Sultan Khan, the unsung king of chess

Jupinderjit Singh

More than 9 many years again, a person from Mitha Tiwana village of Punjab (now in Pakistan) travelled to England by sea. Two days upon his arrival, he beat the reigning world champion Jose Capablanca in a simultaneous chess exhibition match.

That win was no fluke as Capablanca was taking part in towards 40 gamers, generally known as a simultaneous chess match. This man was Sultan Khan, who had solely just lately learnt the worldwide format of chess after his first look within the Indian nationwide championship.

Khan stayed in London for about 4 years. He beat the world champion once more in a one-to-one match and gained the British Chess Championship thrice. He additionally beat Czech Grandmaster Solomom Flohr and had a draw with Grandmaster Alekhine.

Despite beating the English, Sultan Khan handed into obscurity with neither the Indian nor the Pakistan authorities remembering his feat. FIDE, the world chess governing physique, additionally didn’t commemorate his mastery. He died of tuberculosis in 1966 in his village, with not even an obituary for him in mainstream media.

He was a part of the chess folklore in Punjab, although, as some old-timers typically narrated his exceptional feat to kids.

According to, which calculates historic chess scores, Khan was for no less than a few years among the many world’s high 10 gamers, and ranked No. 6 on the earth at his finest. Sultan’s feat is being remembered with the invention of some uncommon video games he had performed, together with the one towards Capablanca within the simultaneous chess match, a lot earlier than his sport towards the identical participant in 1930 within the British Chess Championship, which noticed him within the headlines. A widely known chess participant and commentator, Daniel King, has found these video games and reproduced with trendy evaluation in his e book, Sultan Khan — The Indian servant who grew to become chess champion of the British Empire.

RN Coles’ e book on him, Mir Sultan Khan-Biography and video games from the primary Grandmaster of chess from India, was printed in 1965 however it didn’t have particulars about his private life. In his e book, King mentions that one Sir Umar Hayat Khan, a Muslim landlord and politician, noticed his servant’s brilliance in chess and sponsored him. He claimed Umar Hayat “used his servant’s successes to promote his political interests in the turbulent years before India gained Independence.”

In an internet petition, Indian gamers via are looking for the Grandmaster title for him. Meanwhile, gamers in Kolkata have stored his reminiscence alive by naming a indoor sports activities corridor as Sultan Khan Memorial Hall within the Salt Lake Football stadium.

From The Tribune archives

King’s e book says Khan handed into obscurity after he arrived in India. However, The Tribune newspaper archives reveal that Khan was energetic until 1940. News stories stated he performed simultaneous matches with 40 gamers simply after he landed in Mumbai after making it large within the UK. Another report stated he performed simul tournaments towards 20 gamers, and gained all video games. That match was held at Dera Ismail Khan in February 1940. Khan gained the Governor’s Trophy for his feat.

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