Arjun Erigaisi Needs No Invitation, Rises To World Number-4 (2024)

"We don't need no... invitation," to loosely borrow the lyrics from Pink Floyd, could be the hook to GM Arjun Erigaisi's theme song in the year 2024. Despite playing in almost no closed super-tournaments, which are invitation-only, he has been dominating leagues and open events. Since December 2023, he has gained 58 rating points, leaping from world number-30 (rating: 2713) to world number-four (rating: 2771).

While eyes have been on his fellow Indian GM Gukesh Dommaraju, who won the 2024 FIDE Candidates Tournament and will play the 2024 FIDE World Championship later this year, as well as GM Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, who also participated in the Candidates and just finished playing in Norway Chess 2024, Arjun has been grinding. Out of 12 tournaments, he's only gained rating except for a negligible loss of 1.2 points in the Sharjah Masters.

Arjun Erigaisi Needs No Invitation, Rises To World Number-4 (1)

Just about every other elite chess player avoids open events—unless the top spots qualify for the FIDE Candidates (the FIDE Grand Swiss), or there's a lot of money on offer (e.g. the Qatar Masters)—and sticks to closed, invitational tournaments. There's a claim that top chess players generally lose rating points if they play in open events, because even draws against lower-rated grandmasters will hurt them, but not everybody agrees. GM Fabiano Caruana, for example, is one of the highest-rated players to disagree with that claim.

In an email, Arjun explained: "If I had invitations to closed tournaments then I wouldn’t be playing the opens, but since I don’t have invitations I don’t mind playing opens instead. I can choose to sit at home and complain about it or I can create my own path. I chose the latter."

I can choose to sit at home and complain about it or I can create my own path. I chose the latter.

—Arjun Erigaisi

Arjun's success is attributed to the fact that he's winning almost every game he plays—something he has to do to keep his rating as high as it is. At the French Team Chess Championship, he gained 10 points, dropping just three draws while winning six games against almost all-GM opposition.

Arjun Erigaisi Needs No Invitation, Rises To World Number-4 (2)

Arjun added that playing in open tournaments isn't ideal, but it's been the only way for him to stay active: "In an open tournament there is more downside than upside. For a 2750+ even a draw after a really good game results in rating loss and a win hardly gets you any points. I understand this risk but for me it’s about playing regularly and opens were the only way I could do that."

His recent ascension has captured the attention of others at the top. GM Magnus Carlsen spoke about Arjun's enterprising style to The Indian Express: "Arjun is just a complete madman at the board. He wants to kill you in every single game. Has crazy preparation and plays extremely ambitiously and that’s what makes him very dangerous."

Arjun is just a complete madman at the board. He wants to kill you in every single game.

—Magnus Carlsen

GM Anish Giri had a more lighthearted take, expressing the same sentiment.

I understand that Arjun Erigaisi is a great threat to chess, but playing the Philidor is not the solution. pic.twitter.com/y6OlKe9OGO

— Anish Giri (@anishgiri) May 31, 2024

GMs Parham Maghsoodloo and Levon Aronian joined in the comments, with the former writing, "What is the solution?" and the latter answering, "Relax and take the L."

Arjun earned his grandmaster title at the age of 14 and was a bit slower than some of his Indian contemporaries, like Gukesh and Praggnanandhaa, to gain public attention. One of his coaches, Indian GM Srinath Narayanan, called out the talent in 2021 when 17-year-old Arjun was rated only 2567. A year later, as Arjun crossed 2700, he reminded us about it. There's no telling who will win the race between "the children of GM Viswanathan Anand," as GM Garry Kasparov called them.

This aged well. https://t.co/uTMXIh5JNH

— Srinath Narayanan (@srinathchess) August 26, 2022

Arjun's success in open tournaments may pave the road to the FIDE Candidates Tournament in 2026, which will decide the next world championship challenger. The player who scores the most FIDE Circuit points by the end of the year qualifies, and Arjun currently leads.

Arjun Erigaisi Needs No Invitation, Rises To World Number-4 (3)

We may see Arjun invited to more closed events after this meteoric rise. He wishes to see the same: "I understand my rating was lower till a few months ago and thus there were no invitations, but that is no longer the case and I am sure organisers will take notice of that for the next year."

Lastly, I asked Arjun how it feels to watch his countryman, Gukesh, play the world championship against GM Ding Liren later this year. Arjun is, at the moment, the Indian number-one. "There are no hard feelings. The very fact that he could be the world champion at just 18 makes me root for him. I think he’s a favorite to win the match if Ding doesn’t come back to his form."

NM Anthony Levin

NM Anthony Levin caught the chess bug at the "late" age of 18 and never turned back. He earned his national master title in 2021, actually the night before his first day of work at Chess.com.

Anthony, who also earned his Master's in teaching English in 2018, taught English and chess in New York schools for five years and strives to make chess content accessible and enjoyable for people of all ages. At Chess.com, he writes news articles and manages social media for chess24.

Email: [emailprotected]

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anthony.seikei/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alevinchess

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/anthonylevinchess/

Arjun Erigaisi Needs No Invitation, Rises To World Number-4 (2024)
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