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Harikrishnan and Neelash win Pursue your Chess Scholarship-3, get Rs.50,000 each

by Sagar Shah - 09/11/2021

On 7th of November 2021, India got its 71st GM in Sankalp Gupta and on 9th of November 2021 India got its 72nd GM in Mitrabha Guha. The country has a lot of youngsters who are extremely talented, but do not have the funds or the means to single mindedly achieve their dream of becoming a GM. That is where the HelpChess Foundation has been helping the youngsters. One of the long standing scholarships of the foundation, which is into its 3rd edition is Pursue your Chess Scholarship instituted by Ashwin Subramanian. This year the amount of Rs.1,00,000 is split between two young IMs of the country Harikrishnan and Neelash Saha. Read on to know more about this scholarship and the recipients.

We are into the 3rd year of the Pursue your Chess Scholarship. This scholarship has been instituted by Ashwin Subramanian. Ashwin is a chess lover and a former world amateur champion. He works at Intel and was unable to pursue a career in chess because of lack of funds. Just so that youngsters who are talented, do not end up in a situation like him, he has instituted the "Pursue Your Chess" Scholarship and each year the amount of the scholarship has kept growing. In the first year Rs.50,000 was won by Sammed Shete. The boy from Kolhapur managed to complete his IM title within a year of receiving the scholarship. In the second year, the scholarship amount was increased to Rs.75,000, out of which Rs.50,000 were awarded to Shahil Dey and Rs.25,000 to Anirudhha Potawad. Shahil managed to complete his IM title, becoming the first ever IM from North East. Anirudhha managed to train under a GM for the first time in life (GM Vishnu Prasanna) and gained new insights into the game. Now we are into the third year and the amount of scholarship has now increased to Rs.1,00,000.

That's Ashwin Subramanian, the man who has instituted the "Pursue your Chess" Scholarship

The three benefactors of pursue your chess scholarship till date. Right - Sammed Shete, Center - Anirudhha Potawad and Left - Shahil Dey

We are no in the third edition of Pursue Your Chess Scholarship

We received many applications for the scholarship and after going over them closely two winners have been chosen.

IM Harikrishnan A.Ra (Elo 2429) wins Rs.50,000

IM Neelash Saha (Elo 2421) wins Rs.50,000

Ashwin Subramanian, the man who instituted the scholarship wrote: “After reading all the applications to the 3rd pursue your chess scholarship and discussing with Sagar, we felt that Harikrishnan and Neelash would benefit the most based on their talent, specific needs and financial situation. We decided to split the fund equally between them to award each Rs. 50,000. I applaud them both for their tremendous commitment and courage in pursuing their passion (chess aspirations) and hope this helps them both get closer to achieving their chess goals. I wish them both the very best!”

Harikrishnan A.Ra

Harikrishnan A Ra hails from Ambattur in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Father, V.Rangarajan, is a Machine operator in Lucas TVS and my mother, Srirenga Nachiar, is a Fide Arbiter and home maker. Says Harikrishnan, " I started my chess career at the age of 5. I used to accompany my brother (Venkata Krishnan rated 1500) during my childhood days. This increased my passion towards Chess."


At the age of 7, Harikrishnan tasted his first victory, winning the title of Tamil Nadu Under 7 in 2008-09. Same year, while playing National under 7 at Nagpur, the FIDE rating list was announced where the little boy was announced as India's youngest Fide rated player. Harikrishnan gives the credit of achieving this feat to his trainer Mr. Velayudham and Mr. Thaigu (Bloom Chess Academy). The boy's next coach was late Mr. Murali Mohan, who helped him become a good chess player and also helped him to win his first title in KCF Fide rating tournament (Below 1800) 2012. At the age of 13, Harikrishnan started training under Mr. A.L.Kasi (T.Nagar Chess Academy) who helped him boost his rating to 2000+. Surendran, Sekar, Lokesh and R A Pradeep Kumar (all 2100+ Fide rated players and coaches of Viyugam Chess Academy) helped Harikrishnan and during this period he achieved his first IM norm at Kolkata GM Tournament 2015 and raised his rating to 2386.

The look of a determined youngster! | Photo: Angela FJ

While things were going well for the youngster, 2015-16 turned out to be nightmare. Harikrishnan lost 262 Elo points and his rating fell from 2386 to 2124. But the youngster kept his cool. He believed that highs and lows are a part of a sportsman's life. He begun training with K. Visweswaran who stood as a pillar of support for his success and helped him come out of his low. Under his guidance, in 2016, Harikrishnan earned not just his second IM norm but also his third and fourth as well. "Though I completed four IM norms, I was still waiting for my rating to cross 2400+. As my full focus was on chess and becoming an International Master, I could not appear for 10th Board Public examinations. My school still supported me. I appeared for 10th Board examination in 2017 and cleared the exam with 92%."

Highs and lows are a part of every chess player's life - Harikrishnan A.Ra

In year 2018, at the age of 17, Harikrishnan joined the ChessBase India Tour to play in the Catalan circuit where he earned his fifth and sixth (final) IM norms. Also he crossed 2400+ rating to become an International Master. "I would like to thank ChessBase India for organising a wonderful tour which made me an International Master." In year 2019, Harikrishnan won the Ramco Fide rating tournament, Rajapalayam. In late 2019, he concentrated more on his studies and cleared his 12th Board examination in 2020 with 87% (scoring 99% in accountancy).

Harikrishnan fighting it out against the strong GM Karthikeyan Murali

With a good rating and IM title under his belt, the lad joined B.Com in SRM University with a scholarship from the institute. During his school days, Harikrishnan was part of the Tamil Nadu Team winning Gold (2016), Silver (2013, 2014 and 2017) in the respective SGFI Tournaments. Speaking to ChessBase India Harikrishnan says, "Covid Pandemic made the whole world collapse. I utilised that time to stay at home, starting my GM preparations. Also I played a lot of online tournaments and games regularly. Recently in 2021, I won 4th place in the National Senior Chess Championship (Online) ahead of many Indian GMs and IMs. Also, I was part of the Indian team winning Gold medal in Asian University Championship. My current aim is to become a Grand Master. "

How will Harikrishnan use the funds?

Harikrishnan currently has a laptop that is 6 years old. Laptop is an important part of chess player's progress. With the Rs.50,000 that he will receive, Harikrishnan plans to buy a new laptop that will aid him in his journey to become a GM.

Neelash Saha

On his 5th birthday on 1st November 2007, Neelash got two chess sets as present from GM Surya Sekhar Ganguly (who has been a close family friend) and Udayan Kanti Ghosh (the-then Secretary of West Bengal Chess Association). Neelash tried chess for the first time after learning the rules from his father and immediately loved the game. Later, he started to take coaching from Bijoy Maitra who lived near his house. Bijoy taught him all the basics of the game and also helped Neelash a  lot in winning the U-7 State Championship in 2009.


Later the boy joined Alekhine Chess Club in 2010 and has been learning there till date. The head coach of the club Durga Prasad Mahapatra has guided Neelash through most of his career so far and helped him in winning 2 National Championships (U-13 and U-17) and several State Championships along with a under-14 Commonwealth Silver Medal. GM Ziaur Rahman who has trained Neelash for many years now has helped him complete his International Master title in 2019. Neelash says, "My aim after becoming an IM was to become a GM which was hindered in 2019 due to my Class 12th board exams and in 2020 due to the pandemic. Now, with things looking to get back to normal, I am trying my best to finish the GM title first."

Neelash studying hard for his 12th grade exams! Now after the pandemic, he is back on the chess board!

Neelash's achievements:

1. U-13 National Championship (2015) Gold.

2. U-17 National Championship (2019) Gold.

3. U-11 National Championship (2013) 4th.

Receiving the under-17 national winner's trophy


1. U-7 State Championship (2009) Gold.

2. U-9 State Championship (2011) Gold.

3. U-13 State Championship (2015) Gold.

4. U-17 State Championship (2019) Gold.

5. Senior State Blitz CHESS Championship (2019) Gold.

6. Senior State Championship (2017) Gold.

7. U-11 State Championship (2013) Silver.

8. Sub-Junior State Championship (U-15) (2015) Silver.

9. Junior State Championship (U-19) (2018) Silver.

10. Senior State Championship (2018) Silver.

11. U-13 State Championship (2014), Bronze.

12. Sub-Junior State Championship (U-15) (2017) Bronze.


1. Commonwealth Chess Championship (U-14) (2015) Silver.

2. Gujrat International Open Grandmasters Chess Tournament (2019) Bronze.

3. Barbera del Valles International Open Grandmasters Chess Tournament in Spain (2018) IM Norm.

4. Sant Marti International Open Grandmasters Chess Tournament in Spain (2018) IM Norm.

5. Delhi International Open Grandmasters Chess Tournament in India (2019) IM Norm.

6. Goa International Open Grandmasters Chess Tournament in India (2019) IM Norm.


1. Khel Shamman Award (2020) Awarded by West Bengal Government

2. Best Promising Young Sportsperson of West Bengal (2019) Awarded by Calcutta Sports Journalists' Club.

3. Best Young Achiever (2018) Awarded by Sutanuti Parishad.

4. The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence in Sports (2019)

Neelash Saha after winning the Khel Shamman Award

How does Neelash plan to use the funds?

Neelash wants to use the funds to continue his coaching at the Pro Chess Training platform. He also wants to buy softwares and books that have been recommended by his trainers.

We hope that Pursue your Chess scholarship 3 will help Harikrishnan and Neelash in their chess journey

What is HelpChess Foundation?

HelpChess is a Charitable Trust run by ChessBase India. Recently it has also received the 80-G tax exemption certificate from the Government. The name clearly mentions what we are aiming for. We are looking for individuals who would like to help the talents of Indian chess by donating money or instituting a scholarship or donating in kind, so that the financial burdens on the players who come from humble background are reduced to an extent. The logo of HelpChess clearly shows this philosophy. There are many people all over the world who want to contribute financially to the growth of Indian chess. There are many talents in India who are in need of these finances. ChessBase India Foundation aims to act as a bridge. We believe that when ordinary people come together and contribute, extraordinary things can happen to our chess society.


If you too would like to institute a scholarship or support a chess player, please write to us at We will ensure that your amount is well utilized and chess players in the country benefit from it.

Know more about Ashwin Subramanian

Ashwin Subramanian after winning the World Amateur title in 2019
Ashwin's wife Aruna and daughter Anjana perform at Judit Polgar's Global Chess Festival

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