He can remember thousands of moves but fumbles while giving out his phone number. Parimarjan Negi looks in far better control of himself while pondering moves over the 64 squares.
Negi smiles shyly if you ask if he has a problem remembering 10-digit numbers but in a second or so, transforms into the 16-year-old who speaks with the clarity and purpose of someone much older.
The world's second youngest Grandmaster - a title he bagged in 2006 at 13 years and four months — is on a high, having won titles in Denmark and Malaysia recently. In Denmark, he left behind players rated well above him.
“The biggest gain from these victories is the experience of handling pressure situations.
“There were instances when I did well up to the seventh-eighth round of competitions before messing it up towards the end. Now, I know how to act in such situations,” Negi told the Hindustan Times on the sidelines of the Kolkata Open.
“Psychology plays a big role in every sport. Sometimes, you hesitate before taking a risk but the more you find yourself in those positions, the less you worry about them. In Denmark, I won critical games towards the end.”
The boy from Delhi, who secured 90 per cent in his class X board exams this year, rates his victory in the Politiken Cup in Copenhagen higher than another title he won in Philadelphia in 2008.
“The prize money was more in the US, but the field was much stronger in the Politiken Cup. I finished ahead of three players rated above 2650 and one above 2700,” said Negi, who overcame strong GMs like Sergei Tiviakov and Peter Heine Nielson.
Negi, who has had a few training sessions under Nigel Short in Greece, said being a GM at the age of 13 had its pitfalls.
His game started getting noticed and as he became known, people started taking him seriously and expectations started rising.
“It wasn't before a while that I settled down after becoming a GM. It took me over a year to realise that my mindset had to change.
“My game was not going forward and from 2536 in 2006, my rating dipped to 2509 by the end of 2007. It took me longer than I would have liked, but there came a point when it became obvious that I had to do something to get to the next level. I worked on my game overall and slowly put in shape what I learnt.
“The big jump came in 2008 when I finished second at the world junior meet.”
Back on track, Negi has made steady progress since and a rating of 2615 doesn't look odd for an Indian so young, considering his performance.