Checkmate averted: Indian chess prodigy’s family can stay in UK

London: When the news spread this week that Britain would send back to India its “best junior chess prospect in a generation,” more than a few people were astonished. But on Friday, British authorities appeared to change their minds, saying they may allow the 9-year-old prodigy, Shreyas Royal, and his family to stay in the country after all.

“Shreyas’s jumping and dancing,” the boy’s father, Jitendra Singh, said in an email. “Tears came out from my wife’s eyes.” The family’s future in Britain had seemed bleak. The five-year visa that Singh, an information technology manager, had been granted to work for Tata Consultancy Services in Britain could not be extended once it expired in September.

Britain’s Home Office said there could be no exception. But on Friday, Singh said, “We got good news.” Singh said the Home Office had informed him he would be allowed to apply for a new visa based on his son’s exceptional talent.”

What does the immigration law say?

Immigration law in Britain allows for visas to be granted to those with “exceptional talent” or in certain areas of “sport.” Dominic Lawson, the president of the English Chess Federation, described Shreyas as “England’s best junior chess prospect in a generation,” but he noted that chess mastery apparently did not qualify as an exceptional talent in a sport. The case drew the attention of British members of Parliament, two of whom, along with Lawson, appealed to Sajid Javid, British home secretary, to intervene. Lawson said welcomed the reversal by the Home Office.

Permanent settlement

Shreyas arrived in London from India with his family when he was 3 years old. He learned chess in south London, drawing accolades when he competed for England in international tournaments, earning the title of Candidate Master.

He is ranked fourth in the world for his age group. Shreyas, who is competing in the British Chess Championships, has said his dream is to become world champion before the age of 18. If granted, the new visa would allow Singh to stay for an additional five years and open the way for him and his family to settle in Britain permanently.

(With inputs from NYT)