UPDATED: Congratulations were pouring in after 18-year-old Aryan Tari of Lier, southwest of Oslo, became the new FIDE World Junior Chess Champion over the weekend. Norway’s other World Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen, is calling Tari “amazing,” while Tari himself called his victory on Saturday “the greatest day of my life.”
“The amazing Aryan Tari is the new junior world champion!” Carlsen cheered on social media, adding that Tari “kept his cool in a difficult position in the last round.” Carlsen called that “the mark of a champion.”
“This is just fantastic,” the president of Norway’s chess association, Morten Lillestøl Madsen, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “He has shown enormous mental strength.”
Tari won gold at the junior world chess championships in Tarvisio, Italy after a remis (tie) in the last round. The young man born in Norway in 1999 seemed a bit stunned himself: “This hasn’t completely sunk in for me yet,” he told NRK, noting that he “wasn’t quite sure” the remis after 54 moves would be enough to push him over the top. It was, leaving him with 8.5 out of 11 possible points.
“Then the congratulations began to stream in,” Tari said after he won ahead of Chithambaram Aravindh of India and Manuel Petrosyan of Armenia. He’s been playing chess since he was five years old and said it was “cool to achieve something so great, it’s just incredible.”
Tari is currently a student at Norway’s top college for athletes, Norges Toppidrettsgymnas (NTG) in Oslo, where competition skills are honed within various sports. Among his coaches there is Norwegian chess grand master Simen Agdestein, whose brother Espen is Magnus Carlsen’s manager.
Agdestein was thrilled by Tari’s victory, “especially since China and India are putting enormous efforts into chess. There aren’t many Western Europeans among the very best.” Agdestein thinks his student can rise to be among the world’s best chess players. “That demands that he also gets to play against the very best,” Agdestein added. “The fact he’s now a world champion can open new doors.”
Tari told NRK he hopes his new world championship title can serve as a springboard to other big tournaments, and make him interesting enough to their organizers. He’s already set his sights on Norway Chess: “That’s where 10 participants are among the best in the world. It would be cool to have an opportunity to play there.” He’s keen on breaking into the top ranks and called his new title “a good starting point. I just have to do everything I can and see how far I get. I want to go as far as possible.”
Norwegian chess commentator and expert Hans Olav Lahlum called Tari’s victory “historic,” noting that he beat out 147 other players from 61 countries around the world. Norway thus has reason to be proud, too.
Madsen said Tari was “perhaps a bit inspired by Magnus (Carlsen),” who’s retained his position as World Champion and long has been considered the best chess player in the world. Carlsen himself never won the junior world championship because he was already playing at the senior level at age 18. Previous junior world championship winners include such chess legends as Boris Spasskij, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov and the two players that Carlsen beat for the senior world championship, Vishy Anand and Levon Aronian. The championship is arranged by the international chess federation FIDE “for boys and girls under age 20.”
Many now expect Tari will challenge Carlsen himself someday, and Tari didn’t dismiss the prospect. “If everything goes my way, maybe in around 10 years,” Tari told NRK. “I’ve always looked up to him, he’s made chess in Norway more popular.” Meanwhile Tari was celebrating his gold medal where he won it, in the Italian Alps, before preparing for his next tournament in the Netherlands in mid-January.