By Gordon D’Costa | Opening Doorz Editorial | December 23, 2016

Every kid in town at the moment is anxiously expecting to receive a special gift from Santa Claus this Christmas. However, Kush Bhagat, a seven-year-old chess prodigy from Mumbai, has already earned himself a ‘Precious’ Christmas present in advance by clinching the Gold medal in the boys’ Under-7 category at the International Blitz Chess Competition during the World School Chess championship 2016, which concluded in Sochi, Russia earlier this month.

Kush, a Grade II student of Hillspring International School, Tardeo, showed great character and confidence to come out trumps in the competition where around 190 kids from around the globe participated. He was the only Indian in the Under-7 category in the entire tournament. In the main event, he scored 6.0/9 to finish sixth.

Kush began playing chess at the age of three and has shown a keen interest in the sport. Three years later, he started winning a lot of city-level championships, his most commendable performance being the time he won the prestigious Under-7 Maharashtra State Chess Championship at Thane.

Like every young boy, Kush, too is very playful and full of energy, but when he is seated in front of the 64-square board, he is a transformed lad, totally focused on the task ahead. That is one of his biggest assets, which helps him calculate his moves and plot the downfall of his opponents.

His coach, FIDE Master Balaji Guttula of the South Mumbai Chess Academy attributes Kush’s success mainly to the overall skills that he possesses. “Kush is a very playful kid and like all normal children he too, gets easily distracted. But once in front of the board, either training or playing a match, he is completely different as he is fully focused,” says coach Balaji. According to his mother, Shilpa Bhagat, “Kush loves to play field sports like cricket and football whenever he is not seated in front of the chess board.”

Throwing light on how her child took to the sport, Shilpa says, “He very much took the game by accident. We exposed him to all sports and his initial chess coach saw a lot of potential in him and recommended we take him to tournaments. He went for his first tourney when he was 3 years 11 months old and his first big victory came in the form of winning the Silver Medal in the Asian Schools in the Under-5 category. From then on, there was no looking back and he has continued to play actively, managing between school and chess. His school has been very supportive.”

kush_inside

Balaji adds: “Kush has high concentration levels. He has the ability to evaluate positions on the board very well and that’s one of his strengths. But most importantly, he is tactically very strong and his calculations are quick. These two aspects give him the impetus to go for the kill or to try and match his opponents.”

Kush trains with Balaji for 3-4 hours a day, but before a major tournament they practice for almost 6-8 hours in order to be ready for the hard grind. “Before any major tournament, we do extra work like trying out different openings, and the middle and end game concepts. Kush has great tactical ideas and has the capability to plan 10-12 moves deep and that stands him in good stead,” the coach further adds.

The Mumbai lad is presently representing India at the Western Asian Chess Championship 2016, which is being held in Al-ain, UAE from December 23-30, 2016.

Coach Balaji is confident of a good showing from Kush. “I believe Kush stands a good chance to return with another medal as the field in UAE will not be the same as in Sochi, which was definitely very strong as players from all over the world had participated.”

Kush, on his part is ready for this challenge.


Achievements

  • 3rd National Schools Chess Championship 2014, New Delhi 2014, Under-5 category, 4th place
  • 10th Asian School Chess Championship 2014, Taiwan, Under-5 category, 2nd place
  • 11th Asian School Chess Championship 2015, Singapore, Under-7, 7th place
  • Maharashtra State Under-7 Chess Championship 2015, Pune, 5th place
  • Maharashtra State Schools Chess Championship Boys’ Under-7, 2nd place
  • Gained 75 rating points in the Parsvnath rating tournament New Delhi, January 2016
  • 12th Asian Youth Chess Championship 2016, Iran, Under-7 Classical format, 8th place; Rapid format, 7th place
  • Maharashtra State U-7 Chess Championship 2016, Mumbai, 1st place
  • 30th National U-7 Chess Championship 2016, Pondicherry, 6th place
  • World School Chess Championship 2016, Sochi Russia, December 2016, Boys’ Under-7 Classical format, 6th place; International Blitz Chess Championship Boys’ Under-7, 1st place

(Gordon D’Costa is a senior sports journalist. He has worked with the Free Press Journal and the Hindustan Times. He now focusses on highlighting young talent from across schools, apart from ensuring local sports gets its due coverage in the media)

Also read: Kashish Bote: Champ in the making!

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