The 13-year-old prodigy holds the title of International Master with a live rating of 2485. He scored his first Grand Master norm in April 2017 at the age of 12 years 09 months. He is the second-youngest Indian in history to score a GM norm.
Nihal was the 2014 World Under-10 Champion, winning the title ahead of several talented peers in Durban, South Africa. In 2015, he came close to winning the Under-12 championship in Porto Carras, Greece but had to settle for silver in the tiebreak. In the 2016 edition in Batumi, Georgia, Nihal tied for the second place, settling for the fourth position on the tiebreak.
In 2017, at the age of 12 years and 08 months, he became the world’s third youngest International Master, second youngest in India and only the fourth ever in the history of Kerala state.
In 2017, at the age of 12 years and 08 months, he became the world’s third youngest International Master, second youngest in India and only the fourth ever in the history of Kerala state. A month later, he tied for the second place at the 2017 Fagernes International in Norway, placing fourth in the tiebreak with 6.5/9 to score his first Grandmaster Norm.
In an article on the World Chess website analyzing his game, GM Parimarjan Negi, world’s second-youngest grandmaster, referred to Nihal as ‘mature beyond his years’, and writes about one of the key moves with the white pieces in his analysis:
“It’s hard to say if this is objectively the strongest move – probably not – but it sure is creative! At the moment, it is very hard to see the idea behind fxg4 – and Black (opponent) didn’t see it either in the game. Nihal shows great intuition to realize that securing the e4 square for his knight would prove crucial – after all, there are too many options to calculate these lines precisely.”
In a 2015 ChessBase report following his display at the World Under-12 Championships, the ChessBase editor Albert Silver wrote: