WASHINGTON – When a 12-year-old Indian prodigy defeated an 18-year-old Italian champion in chess this past June, he didn’t just win the game. He also became the second-youngest grandmaster – the highest rank possible – in chess history.
It was the latest development in what has become a “chess renaissance” for India over the last 15 years, as the country has rocketed to the game’s top ranks after decades of mediocrity. This transformation has paralleled a more symbolic one, as India – the world’s largest democracy – has risen steadily since the end of the Cold War into the ranks of geopolitical grandmasters, skillfully using its size, strength, and strategic location to expand its global presence. It’s a fitting rise for the civilization where chess first originated.