Shreyas Royal, 12, not far from becoming a chess grandmaster
Shreyas is now two titles short from becoming a grandmaster. (iStock Image)
SHREYAS ROYAL, 12, started playing chess at the age of six and has been winning games at tournaments too. The chess prodigy has has returned recently from Budapest, after participating in a tournament where his rating rose for him to become a Fide master. He is now two titles short from becoming a grandmaster.
A confident Shreyas told The Times that he will win the title by the time he is 14. Since the outbreak of the pandemic last year and with the Queen’s Gambit there has been a boom in the popularity of chess.
How chess happened for Shreyas? It was his father, Jitendra Singh, 41, who introduced his son to the game. There is also a story behind two different surnames of father and son. Jitendra, who works in the IT sector and his wife, Anju, 40, consulted a numerologist when Shreyas was born in India. He had suggested to keep a name that would begin with S and R. That is why Shreyas and Royal, both meaning superior.
In 2012, when Shreyas was three, Jitendra was posted to the UK for a year by his company. That is when he and his wife noticed that Shreyas was good in remembering things and in addition and subtraction. They thought any mind game along with guitar as hobby would be good for him. That is how chess started for a young Shreyas.
“I wasn’t instantly hooked,” he told the Times, and says “it took me some time, but I was curious. I started playing with other children at school, and I started winning. And that got me hooked. And playing chess has also helped me to develop a few other skills, like being more patient and sitting still.”
When he was six, they signed him up at a local chess club in East Ham, east London, and paid for private coaching. He surprised everyone by winning a tournament and soon he was representing England in an international tournament where he bagged a silver. Since then he has won 50 tournaments in the junior circuit and currently with more than enough rating points he can play at the senior level.
During the weekends his parents take him all over the UK and the world for matches at quite a high expense.
His father, Jitendra, says he has taken multiple loans and also sold a property in India to fund Shreyas’s chess career. “I think in a year we spend around £30,000 on travelling, coaching, everything,” he says.
He added: “In the UK, three days of tournaments costs a minimum £500 in food, travel and accommodation. International, maybe £2,000 to £3,000 for one tournament. I want to support him. He wants to grow his career in chess, so whatever it is possible for me to do for him, I will do.”
Later a visa situation almost had ended Shreyas’s chess career in the UK. After multiple visa extensions, his father was told to return to India for a year’s “cooling-off” period. Then the struggle of theirs got local media attention and later support of English Chess Federation, who did not want to lose a talent like Shreyas.
Sajid Javid, the home secretary at that time intervened and changed their visas as they now hope to become British citizens next year.
In order to give more time to chess, Shreyas is now home schooled after initially attending a local primary school. He aims to be in the top 10 or even world champion and make a career out of it.
“You can earn quite a good living. But for me, it’s not so much about the money, it’s about having fun playing chess. I just enjoy it,” Shreyas said.