A Chess Fairy Tale
By René Olthof

Let's start with all the clichés, so they're out of the way. Anish Giri - super talent: Nepalese father, Russian mother who taught him to play chess when he was seven. After two months she had already stopped being a serious opponent. Two younger sisters. In Holland since January 2008 and living in Rijswijk (ZH). U12 champion of Russia, shared 3rd at the European U12 championship in Herceg Novi 2006 with 7/9, U9 champion of Hokkaido. Speaks Russian (native tongue), English, Nepalese, Dutch (ever better) and Japanese (ever worse). Current Elo: 2517. Number 6 in the world in his age category. Youngest grandmaster in the world. Together with Kramnik the only player who went straight to grandmaster, skipping the master title (although he did get four norms).

Seee: www.chessbase.com

The Land Under the Sea
Once upon a time there was a little boy who lived in the Land of the High Mountains, far away from Holland. Every day, Ajansy went to school to learn language and arithmatic. Ajansy liked being in school, because it was beside the Bal Mandir, the children's temple. And his mother taught there. But there was something strange - he never dreamt of mountains (the highest in the whole world!), but always of water, seas and oceans. In the Land of the High Mountains, water was scarce, so when he grew up, Ajansy went off to look for water. His search first led him to Czar Peter's burg. Things were very different there from the Land of the High Mountains. Mainly because everything was so much flatter and there was a lot more water. Ajansy quicky learnt the language of the Petersburgers and went to school again in order, like the Czar of old, to learn everything about water. Ajansy also met a girl in the new city. Soon after there was a dazzling wedding, and children arrived: a boy, Shani, and two girls.

When Ajansy had learnt everything about water, he got a chance to work in a new country. In the Land of the Rising Sun they had mountains and water - an ideal combination - so Ajansy and his family packed their stuff and trekked eastwards.

After a few years the rising sun no longer had any secrets for Ajansy, and he started to look in higher spheres: the Arch-temple of Water, the Holy of Holies of hydrologists. Ajansy was given access to the Oracle of Delft! First he went to that strange Land Under the Sea by himself to check it out, but when he liked what he saw, he was certain: this was where he wanted to live with his family.

And so it happened that Ajansy from the Land of the High Mountains arrived in the Land Under the Sea. And he lived long and happily ever after...

Breezing in
I don't think anyone had ever heard of Anish Giri when he arrived in Holland in January 2008. In the normal databases Anish's earliest game is from the annual meeting between Moscow and St Peterburg in May 2005. Later that year he represented Russia at the European Championship in Herceg Novi, an occasion that would repeat itself a year later (when he was already U12 national champion). His rating was 2155 then, and the player in that category for Holland was Arthur Pijpers.

Through contacts in his father's office Anish found himself in DSC, where everyone was very happy to have him. Three out of three in the Dutch Team Championship was his sporting thankyou. Holland was first introduced to the new talent during the Hypercube tournament in Utrecht in February, where the unknown 13-year-old qualified strikingly easily for the final with a +2300 rating, although once there, he didn't make much of an impression. The incredible tales going around Utrecht were too good to be true, but tournament winner Daniel Fridman quickly realized: the stories were true! A unique talent had breezed into Holland. That same evening he called his team manager. 'René, Anish would be perfect for HMC Calder. You must go after him immediately.'

No sooner said than done. Anish surfaced again at the HSG Open during the Dutch Championship in Hilversum in April 2008: an honourable defeat against tournament favourite Fridman in Round 3. It is almost unbelievable, but that game was Anish's first normal game against an IGM. In Petersburg he had often played opponents with an Elo of 2300, but he rarely met international titleholders. After the nil Anish slowly worked his way up the ranks with a mix of wins (e.g. against Roi Miedema) and draws against established cracks like John van der Wiel and Boris Chatalbashev. In the final round things suddenly became serious. The stake: tournament victory and first IGM norm. The way in which Alexander Dgebuadze, surely no mean player, was mercilessly trounced appealed to everyone's imagination: played in perfect Karpov style. Endgame advantage and keep pushing. Altogether unbelievable.

What was this boy going to show next? The summer months saw performances in Bussum, Leiden, Enschede and Vienna. The most striking thing: Anish is amazingly all-round, plays all openings both as White and as Black and, despite his fighting spirit, rarely loses. His victory in Enschede over Ilya Nyzhnyk, the super-talent from Ukraine, shows that he can combine with the best of them. In Vienna he wiped Georgy Timoshenko off the board, but spoilt his chances of tournament victory by losing against the local hero.

Chess board
What makes Anish so unique? When browsing through the eternal rankings of the youngest grandmaster ever, you will notice very quickly that, in fact, all these players turned professional at a very young age, stopped going to school and devoted themselves fulltime to chess under the tutelage of top trainers. Not Anish. He goes to school like every boy of his age (just like Jan Timman in the 1960s he attends the Grotius College in Delft) and does not really have a trainer. Almost everything he knows (and is capable of) comes from the Internet. A typical, and true, story is that of there initially being no chess board anywhere in the Giri home. When a training session with Tibor Karolyi was planned to take place in his house, a quick trip to the toy shop on the corner was in order.

Precisely because Anish is still in school, he must do most of his chess in the weekends, and therefore also in club matches. He made the transfer to HMC Calder and the Meesterklasse, the top league in Holland. That twice yielded 3.5 out of 6 (+2 =3 -1) - with the juniors in Amersfoort (TPR 2270) and with the seniors (TPR 2506). Anish probably wasn't too happy. In the Bundesliga he got off to a better start. In Germany, people had also woken up after Vienna. Anish chose Turm Emsdetten from the various offers, because there was already a gaggle of Dutchmen there: Ruud Janssen, Wouter Spoelman, Roeland Pruijssers, Daan Brandenburg, Zhaoqin Peng and Dennis de Vreugt. Easy for travelling.

With 7 out of 11 he turned out a top performance (TPR 2618). In the second weekend he scored victories against Jan Werle and the strong Polish player Mateusz Bartel. But it could have been even more. When playing against the untouchable leader OSC Baden-Baden he gave Etienne Bacrot a painful hiding. His fellow-wunderkind was shown all four corners of the board until Anish wanted to outdo himself and made a terrible mistake. Etienne has published that game with analyses on his website Chess 22. Anish is pretty annoyed about it. 'Those comments by Bacrot are completely wrong - I was winning.'

During the Internet qualification for one spot in the C-group of CORUS, Anish fought a grim battle against Ivan Salgado Lopez, only to succumb to the Spanish European Junior champion in the decider. Immediately afterwards he returned to his birthplace St Petersburg all by himself to take part in the 6th Young Stars of the World festival in nearby Kirishi. After a catastrophic start of 1.5 out of 4 Anish still ended up grabbing third place after Alexander Shimanov and Yaroslav Zherebukh, both of whom achieved the beautiful score of 9.5 out of 11. The trip left him with a good feeling, and during his Christmas holidays he added his second grandmaster norm in de Harmonie tournament in Groningen with a crucial victory over Friso Nijboer in Round 8. On YouTube you can find a short video in which Anish explains how he hoodwinked this player with a terrible trick.

Position after 33.Rh1

33...Qg2? Anish takes a gamble. Correct was 33...Rd8, with chances for both sides. 34.Rxh5 Qxe2 35.Qd7? And here Friso could have struck with the beautiful 35.Rg5!! hxg5 36.Qc7!, and there is no perpetual chess, not even after 36...Re7 37.Qxe7 Qf1+ 38.Ka2 Qc4+ 39.Ka3 Rxf3+ 40.b3 Rxb3+ 41.cxb3 Qc1+ 42.Ka4 Qc6+ 43.Ka5 Qc3+ 44.b4. White is winning. 35...Qg2 Bravely played. 35...Qf1+ 36.Ka2 Qc4+ 37.Ka3 Rxf3+ is a draw. 36.Rxh6? Friso walks into Anish's trap. 36.Ka2! Qg6 37.Rxe5 Rxf3=. 36...Qg1+! 37.Ka2 Qxa7+! White resigns. After 38.Qxa7 Ra8! (the beautiful point. Not 38...gxh6? 39.Qd7!) 39.Qxa8 Rxa8 (check!) and 40...gxh6 White is left a rook down.

Despite his elimination in the ICC Qualifier, Anish got a invitation for CORUS. What happened there is well-known. Seven fighting draws and a defeat against Tiger Hillarp Persson, his first nil against a grandmaster in eight months. Then came the weekend and a visit of his family to Wijk aan Zee. Mummy patiently explained to him that he only needed to get 5 out of 6 for his third grandmaster norm. 'As always I decided to listen to her,' Anish wrote in New In Chess Magazine. The result: six wins on the trot. And the title!

What will happen next? In late June he will turn 15. Thanks to decisive action on the part of the KNSB, Anish is now a chess-playing Dutchman who will be allowed within a few months to represent Holland officially in international tournaments. In the April rankings he is number 14, between Ruud Janssen and Wouter Spoelman. An upward trend, one would say.

In the summer he has largely the same programme as the year before (e.g. Hilversum and Enschede). Then it's back to school, and in the autumn he'll be off to Macedonia with HMC Calder for the European Club Cup. That will be a perfect training session for the next step in his career. For in October Anish will be allowed to participate in the crown group of the Univé tournament in Hoogeveen. Against Ivanchuk, Polgar and Tiviakov. Piece of cake!