Mian Sultan Khan was a South Asian Chess master who beat the best players in the world between 1928 and 1935. Khan’s name has not received the attention he deserves in modern times. This page is a tribute to his Chess career.
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Full name: Mian Sultan Khan
Place of birth: India
Sultan Khan was born on March 13th, 1903, in Mitha Tiwana in British India. Later on, he gained Pakistani citizenship, and he was a patriotic person. Khan was a renowned chess player from and in South Asia. He was a son of a Muslim preacher and landlord from the tribe of the Muslim Awan. Sultan got married to a woman from the clan of Gujjar, and they were blessed with six daughters and five sons. Many of his kins play chess, though not formally because they took up other careers like medicine. Sultan was a British nationalist from 1903 to 1947.
He started playing chess at the young age of nine, which his father taught him, and by the time he was 21 years he was regarded as the best player in Punjabi. Later on, he was taken into Sir Amir’s house, a colonel in Pakistan, in 1926. Since Khan could not speak in English or even read guidelines on western chess, Sir Amir taught him the rules of Western chess, for he was a good player himself. Western chess was different from the Indian one, or rather Punjabi. When Sir Amir was going for political agendas in Britain, he took Sultan with him.
When in Britain, khan was Sir Amir’s wizard in chess. Although he found the regulations different in Britain, which posed a challenge at first, he got the hang of the game and proved to be a terrific player. When it came to his international chess career, which did not exceed five years, He carried the British championship considerably out of the four games he played. Sultan thus earned results to be acknowledged among the greatest ten players in the world.
Despite his outstanding achievements and being an unbeatable player most of the time, he never got awarded any crown by Fide, which is the world’s chess federation. This was unfair since some of the players he crashed in a chess game, like Rubinstein and Capablanca, received the grandmaster titles that started in 1950, and he did not get any.
Colonel Amir later brought him to Pakistan, and he eventually quit chess and went back to cultivating farms in his home area. He chose to spend his whole life here. Unfortunately, he passed on April 25th, 1966, due to tuberculosis, in Sargodha while around 61 years. Chess players like Hooper and Whyld have referred to him as the most typical and great player till today.
Sultan began his passion for chess at the age of nine years. He acquired skills for playing chess from his father, Mian Nizam Din. In his late teenage years, Sultan would often find himself in the city of Sargodha playing chess against landowners. It is at Sargodha that Sultan became a household name and when Sir Umar, a chess coach and a leader of the nearby estate, heard about him, he invited him to his place.
When the sultan moved into Sir Umar’s house, he was taught the European style of the game. This hospitality from Sir Umar introduced Sultan to European master chess. Sultan, in 1928, competed in the all-India chess tournament. He emerged victorious in the competition with an outstanding score, tying one game and winning the other eight.
Sultan with Sir Umar moved to London in the spring of 1929, and it was here that Sultan joined the imperial chess club. At the club, he was trained on improving his playing skills by Winter and Fredrick Yates, who had beaten him in the training tournament. His defeat resulted from a lack of skills and knowledge in the game. To be noted is that chess was costly and reserved only for the rich, and one had to pay high membership and participation fees.
At the British chess championship held in the summer of 1929, Sultan astonished everybody when he emerged victoriously. He went back to India in the company of Sir Umar. He later returned to Europe in 1930 after receiving a lot of invites to play in tournaments across England and the rest of Europe.
While in Europe in 1930, his chess career thrived, and he emerged victorious over most of the globe’s top players. For the matches, he played in 1930, including the Scarborough championship, Hamburg Olympiad, and Liege championship.
He came second at the Liege championship to Savielly Tartakower and clinched third place at Hastings after Max Euwe and Jose Raul Capablanca, a former global champion. In 1931 at Prague, he outsmarted Flohr and Akiba Rubinstein to emerge victorious by winning eight, drawing seven, and losing only two.
In 1933 at Folkestone, he performed poorly with four wins, six draws, and four losses to his name, with his competitors such as Alexander Alekhine, Flohr, Kashdan, and the rest performing better than him. After 1933, Sultan was unheard of again in the world of chess championship.
Sultan achieved a lot in being a chess professional that he was even referred to as a genius, a superstar, and India’s most outstanding grandmaster due to his exemplary performance. In 1928, he was named the winner of the all-India tournament after garnering eight victories, one tie, and no loss.
In 1929, Sultan won the British chess tournament at Ramsgate, becoming his first international achievement. The competition was much as similar to an international championship. In 1930, he participated in the Liege championship, setting victory over Victor Soultanbeieff.
In 1931, he took part in the Prague intercontinental team championship. He emerged victorious after defeating Salo Flohr, a Czech sportsman, and Akiba Rubinstein, a Polish player, viewed as the top players of that season.
In 1931-1932, at Hastings, he beat Cuban world champion Jose Raul Capablanca, who was believed to be unbeatable. Capablanca had won a straight chess championship from 1921-to 192. In 1932-1933 Sultan clichéd the British championship again. In 1933, back in India, he set a new standard of nine wins in ten games, victorious over V.k Khadilkar.
Unfortunately, even though Khan was one of the world’s top players in the early 1930s, he has not been recognized by FIDE for the award of any master titles; FIDE Master, International Master, and Grandmaster apparently due to Khan not participating in a chess tournament for fifteen years. For more information on FIDE ratings, see the step-by-step guide on how to get a FIDE rating.
Did you enjoy reading about Sultan Khan? If you did, you might be interesting in reading other player profiles such as Bobby Fischer, Daniil Dubov, and Hans Niemann.