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The story of India's 73rd GM - 14-year-old Bharath Subramaniyam

by Sagar Shah - 13/02/2022

In a few years from now India's 73rd GM Bharath Subramaniyam will be a world class GM. How can we be so sure? Well, that's because the boy became an IM at the age of 11 years and 8 months and a GM at 14 years and 2 months. In his journey from IM to GM, he had 16 months without playing a single event! But it's not only his ratings and titles which convince us of a bright future. It's his playing style, his ability to engage in bold calculations throwing cautions to the wind. Bharath's support team is beautifully made up with a lot of people happily contributing to the youngster's success story and a firm support of the family. Get to know the story of this prodigious young talent. 

Decoding a future world class GM - Bharath Subramaniyam

Bharath Subramaniyam - the boy with a golden smile! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Bharath Subramaniyam, born on 17th of October 2007 in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, became an IM in June 2019 at the age of 11 years and 8 months. He achieved his final IM norm at the Goa GM International, scoring 3.5 points in the last four rounds. As 2020 started he attended a training camp of Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand sponsored by Microsense and in February 2020, he achieved his maiden GM norm at the Aeroflot Open 2021. At that point Bharath was 12 years and 4 months old, had an Elo of 2437 and 1 GM norm in the bag. It wouldn't have taken him many months to achieve the GM title, but then the pandemic struck. For the next 16 months Bharath was stuck at home and could not take part in any tournaments.

Bharath's rating worm was always very active. But from March 2020 to July 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic arrested its growth.

But when Bharath made a return to the chess board, he managed to get back to his playing strength pretty quickly. Within six months, he was able to achieve his GM title and on 9th of January 2022, he managed to beat P. Iniyan and become a GM at the age of 14 years, 2 months and 23 days. If you take out 16 months of waiting time, you realize that Bharath could have achieved the feat before he hit 13 years of age!

India's 73rd GM at the age of 14 years, 2 months and 23 days!

After Bharath became a GM, the next day five-time World Champion Vishy Anand made the above tweet. What sticks out is the part where Anand mentions about Bharath's "excellent intuition". Vishy is known as one of the most intuitive players in chess. When he was young, he would feel the correct continuation within seconds and make the right move, which would have taken several minutes for other players. To get these exact words of praise from a maestro definitely talks a lot about Bharath's talent. Hence, I decided to have a look at one game from his each GM norm performance to give you a better feel of his playing style. 

1st GM norm

Bharath Subramaniyam took on Maksim Chigaev in the final round of the Aeroflot Open 2020.

Bharath scored his first GM norm at the Aeroflot Open 2020. This was before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

Bharath had acheived his first GM norm before the final round was to be played! Yet, he managed to win the final game against Chigaev. This also speaks volumes about the level headedness of the youngster.

I chose Bharath's victory over Maksim Chigaev from this event. The reason? Just have a look at the position below:


Maksim Chigaev vs Bharath Subramaniyam

These are just the kinds of positions that Bharath excels in. Pieces are weirdly hanging in the position. It's in such games that Bharath's intuitive thinking thrives!

2nd GM norm

At the tournament where Bharath scored his 2nd GM norm, he also played against Gukesh and held him to a draw.

After the pandemic, it took Bharath some time to get into his stride. He played three events before this where he wasn't particularly successful. But the Round Table under-21 Championships in Plovidiv, Bulgaria proved to be Bharath's big brekathrough. The youngster managed to score his 2nd GM norm. This time he was unbeaten.

Bharath's performance at the Round Table under-21 event in Bulgaria

Although his game against Martin Petrov was a miniature and Bharath won it in style, it had its flashes which showed Bharath's excellent decision making in complicated positions.


Bharath Subramaniyam vs Martin Petrov

In the game Black continued with ...Qc7 here. If Black had taken axb4, how would you continue here as White?

3rd GM norm

Bharath's third GM norm happened at the Vergani Cup in January. In fact, he had already performed at an Elo of 2600+ in the December event. However, he had played only one GM. In order to make a GM norm you have to play against at least two GMs. Due to this technicality, Bharath missed out on his norm, but he promptly struck back in the next event. After seven rounds, the youngster was on 4.5/7. Usually two losses end your chances to achieve a GM norm. But Bharath still had this faint chance, if he managed to win both his remaining games. It wasn't going to be easy because he was up against Kozul Zdenko in the penultimate round. Bharath won that game and then had to beat Iniyan with the black pieces!

Third GM norm, which gave Bharath his GM title

I would like to show you his win over P. Iniyan from the final round. But first a very pretty tactic from Bharath's game against Kozul.


Bharath vs Kozul

What would you play here as White?

Nf5! is an excellent move here for White. You cannot take with the e-pawn and taking with the g-pawn results in a mating attack after Rg1+ Kh7 and Rxd7! So after Nf5, Black went Qd8 and Bharat played Ne4. Kozul replied Ne8 and it was at this moment where Bharat could have played a very difficult-to-spot idea. Nh6+! Kh7 and Ng4!! With Nf6+ coming up, Black is lost. Although, Bharath didn't spot this Nh6-g4 idea, he played a different move and went on to win the game.

Kozul is a very experienced player. To beat him in the 8th round was a wonderful achievement for Bharath. | Photo: Rupali Mullick

The must-win encounter against P. Iniyan in the final round | Photo: Rupali Mullick

Iniyan vs Bharath

Black to play. How do you take advantage of the slight discord in White's camp?

Bharath's favourite game

When asked about his favourite game, Bharath chose his victory over Harsha Bharathakoti at the ChessMood Open. The game is amazing! In the queenless middlegame position Bharath plays amazingly well with the initiative. It's definitely an encounter from which you can learn a lot.

Two "Bharaths" of India! Harsha Bharathakoti took on Bharath Subramaniyam at the ChessMood Open 2021 in Armenia | Photo: Rupali Mullick

Harsha Bharathakoti vs Bharath Subramaniyam

Black has many ways to win the position, but Bharath's move was quite stunning!

The rook coming to d3! is such a classy move! All these arrows have been made by Bharath in his analysis! The boy likes to make arrows, so that he can avoid typing down his ideas.

Bharath shows his favourite game with detailed analysis

Bharath's super power

The more I look at Bharath Subramaniyam's games, the more I realize that the boy has a super power when he calculates. Let me explain to you what it is. Take for example his position against Martin Petrov:

Petrov has just attacked Bharath's knight on b4 with his knight

When we are young we are trained that whenever one of your piece is attacked, try and save it. As you grow up, you understand that you always don't have to do that - if someone attacks your piece, you can attack back! We call this an intermediate move in chess. However, most players think of intermediate moves after considering the normal retreats. From Bharath's games I can see that the first thing he thinks about when someone attacks him is how to strike back. He is extremely good at finding intermediate/counter attacking moves. And that's why he is able to outwit even strong opponents. For example, in the above position, Bharath simply went h5-h6! You attack me, I attack you! :) Having this type of thinking can really help you to become a stronger chess player and spot hidden resources in the position. But do not mistake it to be a short cut or a magic formula. After ...a5 h6 in the above position Bharath has to get his act together and calculate many lines after Bxd4 Qxd4 e5!? and also Bxd4 Qxd4 Ne5!? There's not getting around the calculation part. But knowing that you can respond to a blow with another bigger blow can definitely help you to not miss crucial Candidate moves!

Bharath's Trainers

Although Bharath is just 14 year old, a lot of people have contributed to his success and current level of play. He has built around himself a very powerful team that helps him to improve.

AL Kasi and Srinivasan Rangan of T Nagar Chess Academy identified the potential and the spark in the youngster. They were Bharath's first trainers.

The powerful chess couple of India who run the Chess Gurukul Academy

GM RB Ramesh and WGM Aarthie Ramaswamy took Bharath from a rating of 1324 to his IM title + first GM norm. Bharath studied chess for 6.5 years at the Chess Gurukul Academy. Bharath's father Harishankkar says, "I must say we were together as a family. Ramesh made Bharath sit with Adhiban, Sethu during his training sessions with them. Bharath's confidence levels grew. Ramesh faced sometimes opposition from senior players/Grandmasters asking him to remove Bharath from the class as he used to answer out of turn, but Ramesh refused. This kind of support was amazing. The peer group sessions and the classes were superb. We are very much thankful to GM Ramesh and WGM Aarthie for their support."

Working with GM Aleksander Goloshchapov helped Bharath improve his positional chess 

GM Shyam Sundar helped Bharath to think differently about chess. He has been able to add a new tangent to the youngster's thought process.

Training camps and playing partners

1. The training camp conducted by GM Gelfand and GM Kramnik was a big step forward in Bharath's understanding of chess.

Bharath at the training camp of Kramnik and Gelfand sponsored by Microsense

2. The training camp conducted by GM Tiviakov and the further support that he provided post that was very useful for Bharath.

3.IM Navin. Kanna played was a great trainer for Bharath. He played a lot of games with him. Harishankkar adds, "Navin would never work for money. He was very happy to be part of the journey. We must say that we were fortunate to have someone like him. His games were full of creativity and Bharath learnt to play different openings working with him. He also used to take Bharath to tournaments in India."

GM R.R. Laxman

4. GM R.R. Laxman: "Great man. He used to accommodate us somehow whenever we asked for games."

GM Sundarajan Kidambi and IM C. Praveen Kumar

5. "The support which both Kidambi and Praveen Kumar provided was amazing."

Mindtrainer Krishna Prasad has played an important role in the growth of Bharath as a chess player

The role of Bharath's family:

Bharath was supported a lot by his parents in his bid to become a GM. Speaking to ChessBase India, Bharath's father Harishankkar says, " The feeling of achieving the GM title by Bharath is special for us. He has been working very hard for 8 hours a day for a long time now. Managing school and chess was tough and Bharath used to struggle to do that. But all hs efforts have borne fruit."

Bharath with his parents at the Microsense Kramnik Gelfand training camp

"It was his mother who has sacrificed a lot. She had a good job which she left for her son's chess. By becoming a GM Bharath has delivered on the faith she placed on him." Bharath's father funded all of Bharath's chess activities since his chess career began. In fact Bharath's brother Balasubramanium is also a strong chess with an Elo of 2300. At some point, due to limited resources the family had to decide that only one of them could play chess. That's the reason why Bala (as they call him), shifted his entire focus to academics and Bharath continued his chess journey.

Bharath (left) with his brother Balasubramnium
Do not miss this interview where Bharath's parents speak about the journey after Bharath became a GM.

You will get to know about the many sacrifices that both Harishankkar and Yamini made to ensure that Bharath became a GM by watching the above video. But one thing stands out for me - Bharath's mother Yamini, who accompanies him to various tournaments, doesn't ever ask Bharath about his result after the game! Now isn't that unbelievable? With the current technological developments, we see parents sitting outside the playing hall with the mobile phone in their hands following the live games, but Yamini doesn't even ask Bharath about his results. She believes in her son's abilities completely and doesn't feel the need to focus on the results at all.


How did the pandemic affect Bharath and his chess preparation? "The Pandemic just pushed us to the corner", says Harishankkar. "Bharath had one GM norm and he was 12 years 4 months. Had the tournaments continued, he would have become GM before he turned 13. After 16 months of gap, Bharath went to Hungary and he was rusty. With no practice games, we again started focusing on intensive training. Though there was training during the pandemic times, without practical theory, things would get boring sometimes as there was no feedback. But Pandemic made Bharath physically stronger as he started exercising, he went to the badminton classes regularly. Pandemic adds to your mental pressure as well. The games weren't played freely, as always you would have this bit of uncertainty running at the back of mind that you would never be able to come back again and there could be another wave and so on. So, you would be under pressure to maximize the game."


Microsense started supporting Bharath from 2021. "We would like to thank our sponsor Microsense", says Harishankkar. Mr. Kailasanathan's support has encouraged Bharath to become more confident. The fact that someone is appreciating his game and sponsoring him is a wonderful feeling. Microsense also sponsored the training camp by Kramnik and Gelfand and we wish more such training camps takes place in future.

The Bharath I know

I saw Bharath for the first time at the National under-11 Championships 2017 in Pune. He was just 10 years old. I saw him at many tournaments after that. He was very shy but whenever he was around his friends, he would unleash himself. I closely followed his performances, but didn't get much of a chance to interact with him. In 2020, at the Microsense Kramnik Gelfand camp, we got a chance to spend 10 days together in one place. I was able to interact much more closely with the youngster. It was the first time that Bharath was living alone without his mother. The 12-year-old missed his family and I could see him getting a bit disoriented in the first few days. But by the 3rd or the 4th day, he got into his stride and you could see him in full flow. Bharath was funny, had a lot of jokes with him, loved to be around his friends. He also enjoyed eating! A happy-go-lucky youngster would soon transform himself as he sat down on the chess board. He not only grasped all the concepts seriously during the training session, but he also studied the opening material given seriously after the camp! He used it and scored his first GM norm at the Aeroflot Open 2020!

Bharath at the under-11 National Championships when I first saw him in 2017 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

I visited the national championship on the last day and did a fun session with these young talents! Three kids in this picture went on to become GMs! Can you recognize them? | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The cute little one at the IIFLW juniors in Mumbai 2018 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Bharath has a fun sense of humour and one can see them in the pictures that Amruta has captured. Like this one... | Photo: Amruta Mokal

...Or this one! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

But when its time to calculate, Bharath becomes synonymous to focus! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Always calculating! This one was at the Microsense Kramnik Gelfand Training Camp in Chennai. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Having a nice time with his friends - Raahil Mullick, Sreeshwan Maralakshikari and Bharath Subramaniyam | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Bharath loves to eat food! He mentions that his favourite dish is Barota! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

At the Microsense training camp, it was the first time Bharath stayed without his parents. So one day in between the camp, his parents came to meet him with food! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Bharath would speak to his parents on phone and follow their insttructions. Here he is drinking a hot water beverage that he was instructed to prepare by his mother for his good health! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

In a league of his own - Bharath Subramaniyam! We are excited to see how well this boy will perform in the future! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Previous coverage of Bharath on ChessBase India:


IM at the age of 11 years and 8 months - Bhrath Subramaniyam

Bharath Subramaniyam makes his maiden GM norm


Bharath Subramaniyam vs Abhijeet Gupta, Goa GM 2019
Bharath vs Nitin, Dubai Blitz 2019
This 12-year-old boy's clarity will floor you
Bharath and Pranesh on fire at the Aeroflot Open 2020
Bharath beats Zhou Jianchao (2639) at the Aeroflot Open 2020
Bharath Subramaniyam on winning the Vergani Cup and 1.b3
Pranesh vs Bharath, Chessable Sitges Blitz 2021
Bharath becomes a GM and IM Sagar Shah analyzes his wins over Kozul and Iniyan

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