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Record-breaking 8-year-old chess prodigy Ashwath Kaushik tells CNN he wants to become a ‘world champion’

By Ben Church, CNN

(CNN) — After becoming the youngest player to ever beat a chess grandmaster during a classical game over the board, Ashwath Kaushik has been adjusting to his new-found fame.

The eight-year-old chess prodigy made history on Sunday by beating Poland’s Jacek Stopa, 37, in round four of the Burgdorfer Stadthaus Open in Switzerland.

The previous record had been set earlier this year by then eight-year-old Leonid Ivanovic – who became the first player under the age of nine to beat a grandmaster in a classical game – but Ashwath was five months younger than the Serbian when he beat Stopa.

“I’ve seen all the news about me beating a grandmaster and it feels amazing,” Ashwath tells CNN Sport, struggling to contain a beaming smile over Zoom.

“I feel proud of my game and how I played. I felt amazing, just unbelievable,” adds Ashwath, who started playing chess when he was just four years old and quickly fell in love with the “really fun” game.

His journey started when his parents introduced him to – an online platform for children to learn about the game – as a way of making the most of the inevitable hours their son was spending in front of a screen.

Ashwath was then given a chess board and it wasn’t long before he started beating his parents and grandparents.

His mother, Rohini Ramachandran, credits the Covid-19 pandemic for accelerating her son’s chess development, with Ashwath having to stay indoors during those months of lockdown.

Ashwath then started working with a coach and now practices up to eight hours a day during the weekends, focusing more on schoolwork during the weekdays.

“I practice a lot each day,” Ashwath says when asked what makes him so good at chess. “A lot of children have a natural talent, so I think I’ve got a natural talent at chess.”

Big dreams

Having a made a name for himself at youth level – notably becoming the world Under-8 Rapid champion in 2022, per – Ashwath wants to make it to the very top of the game.

“A world champion,” he says, without hesitation, when asked what he wants to become when he’s older, before adding: “That will be a bit of time. It won’t come quickly.”

Ashwath speaks passionately and eloquently about chess and says he’s never nervous when playing opponents with decades more experience than himself.

Given his rapid development as a chess player, Ashwath is unlike most eight-year-olds, but, in many ways, he’s also like any other child his age.

He says he spends his time away from the board playing with Lego, going on bike rides and visiting his friends, who he says are all very supportive of his fledgling chess career.

Proud parents

With the help of his parents, Ashwath also streams some of his games and puzzles online and set up a YouTube channel where he has previously showcased his skills.

As he continues to learn his trade, the youngster is also excited to impart his wisdom. His four-year-old brother has been inspired by his older sibling’s passion and watches Ashwath practice with keen interest.

Ashwath’s parents have been slightly surprised by their children’s interest in chess, describing the experience as “surreal.”

“It just started when we were looking for something to keep [Ashwath] occupied,” Ramachandran tells CNN Sport.

“We are so, so proud of him. We’ve seen how much effort he puts in. He’s passionate about the sport and we are ready to support him for as long as he wants.

“It just feels amazing for him to achieve something so big and at such a young age. We are just overflowing with pride.”

After his record-breaking tournament in Switzerland, Ashwath is now having some time off to recover.

But it won’t be long until he’s back out competing at tournaments around the world, as he continues his mission to become the sport’s next big thing.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Sports

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