India's sensation Nihal Sarin

Nihal is currently the world’s best U-14 player and no 2 in the U-18 rankings with an ELO rating of 2532

How the internet is coaching Nihal Sarin, India’s latest chess prodigy
Feb 20, 2018 · 09:30 am
Ashish Magotra

Nihal has a penchant for learning the game that could well and truly set him apart.

Before Magnus Carlsen was two, he could complete a fifty-piece jigsaw puzzle. By four, he knew the names and populations of most of Norway’s four hundred and thirty municipalities. He built elaborate models with Lego bricks, sometimes working for as long as six hours on a model. By the time he was 13, he (by his own admission) had around 10,000 games stored in the database we all call our mind.

In the ordinary world — one that isn’t populated by chess masters — such feats of memory would be hailed as genius. In the chess world — one that is populated by chess masters — such feats of memory are merely commonplace.

For almost every Grandmaster or International Master, such tales have often added to their legend. Vishy’s mother used to always say he had a photographic memory. Capablanca could read seven pages of history and recite them verbatim. Fischer, at the conclusion of the unofficial Blitz Championship of the World in Yugoslavia in 1970, rattled off the scores of all his 22 games involving more than a 1000 moves. Kasparov once said that he was able to recall the moves of all the games he had played in the past 6 months. Alekhine was said to be able to remember all the master chess games played during a 25-30 year period. Many articles about Paul Morphy report that he was able to recite from memory nearly the entire civil code of Louisiana (3500 articles). One could go on but you get the general drift.

This is the world of geniuses that 13-year-old Nihal Sarin is stepping into. And he has his own stories too.

His parents — both doctors — recall how at the age of 3, he could recall the flags and names of 190 countries. He could remember the scientific names of all the butterflies mentioned in a particular book. He was never asked to learn these things. He just did. Even now he browses through magazines and recalls specific things with amazing accuracy and clarity.

Before Magnus Carlsen was two, he could complete a fifty-piece jigsaw puzzle. By four, he knew the names and populations of most of Norway’s four hundred and thirty municipalities. He built elaborate models with Lego bricks, sometimes working for as long as six hours on a model. By the time he was 13, he (by his own admission) had around 10,000 games stored in the database we all call our mind.

In the ordinary world — one that isn’t populated by chess masters — such feats of memory would be hailed as genius. In the chess world — one that is populated by chess masters — such feats of memory are merely commonplace.

For almost every Grandmaster or International Master, such tales have often added to their legend. Vishy’s mother used to always say he had a photographic memory. Capablanca could read seven pages of history and recite them verbatim. Fischer, at the conclusion of the unofficial Blitz Championship of the World in Yugoslavia in 1970, rattled off the scores of all his 22 games involving more than a 1000 moves. Kasparov once said that he was able to recall the moves of all the games he had played in the past 6 months. Alekhine was said to be able to remember all the master chess games played during a 25-30 year period. Many articles about Paul Morphy report that he was able to recite from memory nearly the entire civil code of Louisiana (3500 articles). One could go on but you get the general drift.

This is the world of geniuses that 13-year-old Nihal Sarin is stepping into. And he has his own stories too.

His parents — both doctors — recall how at the age of 3, he could recall the flags and names of 190 countries. He could remember the scientific names of all the butterflies mentioned in a particular book. He was never asked to learn these things. He just did. Even now he browses through magazines and recalls specific things with amazing accuracy and clarity.

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