Fans bunked offices, classes to watch us play chess: Vidit Gujrathi
“During the finals, I felt my heartbeat rising, so I tapped my left shoulder twice. It’s a trick to reduce anxiety,” says Vidit Gujrathi, captain of the Indian Chess Team that won gold at the recently concluded Online Chess Olympiad 2020, jointly with Russia. “Olympiad is one of the toughest chess events with a participation of 163 countries, and to win a gold medal feels amazing! This time, chess got a lot of attention due to the pandemic. It was unbelievable to see 68K people watching us live in the finals, and later when we won, around 24K people joined us in the virtual celebrations. And we saw so much love and support coming our way when we defeated China, when we won against Poland and other countries; so many fans were rooting for us. They cancelled their plans, bunked their offices or classes to watch us,” says 25-year-old Gujrathi.
For the first time, the team played online — due to the Covid-19 pandemic — and it was certainly a different experience for them. “The best part of the online tournament is that I can stay home, eat home-cooked food and sleep on my comfy bed, which I miss when travelling for physical tournaments (chuckles),” says Gujrathi, adding, “On a serious note, chess has found its niche somewhere between sports and e-sports in the online setup. Undoubtedly the online chess set-up saw more followers. So, I feel the future of chess, at least as a medium of entertainment, is online. ”
Due to the online set-up, the team didn’t only practice individually, but did warm up sessions with some junior players as well. Intra-team tournaments were organised to keep practising and improving. Sharing his practice schedule, grandmaster Gujrathi says, “I learnt from my previous mistakes, and this time as soon as the Olympiad was announced I started following a strict schedule, and allotted a designated time to all my activities including my practice. I was even practising while walking on the treadmill; I picked up that from monk-author Om Swami, who writes all his books while walking on the treadmill.”
Talking about the secret of his focus and mindfulness, during the game, Gujrathi says, “I practice meditation through an app, Black Lotus, and take up various goals such as being mindful, and calm. It helps me concentrate on an everyday basis. So when I see the opponent ruling the games, which happens a lot of time, I only remember what is in my control. This comes from practising mindfulness consistently. Sometimes I do give in to the distractions, but a lot of times I’ve told myself to focus.”
Interact with the author @ruchikagarg271