Only seven, chess prodigy Dev eyes Carlsen’s GM record
Monday, 8 December 2014 – 7:33am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Adit Ganguly

On a high after winning the World School Chess Championship in Brazil, Std II boy from Napansea Road wants to represent India soon

At an age where boys and girls listen to bedtime stories about horses, knights, kings and castles, seven-year-old chess prodigy Dev Shah is the king of 64 squares. Quite literally.

Last week, the boy from Napeansea Road created history by winning the Under-7 crown at the World School Chess Championship in Juiz de Fora, Brazil.

Dev, who goes to Dhirubhai AmbaniInternational School (Bandra-Kurla Complex), had barely caught a wink since touching down in the city late on Saturday. Accompanied by his mother, the boy was welcomed by his relatives and coaches at the airport. In fact, there were ‘armed’ with, dhols and garlands. And it took them some time to convince the airport security that a seven-year-old richly deserved this kind of reception.

Talk to Dev about chess, and his eyes light up. Jet-lag is not an issue. “It’s fun. You have to think a lot. I have been passionate about it since I was four. I pay close attention to the starting game because if you make a mistake there, it shows as the game goes on.” says the sleep-deprived Std II student who looks very much at ease in his new Brazil shirt.

Talk of child prodigies and it can’t get better than Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand. “I don’t like Carlsen because Anand is Indian. I watched their world chess championship match in Chennai last year,” he says.

For the record, Dev won the gold medal (Under-10 category) at the Commonwealth Chess Championship in Glasgow this year. But his victory in Brazil is even more special. “There was a three-way tie for the first place. In spite of having a better head-to-head score against the other two boys (Ochirbat Lkhahvajamts of Mongolia and Sindarov Islombek of Uzbekistan), I waited for an official update,” he recalls. According to mother Krupali Shah, Dev “burst into a frenzy” when he was declared champion.

Guess what the world champ missed in Brazil. “He’s missed school for almost a week. He’s dying to go back to his friends on Monday. Being world champion is one thing. But for Dev, his friends are more important,” says father Rahul Shah.

Dev now holds the title of ‘Candidate Master’, awarded by FIDE, and has an ELO rating of 1468. There is a long way to go for Dev, who aspires to break Carlsen’s record of becoming the youngest Grandmaster ever. The Norwegian was only 13 when he broke the magical 2,500-barrier.

What’s it with chess players and memory? “He can play blindfold at seven. Chess has clearly helped him in his studies and extra-curricular activities,” says the proud father. It’s no surprise that the Std II student loves mathematics. “He knows cricket statistics inside out. He will tell you how much Rohit Sharma has scored.”

Shah, who took to the sport at four and trains at the South Mumbai Chess Academy on weekdays, enjoys cricket on the weekends. DV Ganesh, who heads the academy located in Walkeshwar, is Dev’s personal coach.

“He has the passion and knack for playing a sport where one has to sit down in the front of the board and think for hours together. You know how kids his age are. They lose patience. When Dev and I sit in the living room to practise, it’s just the two of us. He gets into the ‘zone’ every time he sees a chess board,” says Ganesh, who coaches Shah five times a week. Each session — hold your breath — last four to six hours.

Dev, who loves the Power Rangers, is now looking forward to represent the country at the Asian Youth Chess Championship in June “He is mesmerised by Dhoni’s blue Team India jacket and wants to wear it one day,” says Rahul. Dev’s time will come. For sure.


* As a five year old, Dev Shah won two gold medals as well as a silver at the 2012 Asian Schools Chess Championship in New Delhi
* At the Asian Youth Championship in Sri Lanka last year, he won a gold and silver
* This year, he bagged gold at the Commonwealth Chess Championships in Glasgow. He capped off the year in style by winning the Worlds School Chess Championship in Brazil


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