to reach the top 100 players list, ensuring 11 Indians in the list, second only to Russia’s 12. Based on the latest FIDE list, the top 10 Indian players had an average ELO rating of 2703, second only to the U.S.’s 2720 (Table 3).

Table 4 | The table lists the countries with the most number of GMs

*Three more will be added to FIDE’s latest list early next month

There are now 84 Indian GMs, with three yet to be finalised by FIDE. India has the fifth highest number of GMs (Table 4). One of the three new Indian GMs is R. Vaishali, who is only the third Indian woman chess player after Koneru Humpy and Dronavalli Harika to become a GM. Vaishali and Praggnanandhaa are the only Indian siblings who are GMs. India is in the top 5 among countries with the most GMs among women. (Table 5). Vaishali and Humpy have also qualified for the Women’s Candidates Tournament.

Table 5 | The table lists the countries with the most number of female GMs.

*One more (Vaishali) to be added to FIDE’s latest list early next month.

Germany (21), U.S. (15), Serbia (14), Poland and Azerbaijan (10) round up the top 10 countries with the most WGMs.

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Source: FIDE website,

Also read |Data | Another tiger from Madras: The rise and rise of D. Gukesh 

Listen to our Data podcast: Beyond the Olympiad: India’s chess boom | Data Point podcast

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