Mir Sultan Khan was considered to have been the most substantial chess
master from Asia during pre-independent India. Sultan Khan was a servant of Colonel Nawab Sir Umar Hayat Khan, who brought him to England. There he participated in several Chess championships and made his mark as a champion in the game. He stayed there with his patron for five years (1929- 1933) and won the British Championship of 3 times in four attempts. His performance in various tournaments ranked Mir Sultan Khan amongst the top ten players in the world. After that he was never to be seen by the world of chess again. Even though he was recognized as one of the top chess players in the world during the early 1930s, the World Chess Federation (FIDE) never bestowed Mir Sultan Khan any title.
Early Life of Mir Sultan Khan
Mir Sultan Khan was born as Malik Mir Sultan Khan in the year 1905, in Punjab, British India (now part of Pakistan). He learnt Indian Chess from his father at the age of 9, and by 21 was considered the strongest player in Punjab. Sir Umar taught him the Western version of the game and made a gradual transition to the western format.
Career of Mir Sultan Khan
Mir Sultan Khan`s career began in the spring of 1929, when a training tournament was held for his benefit, though he fared poorly in it. William Winter and Frederick Yates, prominent English chess players, took to training him for the upcoming British Chess Championship, which he ended up winning to everyone`s astonishment. During his stay at England, he won the British Chess Championship for the year of 1929, 1932 and 1933 and played for England in the Chess Olympiads of 1930, 1931 and 1933. He rose to the top of the chess world, in less than four years. He has played with the world`s great masters, such as Alexander Alekhine, Max Euwe, Aaron Nimzowitsch, and Akiba Rubinstein. He was among one of the few players who had a plus record against Capablanca. He also had an addition record against Frank Marshall and Savielly Tartakower. The most notable victory made by him was the game that he won against former world champion Capablanca at the Hastings tournament of the year 1930.
Mir Sultan Khan never finished lower than fourth in any chess tournament he participated in. In spite of the fact that he always lost to William Winter who usually finished last. At that time Sultan Khan was one of the strongest chess players in the world in spite of being defeated by William Winter. Sultan Khan was about 2550 in strength according to the modernistic rating system, and was easily a grandmaster. For this it can be concluded that Sultan Khan was the first ever Asian grandmaster of chess. Mir Sultan Khan died of Tuberculosis in Sargodha, Pakistan in the year 1966. Despite his great contributions to chess, Sultan Khan was not awarded the Grandmaster title, which was instituted about 15 years after his active period, although several other retired players were awarded the title. He is revered as one of the first great Chess players produced by the Indian subcontinent.
In the brief but impressive career of Mir Sultan Khan, he became one of the top chess in the world, playing on even terms with the best players in the globe.