Meet Nivaan Khandhadia, young chess prodigy

Nivaan Khandhadia was four years old when introduced to the game of chess by his father. Two days later he beat his father, his first teacher, at the game and has been unstoppable ever since. 

Young chess prodigy Nivaan Khandhadia was introduced to chess at the age of four by his father, and the rest is history. Photo courtesy: Nivaan
Young chess prodigy Nivaan Khandhadia was introduced to chess at the age of four by his father, and the rest is history. Photo courtesy: Nivaan

Recognising the potential and witnessing his son’s keen interest in the game, Nivaan’s father enlisted him for professional training. 

The young chess master has lived up to his potential and gone on to win 51 trophies, 12 medals, and even defeated much more experienced players such as Ranjan Kotian (age 30) and Dwaipayan Basu (age 44).

Now seven, and a Grade 2 student at the Global Indian International School (GIIS) SMART Campus in Singapore, Nivaan, with a rating of 1137 Elo points, is currently ranked tenth in the world.  In May 2018 he was also crowned as the ‘Youngest Rated Chess Player of India. 

On what he enjoys about playing chess, Nivaan, speaking with a maturity beyond his years said, “The fact that it’s a battle of brains and judging the next move of the opponent. I find it enjoyable.” 

Grade 2 GIIS SMART Campus student Nivaan Khandhadia won the first prize in Boys U8 category at the Singapore National Blitz Chess Championships 2019, held on July 27. Photo courtesy: GIIS
Nivaan won the first prize in Boys U8 category at the Singapore National Blitz Chess Championships 2019, held on July 27. Photo courtesy: GIIS

Living, breathing chess

It takes a village to raise a chess champion. Besides his immediate family, Nivaan’s coach Vishwanath Sandilya from South Mumbai Chess Academy (SMCA) plays a major role in the grooming of the prodigy. 

Sandilya, has crafted a holistic training programme which takes care of not just Nivaan’s chess training, but also his nutrition and fitness. This helps to ensure that Nivaan can be in his optimal state when the tournament season kicks in.

Nivaan trains three to six hours a day on average. Photo courtesy: ChessBase India
Nivaan trains three to six hours a day on average. Photo courtesy: ChessBase India

A typical day in Nivaan’s life consists of between three to six hours of coaching in chess. “When tournaments are around the corner, I train up to 12 hours a day,” he shared.

“My mother accompanies me on outstation tournaments, and we would bring my school books along. After the rounds, she helps me with my revision, in the hotel room and this keeps me in pace with the school curriculum,” he said.

GIIS a pillar of support

The young chess prodigy also finds his pillar of support in his school, GIIS. The teachers would prepare worksheets and material for him in advance, so that he could bring them along on his chess tournaments. Nivaan added, “The best part is that whenever I am going to participate in any tournament, my classmates and teachers would share motivational cards, notes and posters with me to cheer me up and keep me inspired.”

Nivaan (first from left) was part of the GIIS SMART Campus team that won the first place in the International Under-8 category and overall second place in the 60th National Inter-School Team Chess Championship 2019. Photo courtesy: GIIS
Nivaan (first from left) was part of the GIIS SMART Campus team that won the first place in the International Under-8 category and overall second place in the 60th National Inter-School Team Chess Championship 2019. Photo courtesy: GIIS

GIIS also provides Nivaan with various platforms to prove his mettle and hone his chess skills. He was part of the school team, which won the first prize in the U-14 category Inter-School Team Chess Championship 2019. Nivaan also participated in GIIS Olympics at Ahmedabad campus, with his team bagging the silver medal in the chess tournament. His latest achievement was winning the Singapore National Age Group tournament in the U7 category, scoring 7.5 out of 8.

In his free time, Nivaan enjoys swimming, reading books, solving riddles and playing cricket.

Author
Kareyst Lin
Kareyst Lin – Senior Correspondent

Kareyst has experience in writing about B2B technology for Computerworld Singapore, MIS Asia and CIO Asia; and on government technology for GCIO Asia. Her pet areas are artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and smart cities - these are fueled by her obsession with sci-fi movies and philosophy of mind. An active Yoga practitioner and cat lover, with a background in Indian philosophy, subaltern and diaspora studies.

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