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Shahil Dey and Aniruddha Potawad win the 2nd Pursue your Chess Scholarship for Rs.75,000

by Avathanshu Bhat - 12/05/2020

A few days ago, the ‘Pursue your chess’ scholarship of Rs 75000 was announced by the ChessBase India Foundation, aimed at talented chess players held back by financial constraints. The two deserving winners of the scholarship are CM Shahil Dey and Aniruddha Potawad. Both have a fierce chess spirit, and have been going from strength to strength every tournament. However, even the best of talents can get suppressed by things they cannot control. In order to give an impetus to their chess careers, Shahil Dey wins Rs.50,000 and Anirudh Potawad Rs.25,000. In the article we tell you the story of both these individuals and how their families have fought every possible situation to ensure that their chess dream continues.

In 2019 we launched the "Pursue your chess" scholarship for the first time. It was instituted by a kind gentleman from Bangalore who wishes to remain anonymous. The scholarship was won by Sammed Shete, who at that point had a rating of 2300+ and two IM norms. In the next year, Sammed crossed 2400, scored his remaining IM norm and became an IM. This was a very happy feeling for the sponsor as well as for us at the ChessBase India Foundation. The "Pursue your chess scholarship" now moves to its second year and this time the amount has increased from Rs.50,000 to Rs.75,000. After going through all the applications, instead of one, two winners were selected.


Shahil Dey of Assam won the scholarship of Rs.50,000 while Aniruddh Potawad gets the scholarship of Rs.25,000. Speaking to the person who instituted the scholarship, he said, "After reading all the responses to  the Pursue your Chess scholarship, I felt Shahil and Aniruddha were the most deserving candidates based on their talent and financial situation. Shahil seemed very talented and I felt this scholarship could help him with his advanced coaching needs to achieve his IM title. Also, given Aniruddha had reached a very strong rating without any structured training, I felt providing him funds for at least a few hours of structured training would help greatly boost his strength! Hence decided to split the scholarship into Rs.50,000 for Shahil (similar to Sammed’s scholarship) and Rs. 25,000 for Aniruddha.


Let's have a look at the both the stories of the youngsters - Shahil first and Aniruddha next.

From Guwahati to Kolkata - CM Shahil Dey

Shahil can reach greater heights, if given a solid footing to support him |Photo: Shahil Dey

Age: 13 years

Playing chess since: Eight years

Peak Elo Rating: 2376


Shahil started chess at the age of 5. He got interested by watching his parents play chess as a pastime and he asked to go to a chess school. “I did not take it seriously then as I knew he was too naughty and impatient and unable to sit in one place for a long time,” says his mother Mithu Dey. But Shahil's constant effort, convinced his father to put him in a chess school. They saw an ad in the newspaper about a chess coaching centre and decided to go ahead with it, still with the thought that young Shahil would leave chess within a month or two. “He understood how the pieces moved but didn’t know about the exact name of the pieces, yet the instructor thought he had capability. For me then it sounded so funny as I knew Shahil’s habits. The coaching center closed soon for reasons unknown, but Shahil was still eager, and so in that time we appointed a coach for him. That was where his chess journey began.”

Shahil has phenomenal growth with a live rating of Elo 2376 | Photo: FIDE

He started in April 2012 and was still very new to the chess scene, as were his parents. They were unaware that chess had any tournaments or how to attend them. His coach suggested the Nationals U-7, and Shahil went for it as part of another holiday. “Shahil made a lot of mistakes as a beginner, yet managed to score 5 points. One memorable game was when, not wanting to lose a knight, he tried to sacrifice his king without thinking that he could lose! Whatever be the cost, he didn’t want to lose his knight.”, says Mithu.


In December of the same year, Shahil participated in Asian schools U-5, and he got gold in classical and bronze in blitz. Shahil’s coach had insisted on it being a good experience and opportunity for him, which convinced his parents to go, and it turned out to be true. “We felt good that maybe he could do something with chess just like now, where he still has the interest to continue.”

Shahil taking the prize at the U-5 Asian schools in December of 2012; the same year he began his journey! |Photo: Shahil

From then, Shahil worked very hard on the game and achieved many accolades in chess. In 2014, Shahil participated in the National U-7 category (which was held in Kolkata) and became the National champion. Shahil next played at the U-9 Nationals in Jalandhar, Punjab 2016 also, and he once again secured the 1st place. “At the time, chess was not so popular in Assam, and there wasn’t much coaching support. We were in quite a dilemma, as we didn’t have much of an idea on coaching either. We did appoint one IM after U-9 national for him and Shahil attended the class around 2-3 times, however it was difficult to maintain financially. We had to stop  that, but after meeting Ramesh sir (R.B. Ramesh) in a seminar held in Assam, Shahil joined Chess Gurukul classes. We were unable to continue that either, but Shahil is still in touch with Ramesh sir and whenever he needs, sir is always there.” Despite all this, Shahil has been on his toes since the last years and has been as focused and determined as ever. Here is a list of his most notable achievements:

In Commonwealth Delhi, 2014, Shahil got one-of-many-to-come gold in U-8 category. | Photo: Shahil Dey

In the year 2015, Shahil represented India as one of the participants in Asian Youth, South Korea and was able to secure silver in U-8 category. In 2016 Asian Youth, Mongolia he took home the bronze (Blitz section) medal in the U-10 category. 

One of the biggest achievements in his chess career, when he received the National child award from the President of India for his achievements in chess. | Photo: Shahil Dey

Shahil participated in U-11 Nationals in Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu and achieved 3rd place (joint 1st but due to Buchholz). In 2019, he participated in Asian Youth in Sri Lanka where for the first time he went alone with his team members and achieved gold in Blitz individual and team settings, and in classical chess finished 5th. “It was really tough time for us to send him alone with the team as he was not aware of how to handle the little things that are always managed by the parents but he did and we are happy about that.”


However, as rosy as all of this might look, it was not always easy for the Dey family to support his chess. “As we have not given him that much coaching support or chess trips outside India, Shahil still lacks exposure in chess. We are trying to do as much as possible for Shahil. To support his chess career we recently shifted to Kolkata from Guwahati 1 month back; it was not an easy decision but we had hope for a better chess future and so we decided to do that. We hope everything will go smoother and this decision may be helpful for him to achieve his IM title as early possible and big heights in chess.” Assam, after a certain point, did not have experienced coaches, which was the reason for the shifting to Kolkata. It was like a forced move.

Hailing from Assam, where there was less support for a growing chess career, Shahil did not always find the chess journey easy in that respect |Photo: Shahil Dey

Shahil doesn’t have big sponsors, and in Assam it was very difficult to find someone willing. The problem wasn’t that no one could support him, but that no one would or were interested in doing so. “Too many times his story was published in newspapers and media too, but no one came to support. We still have faith that he can do well, and are trying with our own finances and hope it is sufficient. Shahil’s present rating is 2376, and he missed 2 IM norms in last 2 tournaments in Europe in the month of Dec-Jan 2019-20, which was unfortunate, but we wish he will achieve it very soon. It is difficult to afford going for his chess, that too with no real knowledge about the future of his career." Things are slowly getting better as in the last year Shahil got financial help twice of Rs.50,000 each from an anonymous sponsor from Delhi, which helped Shahil greatly to plan chess trips abroad after a long time. “We are most thankful to anybody who has enough trust in Shahil to put money out of their pocket for him. I am really thankful to the sponsors of this chess scholarship and ChessBase India Foundation that has selected Shahil. It will help him greatly for his chess coaching which we have planned and to achieve his goal.


Along with chess Shahil loves music and is learning guitar, a new hobby for him but definitely not the first. Art is also his forte, and Shahil is a very good swimmer too. Before starting chess, he was a regular participant in state championships of swimming; he was district and state level swimming champion too in his category.

Shahil with his parents |Photo: Shahil Dey

We congratulate Shahil and his parents on winning Rs.50,000 Pursue your chess scholarship and wish him the best in his journey towards the IM title and beyond.

Tailoring big hopes - Aniruddha Potawad

Age: 15 years

Playing chess since: Five years

Peak Elo Rating: 1914

Talents like Aniruddha need support to rise to the top |Photo: Aniruddha

In 2015, during Aniruddha’s holidays, the family had decided not to go their relative’s place and had stayed at home. ‘I had a board and was setting it up, when Aniruddha came up to me and asked what it was.", says his father Ravindra. "This is chess, I replied, and showed him how the game worked. Soon, he downloaded an app on my phone and began playing on it there. As I watched, he moved up from the app’s level 1, to level 2 then level 3. After quite some time of this, I decided that he should go for a tournament; but I didn’t know where to look for them. Aniruddha also was interested in playing a tournament, but he couldn’t understand the game’s notation at first. A school friend’s father recommended them a coach, whom Aniruddha would go to once his school had ended. It was mostly playing practice and the youngster would play chess there every day. Every once in a while, he would want to play a tournament to try out his newfound knowledge in the action. One of his first tournaments was the Mumbai Mayor’s Cup in July of 2015, where he happened to get his rating."

In four years Aniruddh has moved from 1200 Elo to 1875

"My dream is to make Aniruddha’s dreams possible. I am happy that he has some interests, and some ambition to pursue. After his first few tournaments were over, I knew then that it would be a difficult journey, and things would not always be easy. Still, I wanted to follow through and support Aniruddha in these endeavors. I have decided that come what may, we will make this work for him. Aniruddha mostly teaches himself the game, and when he joins coaching it’s always a group class. His coach took Rs.1500 per month, considering we were from a weak financial background. We are careful when sending him for tournaments also, and I only go if his performance off the board is up to the mark. It may not be the best, but it is the most I can do for his chess career. Aniruddha has so much passion for the game. When he plays chess, I can see the fire within him to put time into learning it. For him chess is life. Because of this I can sacrifice anything for him." says Ravindra.


Despite having learnt the game mostly by himself, Aniruddha has a lot of awards that he has earned for himself with his fierce attitude and powerful play:

He was champion of Late Bharatbhai Halkude Memorial All India below 1600 rating category held in Pune in 2018 |Photo: Aniruddha Potawad

He became Champion of Maharashtra State School in 2015-16 and again in 2016-17.  He also won Maharashtra State Amateur Chess tournament in 2018 |Photo: Aniruddha Potawad

Bronze medal in DSO National (SGFI) chess tournament at Silvasa in 2018. |Photo: Aniruddha Potawad

...and these are just a few of the many more; both in the past and to come.


"For him to be able to play tournaments regularly itself would be a blessing. Even now, if we go for a tournament, it will usually be in a group with 2 or 3 other kids. Then we stay in a shared hotel and that really helps with funds. But sometimes, even that is not enough. Somehow, after being careful and saving money, we can just about afford to send Aniruddha to tournaments. Tournaments are not the only source of worry for us, however; Private coaching for Aniruddha is uncommon, and he is mostly a self-taught chess player. Yes, he gets ample playing practice in his classes, and at home too, but to learn beyond the fundamentals Aniruddha has to find a workaround for himself. He and I are together very confident that given time, he can reach the heights of becoming a world class GM. He really aims for that, and I want to make his dream possible. For me, it’s not just about becoming a GM; I just don’t want him to be in a job like mine." Aniruddha's father is a tailor by profession and earns just about enough to make ends meet.


Aniruddha's Rs.25,000 is something that will be utilized for his chess training. The ChessBase India team has managed to get one of the best trainers of India GM Vishnu Prasanna to work with Aniruddha and help him improve his play. The personal training sessions have already begun and we asked Vishnu about the youngster's talent. The kid is very curious and has already put in a lot of effort on his own clearly. Even during the class he is happy to notice good ideas and also appreciative of the ideas we discuss. I think he is enjoying chess and is very keen on getting better at it. He already was familiar with some theoretical endgames and was ready to push himself and solve the calculation positions."

GM Vishnu Prasanna has trained some of the best talents in the country, the most famous one being the second youngest GM in the history of chess - D.Gukesh | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Father Ravindra Potawad couldn't have been happier with this development. "He is really, really liking the coaching. He hasn’t ever had this long period of private coaching before! This his first time he is experiencing online coaching too, so two new experiences are combined! Aniruddha is loving these classes, as he has never really had the chance to ask his doubts and get them solved. He feels very motivated and happy about these sessions, that too from a GM! Vishnu sir gives Aniruddha feedback and ways to improve, things he is doing well, things to work on and so much more. This scholarship has possibly been the best thing to ever that has happened to us."

Aniruddha has a burning desire to push to the top, and deal with any obstacles that slow him down. His family are rock-steady beside him and fully support his career at the risk of their financial condition. What a spirit! |Photo: Aniruddha Potawad

"I would like to thank the sponsors of this scholarship and ChessBase India Foundation deeply from the bottom of my heart. Had it not been for them, Aniruddha would still have done what he has now, and that may never have been sufficient enough in the long run. Now, we can provide him with more, and his chess will surely change for the better. He was always so confused before, because everyone would tell him different ideas, different openings, and different play-styles that are supposedly better. Now he can really get everything sorted together thanks to the coaching he is receiving. His confidence is also renewed, and he has understood that it is important to play, come what may. We used to think before: "If we can’t send him to tournaments, he will practice from home. If he can’t afford coaching, he will learn by himself." Had he not received the scholarship that’s how he would have continued. I’m sure he could have managed, but this scholarship is definitely a huge helping hand. That’s all I would like to say to the sponsors; you may have improved Aniruddha’s career forever, and not as a one-time thing. And for that, thank you!"

Aniruddha with his parents and sister |Photo: Aniruddha Potawad

We, at ChessBase India, are confident that with GM Vishnu Prasanna's guidance Aniruddha will positively keep improving in the years to come!

The anonymous donor from Bangalore of the Pursue Your Chess Scholarship has made a difference in the lives of not just two chess players, but their families and near ones. We at ChessBase India can help you institute a scholarship and make sure that your money reaches the right talents. Write to us at if you are interested to donate and support a talent in India.

“When ordinary people come together and contribute, extraordinary things can happen to our chess society.”


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