Vaishali is only the third woman from the country to earn the coveted GM title, after Koneru Humpy and D Harika.
Chess champion R Vaishali has become only the third woman to achieve Grandmaster (GM) status in India — and, in the process, has created history. Along with her younger sibling R Praggnanandhaa, the duo are the world’s first-ever brother-sister to earn the GM title.
Her younger brother Praggnanandhaa became a GM in 2018, when he was just 12. Vaishali is the country’s 84th GM overall.
Vaishali accomplished the GM ranking after surpassing 2500 ELO rating points on Friday, 1 December, at the IV El Llobregat Open in Spain.
Vaishali, 22, from Chennai, reached the 2500 mark when she overcame Turkish FM Tamer Tarik Selbes in the second round.
She earned her third GM norm in October at the Qatar Masters tournament and needed to raise her ELO rating.
The siblings are also the first brother-sister team to compete in the Candidates, a qualifying event for the World Championship match. In April, the Candidates will be held in Toronto.
Like Praggnanandhaa, Vaishali too learned to play chess from her father, Rameshbabu, who was also a chess player.
Vaishali is the third woman to achieve GM status in India after Koneru Humpy and D Harika. Humpy was the world’s youngest female player to achieve GM status at the age of 15 in 2002.
There is a separate Woman Grandmaster (WGM) category. There are 42 WGMs in India as of May 2023.
The GM title is accorded to both men and women, and is harder to achieve than the women-only WGM title. One normally becomes a Grandmaster by achieving an ELO rating of at least 2500 and two or three favorable results (“norms”) in a tournament involving other GMs.
Recollecting memories from her playing days at Velammal school, Velavan Subaiah, chess coordinator at Vaishali’s alma mater, told South First, “She used to play all the school level tournaments such as SGFI, Districts and Zonals even when she won the gold medal at World Youth Chess Championships.”
He adds, “This shows how dedicated, humble, and down-to-earth person she is. The school also did not leave any stone unturned and supported her financially throughout her journey.”
He added that the Velammalians are very happy with Vaishali’s achievement. “The school is planning a felicitation programme for her and once she returns from Spain, we will host it,” Subaiah said.
For Subaiah, Vaishali’s achievement will also inspire other women players.
Subaiah adds, “Players such as Rakshitta Ravi (17-year-old and India’s 24th WGM), V Varshini, and Savitha Shri B (25th WGM) are all studying and pursuing their chess careers in Velammal school. I believe Vaishali’s achievement will motivate them, and sooner or later they will also achieve the distinction of Grandmaster.”
Chess legend Viswanathan Anand congratulated Vaishali on social networking platform X.
“She worked very hard the last few months and this augurs well as she gets ready for the candidates. Her parents and just maybe the competition at home should be congratulated.
@Rameshchess & Aarthie for being her rock,” Anand wrote.
Congratulations to @chessvaishali for becoming a GM.
She worked very hard the last few months and this augurs well as she gets ready for the candidates. Her parents and just maybe the competition at home should be congratulated.@Rameshchess & Aarthie for being her rock.
— Viswanathan Anand (@vishy64theking) December 2, 2023
(With PTI inputs)