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Vidit Gujrathi’s mantra to tackle big tournament pressure: Family and friends

Vidit Gujrathi, 22-year-old from Maharashtra who became the fourth Indian chess Grandmaster to break into the 2700 ELO club, has said talking to family and friends ahead of a major competition puts him in the right frame of mind.

other sports Updated: Aug 24, 2017 18:56 IST
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Vidit Gujrathi,Vidit Gujrathi Chess,chess Grandmaster
Vidit Gujrathi became the fourth Indian chess Grandmaster to break into the 2700 ELO club.(Twitter)

At age nine, he was playing competitive chess. At 13, he had won the World Youth Championship gold. India’s veteran Grandmaster Abhijit Kunte predicted a couple of years back that he would break into the 2700 ELO points club soon. Now, at age 22, this Grandmaster has become only the fourth Indian in history to breach the 2700 mark and has also qualified for the Chess World Cup in Tbilisi, Georgia. This is the rise of Vidit Gujrathi, a 22-year old from Maharashtra.

Ahead of the tournament that begins on September 2, Gujrathi has been preparing intensely. He participated in the 2017 Spanish League and is currently honing his skills in Prague. The pressure awaiting Gujrathi is immense. However, the 22-year-old has developed a different way of tackling pressure just before the start of the tournament.

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Speaking to Hindustan Times, Gujrathi said, “I undergo a range of moods. I am nervous and excited. I try several ways to calm myself down. I am not the kind of person who relies on music to calm my nerves. For me, family and friends are my ultimate stress busters. Before the start of the tournament, if I talk to my family and friends, I get a sense of relief.”

Relief has put Gujrathi in the right frame of mind for the World Cup. His consistent performances have seen him join Viswanathan Anand, Krishnan Sasikaran and Pentala Harikrishna in the 2700-point club. When mentioned about this feat, the joy is evident in his voice. “2700 is a nice milestone. This number is proof that I can compete in competitive chess,” Gujrathi said.

Kasparov’s return great

In the recently concluded St Louis Rapid and Blitz tournament, the world witnessed the return of Garry Kasparov after 12 years. The 54-year-old, considered to be one of the greatest world champions of all time, finished in eighth position in the rapid and blitz section.

The high point of his return was the renewal of his rivalry with Anand and Gujrathi said that the excitement was palpable. “Kasparov returning was great. I would finish my game and rush back to the hotel to catch his matches on live streaming,” Gujrathi said.

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Following the end of the St Louis Rapid and blitz tournament, in an interview, Kasparov ruled out a full-time return to the sport. “It will be a pity that we will not see him on a regular basis. The only positive for me was that with the results in St Louis, he could have gotten angry and announced that he will stay in this sport for a long time,” said the 22-year old Grandmaster.

Focusing on strengths

The 2017 Chess World Cup is one of the strongest tournaments in the calendar. It features 128 players, including world champion Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin, the winner of the 2016 Candidates tournament. Gujrathi is focused on the task at hand and cites the inspiration of the 2008 gold medal which he won in the World Youth Championships in Vietnam.

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“That win gave me the confidence that I could compete on the big stage. I have been preparing for a long time since I qualified for the World Cup. I rely on my strength which is positional chess. Basically, I know which piece should be in the right position and where it should be in order to build pressure on the opponent,” Gujrathi said.

First Published: Aug 24, 2017 18:56 IST