It turned out to be an unforgettable week in Kolkata for Arjun Erigaisi. And he wasn’t even supposed to be there for a week.
The 18-year-old from Warangal was scheduled to play only the rapid section of the Tata Steel Chess, which he won, after being seeded eighth in a field of 10.
Then, on the eve of the blitz tournament, an unwell B. Adhiban pulled out and he was replaced by Arjun. Two days later, he finished runner-up in that event too, after tying for first with Levon Aronian of Armenia.
“I was delighted to get that opportunity in the blitz, as I would have preferred it in the first place, to the rapid event,” Arjun told The Hindu. “I never expected to win the rapid tournament; I would have been happy with a third.”
Arjun played some superb chess to finish ahead of the likes of Aronian and Le Quang Liem of Vietnam, not to mention his compatriots. The fact is, before the Tata Steel tourney, Arjun was not known much outside chess circles. His name was not familiar to most people the way Nihal Sarin’s or R. Praggnanandhaa’s was.
Little wonder hence that Viswanathan Anand termed Arjun a “great discovery and the new star of Indian chess”. “I felt very happy when he said that (during a press conference),” said Arjun. “I have been working with him of late and he helped me a lot at Kolkata.”
As for not hogging the limelight like Nihal or Praggnanandhaa, he said it didn’t matter much. “But, I thought I wasn’t getting as many invitations for stronger tournaments,” he said.
He added it would be nice if he got some sponsorship. “My parents have been taking care of my expenses, but I think it would be great if that burden is softened by some sponsors,” he said. “Chess at the highest level is very expensive.”
Arjun’s focus now is back on classical chess. “I will be playing two tournaments in Spain over the next few weeks,” he said. “I am also looking forward to the World rapid and blitz championships (to be held from December 26 in Kazakhstan).”
After his exploits in Kolkata, he surely will be one of the players to watch out for there.