by Nadeem Badshah
A NINE -YEAR-OLD chess prodigy is aiming to become the youngest world champion in the history of the game.
Shreyas Royal, who turns 10 in January, already has a string of trophies to his name competing against adults.
The India-born youngster is set for a bright future following a challenging few months for his family, which saw them nearly forced to leave Britain after his father’s visa expired. But a campaign by MPs and activists led to the Home Office changing its mind and allowing the Royals to stay, as the schoolboy was seen as an asset to the UK.
Russian legend Garry Kasparov was 22 when he became the youngest champion in history in 1985.
Speaking to Eastern Eye, Shreyas said he hopes to become the youngest champion. “I have always wanted to be world champion- 21 might be the best age when I’m more experienced. In less time would be great too, 15-21. But not right now, it would be tricky.
“When I started playing aged five, the games would make me laugh. (I had) certain strategies to paralyse opponents and outplay opponents. It looked beautiful.”
Shreyas, who is a Chelsea football fan as “his favourite colour is blue”, has lived with his parents Jitendra and Anju Singh in south London since 2012.
Chris Ward, a chess grandmaster and former British champion, described him as “the best prospect the country has ever seen”.
Shreyas did the first move for world number one Magnus Carlsen in November during the World Chess Championship. The Norwegian retained his title after beating American Fabiano Caruana in a tie-breaker after all 12 matches were drawn.
On his chances against Carlsen and the other top stars, Shreyas remains modest.
“It wasn’t a surprise Carlsen won, he’s the best rapid player. Caruana is better than me.
“It would be difficult. In a few years’ time I would be better prepared.”
Shreyas is set for a busy 2019, competing in tour-naments around the world, including the London Chess Classic and the Under 10 championship. He admits his age sometimes surprises his opponents.
“My opponent was 70-plus at a tournament in Hampstead,” he said.
“It was a bit strange, I was the youngest person in the tournament and he was the oldest.
“They are surprised sometimes if I beat them or draw. They ask ‘what is your age’? [But] they are re-ally supportive and say I’m doing well.”
Shreyas said he was “dancing on the sofa” after his father was told in August that they were allowed to remain in the UK.
Jitendra, an IT project manager, said they had packed all their belongings and given notice to their landlord as his visa expired in September before receiving the good news.
He told Eastern Eye: “We gave our two-month notice to our landlord and packed. “Dominic Lawson from the English Chess Federation and others were fighting for us.
“They told us to wait a week and we are going to do a campaign with MPs to the home secretary.
“Then we got a response from the Home Office to say (home secretary) Sajid Javid has intervened and allowed us to stay. We thought we were going back to India or another country and Shreyas would have to start from scratch.
“We didn’t know what support he would get from other countries for chess. We didn’t want him to stop chess.”
Jitendra added: “We threw out and dumped a lot of things, preparing to move out.
“We didn’t believe it happened as it hasn’t hap-pened in the past. It is the first time, they changed the rules for us.
“Shreyas was dancing on the sofa. It was a relief for me and my wife and we started unpacking.”
Jitendra said his new visa expires in five years and he intends to apply for permanent residency.
He added: “We want him (Shreyas) to pursue a career here.
“When we came to the UK, he was three years old. He goes to school and has made friends. We want to continue here.”