This 12-year-old is watching your every move

A Mumbai school boy who loves to write about chess and interview Grandmasters

January 20, 2018 08:21 pm | Updated 08:22 pm IST - MUMBAI

Avathanshu Bhat is a  ‘junior author’ by ChessBase India.

Avathanshu Bhat is a ‘junior author’ by ChessBase India.

Avathanshu Bhat was among the many under-13 kids milling around the rows of chess boards at Mount Litera International School. But unlike many of the serious-looking children busy solving complex problems involving rooks and knights, the 12-year-old was content to watch from a distance and take mental notes.

After the games are over, he would chat up the players who had come to participate in the IIFL Wealth 3rd International Chess Championship. He would quiz them about their strategies, their best and worst moments, and interests away from the board. This cheerful school boy with curious eyes is not quite the typical chess prodigy — a creature that is almost a stereotype today. Rather, his talent lies in describing the game and drawing out its champions in elaborate interviews.

The seventh standard student from Podar International School, Powai is Mumbai’s youngest chess writer, contributing regularly for the chess news portal,

Apart from champions his own age, Bhat has interviewed Grandmasters from around the world. Meeting the recently-crowned rapid chess World Champion Viswanathan Anand was one of the highlights of his already eventful career as a chess commentator.

ChessBase India co-founders, International Master (IM) Sagar Shah and women’s IM-elect Amruta Mokal taught Bhat to play chess. “Avathanshu would come to the coaching classes carrying a book, sometimes Satyajit Ray’s Feluda, or JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I realised then that he was different,” says Shah, who encouraged the boy to write about chess after reading his blog.

The questions he posed to Anand ranged from the intricacies of rapid chess to his favourite filmstars, says Avathanshu, on being asked about his encounter with Anand, who was the special guest on the closing day of the IIFL competition.

Bhat has also covered chess events in Spain, notably the Sunway Sitges International Chess Festival, where the Canadian player Aman Hambleton emerged as his favourite due to “his openness.” Supriya Bhat, the boy’s mother and travel companion, says that Avathanshu is quiet at home and talks very little. “He is mostly absorbed in movies and books. I wonder at how he changes when he is in the chess world, meeting strangers and asking adults to answer his questions.”

“I thought commentary is a nice way to learn more about the game, to get to know the players. I started by writing about my most memorable experiences in my blog, and then slowly moved into writing on chess,” says the young chess writer. Designated as a ‘junior author’ by ChessBase India, the Mumbai schoolboy says the big challenge is to get players to open up. “When I interview players, sometimes they are reluctant to answer or they reply too casually. But I try to find out how difficult their journey has been, and the hardships they went through before becoming a grandmaster.”

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