Seven-year-old Ashwath Kaushik has beaten players with higher Fide ratings
While most children at the age of seven are still developing their mental skills, chess talent Ashwath Kaushik has already shown a prodigious inclination towards the cognitively demanding sport.
The seven-year-old, who has an international chess federation (Fide) rating of 1,347, represented Singapore at the Under-8 Eastern Asia Youth Championship in November 2022. He was crowned the triple champion in all three chess variations –classic, rapid, blitz – earning him the title of Asean’s best player.
Standing at just 1.30m-tall, Ashwath – who is an Indian citizen and moved to Singapore with his family six years ago – has had to use a booster cushion for on-the-board tournaments to give him better vision and mobility. It was a gift from his father Kaushik Sriram, who realised that Ashwath had struggled to reach the other side of the chess board.
Kaushik, a 37-year-old managing director at a management consulting firm, said: “I felt the added height would allow him to see the board better because he had to stand and lean over before. (The cushion) proved lucky and it has now travelled to many countries with him.”
Ashwath, who picked up chess at four, has travelled across continents accompanied by his mother for international tournaments. He flew to Greece to participate in the World Cadets Rapid Championships when he was just six in 2021, emerging as champion in the under-8 category.
At the Svetozar Gligoric Memorial Amateur tournament in Serbia in 2022, Ashwath was drawn with then 1,823-rated player Artem Knjazev in the first round. What ensued next was one of Ashwath’s proudest chess memories.
He defeated the Russian in just 15 moves, leaving Knjazev shell-shocked. Ashwath, who studies in grade 2 at Overseas Family School, told The Straits Times: “He (Knjazev) didn’t expect it at all. I think he underestimated me. After the game, he didn’t say anything and just left.”
More recently, Ashwath pitted himself against Singapore’s best players at the National Chess Championships – comprising a field of 36 including three grandmasters and one woman grandmaster – which concluded last Sunday.
Though he failed to complete the three-weekend long tournament due to a bout of food poisoning, Ashwath was pleased with the experience and gave it his all. He said: “On Fridays, I left school early to prepare and slept daily after midnight after analysing my game. I played attacking chess and won some good games, but also made some mistakes to give up promising positions in two games.”
By sticking to his mantra of playing “attacking and fearless chess” – inspired by his chess idol Mikhail Tal – Ashwath managed to beat two players with higher ratings at the tournament, which was won by grandmaster Kevin Goh.
“I was particularly proud of my game with Leah Rice, where I attacked a lot, chased her king around the board, and finally finished the game with a rare knight fork checkmate in the style of my favourite player Mikhail Tal. I like him a lot because he is very attacking and often sacrifices a lot of his pieces in a complicated way,” said Ashwath.
Speaking about his goals in chess, Ashwath said: “I hope to get to a 2,000+ ELO rating soon to get my candidate master title, and then become a super grandmaster (2,700+ rating) by playing attacking chess.”
But Ashwath does not intend to stop there. When asked if he intends to continue playing chess competitively, Ashwath gave a nonchalant reply.
“Yes, till I become the world champion.”
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