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British MPs Urge Govt to Let Nine-Year-Old Indian Chess Player Stay in UK

Shreyas Royal

A nine-year-old chess player from India is at the center of a visa row in the United Kingdom, with British politicians and members of the chess fraternity supporting his family’s plea to the government to let them continue staying in the country. Shreyas Royal, who is called a chess prodigy, will have to leave the United Kingdom after his father’s work visa expires in September this year.

Royal’s parents, Jitendra and Anju Singh, appealed for an indefinite leave to remain in the country on the ground of their son being a national asset, the Guardian reported. The application was rejected by the Home Office last week. “Every visa case is assessed on its own merits in line with immigration rules,” a Home Office spokesperson said, the Daily Mail reported.

A letter from the Home Office to the family said that while the child showed “immense promise” it did not mean that he could remain in the country, according to the Guardian.

Labour Party MPs Rachel Reeves and Matthew Pennycook have now urged the Home Office to reconsider its decision.

Reeves, a former junior chess champion, and Pennycook, who represents Greenwich and Woolwich where Royal lives, have written to two Cabinet ministers, asking them to let the family stay.

“If Shreyas Royal is forced to leave the UK and return to India, the country will lose an exceptional talent. We therefore urge you to intervene as a matter of urgency to grant Shreyas and his family the right to remain in the UK,” the MPs said in a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, the Guardian reported. They have also written a similar letter to Jeremy Wright, the Secretary of State for digital, culture, media and sport, the report added.

Royal’s father expressed his disappointment with the turn of events. “I was not expecting that kind of response,” he was quoted as saying by the publication. “[The Home Office] have a rule to allow exceptional talent here. They need people like my son in the UK. It is really shocking for us that the application and appeal was rejected,” he said, adding, “It’s disappointing for us. My son is feeling very bad right now. He is playing at the British Championships at the moment. He feels bad and we have to console him.”

The father, who works for an IT company belonging to the Tata Group, moved to South East England from Bengaluru on a Tier 2 long-term permit in 2012. The family is supposed to leave the country by Sept. 10, after their visa expires.

Royal won a silver medal at the 2017 European Youth Under-Eight championship, a shared fourth place at the 2017 World Cadet championship, a first place at the South of England U11 championship and a first place at the London Junior U10 championship.

His achievements have been lauded by several former chess players. Chris Ward, a chess grandmaster and former British champion, described him as “the best prospect the country has ever seen,” the report said.

Julian Simpole, a trainer of two of the English grandmasters, had earlier told the Times: “I am amazed. He is so advanced I set him ‘Soviet-style toughness’ lessons — as in no concessions made for his age. He virtually always gets the right answer.” Calling him a “future world champion,” Simpole had said, “This kid is like something I’ve never seen before. His talent is very highly pronounced.”