Chess Prodigy Gukesh D: The Path to Success, Role Models, and Future Plans

06.07.2024 13:03 | Interviews

At just 12 years and 7 months old, he became India's youngest grandmaster, rewriting chess history. Gukesh D reveals the sacrifices necessary to achieve this extraordinary feat, how he handles media and community pressure....

Chess Prodigy Gukesh D: The Path to Success, Role Models, and Future Plans

At just 12 years and 7 months old, he became India's youngest grandmaster, rewriting chess history. Gukesh D reveals the sacrifices necessary to achieve this extraordinary feat, how he handles media and community pressure, and how meditation and yoga help him navigate this challenging environment. He draws inspiration not only from chess legends like Vishy Anand but also from modern greats like Magnus Carlsen. We bring you an exclusive interview with the talented chess player who has a bright future ahead.

Were there any sacrifices in order to become a grandmaster at the age of 12 years and 7 months?

I became India’s youngest grandmaster in history, a title previously held by Praggnanandhaa. Before I got into chess, I was like any normal kid, going to school and all. I can't really complain. I don’t think I made any huge sacrifices because I enjoy chess and I enjoy what I’m doing. So, more than my sacrifices, I would say my parents had to go through a lot of struggles. It’s not very easy to quit school and fully focus on chess. They made a lot of sacrifices, and I’m grateful for them believing in me. Personally, I don’t think I made any sacrifices because I’m just enjoying life.

How did you manage the pressure from the media and the chess audience at such a young age?

The year I was trying to break the record for the youngest grandmaster in history, I went through a lot of pressure. But it wasn’t because of media or any outside influences. I valued the record a lot and put myself under so much pressure. That year was very tough, but I learned a lot of lessons, like how to handle pressure and expectations. After I made the title, I realized that the amount of pressure I put myself through was just not worth it.

What challenges did you have growing up as a chess player in India?

Chess is very popular in India. There are a lot of young players, and the competition is extremely high, which I think is very healthy because it motivates everyone to work harder to get better at chess. The main struggles my parents faced were financial. We found it difficult to travel abroad and play tournaments regularly, and we didn’t have any sponsors or funding. Our family and friends helped us a lot to get through that period. Financial troubles are a common issue for most Indian chess players. Now, with more sponsors and increased interest in chess, it will hopefully be easier for young players in the future.

Are you hot-tempered and emotional? How do you deal with stress?

When I was younger, maybe a few years back, I was very emotional and got angry a lot. I was quite short-tempered. Once I started to focus on my mental fitness, doing some meditation, yoga, and similar activities, it really helped me calm down. A few years ago, I handled pressure very badly; it was torturous. Now, I am more able to control myself and my emotions. I tried working with a psychologist before, and it had some benefits, but now I discuss things with my trainers, friends, and others. I try to ensure I am in the best state of mind to perform my best.

How do you deal with stress and losing?

I still get very upset when I lose games, especially when I feel like I didn’t do what was within my control. It still frustrates me a lot, but I can get over losses quickly now. A few years back, it took me the whole tournament to forget about a loss; now, it takes me around half an hour to an hour to get into the right state of mind. I recover quickly and don’t get too excited about wins either. One trick I follow is that regardless of the result, I start thinking about what I am going to do in the next game.

What is your trick to overcome losses quickly?

I do some yoga or go for walks. It’s always nice to get some fresh air. Sometimes I listen to my favorite music or something like that.

What is your greatest strength in chess and your biggest weakness?

I think my main strength has always been my calculation. As for weaknesses, there are too many; there are still a lot of areas I need to work on. But for sure, my strength has always been my calculation.

How do you feel when players like Fabiano Caruana think you are going to become an elite player?

Actually, most of the time I don’t follow what people say about me. But if someone says something directly to me, I take it as a compliment. It’s nice when your heroes compliment you and believe in you. It’s a nice feeling, but I don’t take it too much to heart, whatever they say.

Who are the three best players of all time?

Fischer, Kasparov, and Carlsen, for sure, are the top three. But in which order is very tricky. In my opinion, maybe Fischer is the greatest of all time. He didn’t have a long career, but from the games I have seen and how dominant he was at his peak, he seems like the purest genius of our game. Maybe second is Kasparov and third is Magnus. But this is just my opinion.

Who is the toughest opponent for you?

I think Magnus is the toughest to prepare for and play against because it’s almost impossible to prepare against him. He plays so many things. It’s hard to prepare against any top player, but Magnus is clearly the best player in the world, so it’s natural that he is the toughest opponent for anyone.

Were you inspired by Magnus?

When I was starting out in chess, it was always Vishy Anand for me. He is a national hero in India, and everyone here loves him. He’s part of the reason why I started playing chess. For a long time, it was only Vishy Anand who inspired me. As I grew up and improved, I started to appreciate other players as well, all the top players. In the last couple of years, I have appreciated Magnus’s games much more. If I have to say who is my role model as a chess player and as a person, it would always be Vishy Anand.

Why is chess good for you?

I like chess because of how complex it is. It has been played for so many years, and still, people don’t fully understand it. It’s always fascinating for me. Chess is a very good mental exercise, and I would recommend it to everyone.

0x 65x Petr Koutný
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