A young man’s journey to becoming a grand master

For onlookers, chess may seem like a simple two-player board game played on an 8×8 grid with 64 black and white squares. One might say that there is nothing significant about watching players get lost in their own world of pawns knights, bishops, rooks and king and queens but chess is more than what meets the eyes — a game of strategy that requires a high level of cunning if one wishes to become a grand master.
Chess is often said to be the game of life where the queen protects the king and the final goal is to capture the opponents king. It is also game of tact that requires one to play with a calm and composed mind, making sure to make the right choices and intercept his opponents moves to make the final ‘Check Mate’.
Savielly Tartakower, the famously known chess journalist and author once said, “The winner of the game is the player who makes the next-to-last mistake” and making very few mistakes is what a12-year-old boy from Muscat is doing. He is now slowly but steadily climbing the ladder to someday become the next Grand Master.
Jijo Joy, studying in grade 7 in Indian School Wadi Kabir, has gained the attention of those in Oman and abroad with his impressive gameplay and knack for chess at such a young age.
Like some of his peers, Jijo loves swimming and reading books in his spare time but it is chess that he is utterly in love with.
Jijo first started playing chess at the tender age of six after his uncle introduced him to the game. He easily grasped the working of the game and quickly built interest and developed his own tactics. Before his parents knew it, he was competing and winning in local games and tournaments in his community and school.
Jijo’s parents saw a unique skill in him and just like any other responsible parent, they think it is their rightful duty to support and encouraged him do even better in his hobby. The Joys are going all the way supporting their son even when he decides to go professional.
Rakhi, Jijo’s mother said, “We wish for all parents to look into their children’s talents and extracurricular activities and to support and encourage them to pursue their dreams.”
With Jijo’s talent in their mind, Rakhi and his husband enrolled him into professional chess training at the International Chess Academy in Muscat at the age of nine. There was no doubt about his immense talent as not long after, Jijo was competing at international tournaments and making a name for himself in the international arena amongst the other elite chess players.
Jijo’s played his first international tournament at the young age of 10 at the 22nd Abu Dhabi International Chess Festival under-16 Championship where he went on to win third place in his age group.
At this competition, Jijo won five out of the total seven games and drew two, leaving him unbeaten at his first international competition. Earlier in the year, he came first at the XVIII Obert Internacional de Fifueres Miquel Mas 2017, an international chess competition hosted in Spain.
Jijo shared that other than the incredible support that his parents provided him, there were many others along the way that continue to help him in order to achieve his goals. He is indebted and thankful to his coach Ismail Karim at the International Chess Academy of Oman who not only encouraged him but has been guiding him for the past three years enabling Jijo to reach the great heights that he has achieved today.
He was also appreciative of his school and teachers for their support during his time away at training and competitions ensuring he is able to compete without hampering his education.
Other than the incredible support from his parents and coach, there were many other supporters that came out of their way to ensure Jijo’s dreams come true.
In order to improve his performance and achieve a higher FIDE rating, Jijo needs to compete outside of Oman as the country currently does not host classical tournaments. He also need to train for high calibre scientific chess trainings all of which requires a large financial backing.
To support the family and help Jijo, companies like Khimji Ramdas Luxury & Lifestyle supported Jijo at his last international level competition in Barcelona, Spain. Some of his other well-wishers have been Malabar Gold, Badr Al Sama, Habib Salam Electricals, the Indian School Board of Directors and the Indian Social Club (Kerala Wing) who have stood beside Jijo, supporting his talent and ensuring he reach his goals
Currently, Jijo has a FIDE (World Chess Federation) ranking is 1966 and as of this October, he holds the 17th rank in India and 1st in his state of Kerala. This talented young man’s short-term goals include becoming a ‘Candidate Master’ which is achieved by scoring an Elo rating of 2200 or more, and like other chess professionals, Jijo is also working hard towards reaching the ultimate and someday conquering the title of ‘Grand Master’ — a title that is awarded to outstanding chess players by the FIDE, apart from being a World Champion, this is the highest title one can attain in chess.
Once achieved, the Grand Master title is held for life.
“There is no shortcut to success”, says Jijo, who believes that through hard work, intensive training and support from his well-wishers he would one day make a name for himself and hold the glorious title of Grand Master.

TITASH CHAKRABORTY
titash894@gmail.com