Life & Leisure

Rise of Gukesh, second youngest Chess Grand Master in history

By Indira Guerrero

New Delhi, Mar 11 (efe-epa).- Before going to bed ahead of his class the next day, India’s Gukesh D. made his 74th move with which he won an online game of the Asturias Championship (Spain), marking yet another victory for the 14-year-old, who only two years ago became the second youngest Grand Master in chess history.

Gukesh was 12 years, seven months, and 17 days old when he achieved the title of Grand Master (GM) in 2019, just 17 days more than Russia’s Sergey Karjakin, when he achieved the feat in 2003.

The teenager still recalls how close he was to creating the world record by overthrowing Karjakin, and rues missing it by a whisker.

Gukesh’s passion for chess began at the age of seven, seeing his parents play at home, as he memorized basic movements.

He soon went on to challenge his cousins and surprised everyone with his bold moves and very offensive strategies.

“Chess is a very complex game, (and) I love the complication,” Gukesh told EFE.

His father, Rajinikanth, a surgeon from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, told EFE that he thought his son “is not like any other kid at that age.”

The boy’s concentration levels continue to surprise him, but “what kind of father would say his son isn’t special?”

However, the story of a 12-year-old Grand Master is nothing but extraordinary.

Gukesh achieved its first International Master (IM) title in October 2017 with a rating of 2,323, and that of Grand Master in 2019, taking his rating to 2,512 in just 16 months as he won 189 Elo points in 276 games.

The child’s meteoric rise is equivalent to more than 15 games or about two professional tournaments per month, over the last one year and a half, well above the average of 100 games per year by a professional GM.

Since Gukesh began playing professionally, his father practically reduced his activities in the hospital to zero to accompany the prodigy in the countless tournaments he participated, which in turn affected the family income.

“I stopped my practice, we were not living as a family because most of the time me and Gukesh were traveling, and my wife (was) alone at home managing, and working while me and Gukesh were traveling,” his father said, recalling a similar story of current world champion Magnus Carlsen.

Carlsen’s family too had left everything aside to travel across Europe, allowing him to participate in one tournament after another from when the Norwegian boy was 13 years old.

Gukesh’s coach, GM Vishnu Prasanna, expressed a strong admiration for his student, underlining his unmeasured passion, analytical abilities on the chessboard and his determination, showcasing “a lot of natural talent for strategies, and understanding”.

“Some of his moves are very unique in a strategical sense and from a psychological point of view, Gukesh sometimes gets (into) bad positions and he still keep looking for resources,” he explained.

The Asturian chess club, Gijon 64, which signed up Gukesh for online tournaments, have expressed only words of admiration towards the young Indian, currently world leader in the under-15 category.

“He is a part of a generation of young Indian talents alongside Nihal Sarin and Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa. In a few years they will put India on the Olympic podium,” Gijon 64 secretary Francisco Javier Iglesias Leon told EFE.

Gukesh does not hide his admiration for the five-time world chess champion Viswanathan Anand, world number one before Carlsen, and one of the few people to have surpassed an Elo rating of 2,800.

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