Boy in S'pore becomes youngest player to beat a grandmaster, Latest Others News - The New Paper

Boy in S'pore becomes youngest player to beat a grandmaster

After a three-hour game at the Burgdorfer Stadthaus-Open on Feb 18, Ashwath Kaushik could not help but grin widely as he delivered the good news to his mother Rohini Ramachandran: he had just beaten Polish grandmaster Jacek Stopa.

At eight years, six months and 11 days, he became the youngest chess player to beat a grandmaster in a classical game with his victory over the 37-year-old Stopa at Hotel Stadthaus in Burgdorf, Switzerland.

The previous record was set by Leonid Ivanovic a few days prior to Ashwath’s feat. The Serb was eight years, 11 months, and seven days when he defeated Bulgarian Milko Popchev, 59.

“It’s a very exciting feeling and amazing to be able to beat my first grandmaster on the board and it’s in classical (chess) so I feel very proud of myself,” said Ashwath, an Indian citizen who moved to Singapore with his family seven years ago and represents the Republic internationally.

When he found out he would be playing a grandmaster at the Feb 16-18 tournament, the Grade 3 pupil at Overseas Family School in Pasir Ris was anticipating the chance to rewrite Leonid’s record.

Ashwath had won his first three games of the tournament before he took on Stopa. At the beginning, the two exchanged some words but the game gradually got more intense, with the Pole offering a draw on the 13th move.

But Ashwath turned it down and towards the end of the game, capitalised on a mistake from Stopa to seal the biggest win of his fledgling career.

While he was thrilled, Ashwath and Ramachandran barely had time to celebrate his achievement as he had another game against Englishman Harry Grieve shortly after, which he lost.

Ramachandran, 37, said: “We were all really happy but he had to quickly refocus so I don’t think we had a lot of time to celebrate right after the game but we’ll definitely do some celebration when we’re back home with the whole family.”

Ashwath was four when his parents Sriram Kaushik and Ramachandran introduced him to the game and within a couple of months he was beating them and his grandparents.

That prompted them to enrol him in chess classes so that he could learn more aspects like tactics and opening moves.

He plays chess about two hours each weekday, six to seven hours daily on the weekends, and has been trying to get his four-year-old brother Atharv into the game too.

On what he likes about chess, Ashwath, who also enjoys building Lego, completing jigsaw puzzles, cycling and going on family outings to the Singapore Zoo or Universal Studios Singapore, said: “It’s really fun and it helps your brain get better and smarter because in chess you need a lot of thinking to find the best moves.”

Chess can sometimes get quite demanding for him. He travels overseas for tournaments almost every month and has played games that have lasted up to 5½ hours, but he said he does not find it too tiring.

The biggest challenge, his parents say, is stopping him from snacking on his favourite Juicy Drop candy which lead to drops in energy after the initial sugar high.

While Sriram, 38, joked that overseas tournaments are a chance for the family to take a holiday, the managing director at a management consulting firm also believes it is important for his son to live a balanced life.

He said: “The key is to have balance and not set unrealistic timelines and records because the reality is that the kid is not pursuing it full-time, so that’s important.”