Exclusive: ‘I have surprised myself’, says India’s giant-slaying chess genius Praggnanandhaa | Chess News

NEW DELHI: Wake up until 2:40 am. Toss and turn on that card bed. Finally slept at 4am. Wake up at 7 o’clock again. Going to school. Write an exam. This is not the habit of teenagers. But for the 16-year-old R Praggnandhaaaa, mind work and leg work are his favorite way of life. Who would complain if the encouragement of all that came in the form of world champion testing?
Top of the world Magnus CarlsenNo. 10 Anish Giri and number 22 Wei Yi are names that have recently found it difficult to read the minds of the Indian chess wizkid Rameshbabu Praggnandhaa, ‘Praggu’ for his close ones. In Chess Master Last week, he beat them all by knockout, before knocking him out in the final against world number two Ding Liren. The Indian genius lost the title clash in blitzkrieg.
Soon after, close to midnight, the next thing on Praggu’s mind was his ‘Computer Applications’ test at school in a few hours.


(TOI photo)
16 years old talking to in an exclusive interview where he talks about his experience of beating Magnus Carlsen again, the support he received from Viswanathan Anand, juggling academics with his grueling chess schedule and Moreover.
The second youngest person in game history to become a Grandmaster, Praggu did not initially expect his exam date to clash with his own chess, because he was not expecting to be in the finals of the Chess Tournament. .
“I certainly surprised myself,” he said in this special interview.
Q. This year turned out to be an important season for you so far. Did you expect this?
The year is still going on and I want to play even better. This year, I think this tournament (Chess) is one of the good ones. I also played well in the Oslo Esports Cup last month (finished fourth). So the past few months have been better. I’m playing some good chess.


(Twitter photo)
Q. You are only 16 years old and your evolution as a chess player is remarkable…
I haven’t played any tournaments for a year and a half (due to the Covid pandemic), but the good thing is that I can still practice. That’s a good thing for chess players compared to other sports. For example, in cricket, you can’t practice every day during lockdown, you can’t go out. Of course, you can do other things like hitting the gym (workout), but it’s not easy for everyone. For chess players, it’s pretty easy. You need a laptop and you can practice.
I thank my sponsor Ramco, who have supported me since 2016, when I was 10 years old. Also, I was recently inducted into Indian Oil. So I have to say thank you to both. I don’t think that without their support this level would have been possible. Thank you to everyone who supported me and wished me (well).
Q. The pandemic has forced chess to be played online more than ever. How do you see the two versions – online and via different board?
There are good things and bad things about playing online or over the board. I like to play both but at the same time, I feel that chess is more serious, tactical chess. Online is also quite serious. These (online) tournaments are very strong… (In) Overboard, ranked chess, so it’s much more competitive. But… it (online chess) is pretty cool / You don’t have to go anywhere, sit there against each player. In general, I like to do.


(TOI photo)
Q. Did your coach RB Ramesh introduce any changes to the online version?
No, nothing like that. I just prepare the way I do. Nothing changes. But certainly in the last few months we have analyzed my game a lot. I’m trying to fix the mistakes that I’m making, trying to fix those mistakes.
Q. How do you prepare for a match? What is the mental side and the physical side of it?
Usually, before a game, I’m not mentally prepared. I’m just trying to get ready for the game and try to be in my mind to play a competitive game etc. I work with Ramesh, sir, he’s my coach. I am also a member of the Westbridge-Anand Chess Academy (WACA). Thank you (Viswanathan) Anand sir, I learned a lot from that… I always have a packed schedule with classes because I also practice with my coach.
Q. What was the role of Viswanathan Anand and WACA in your development as a chess player?
He (Anand) is the highest (biggest) support for me. Whenever I have any doubt I can text him, he reply very soon…what did I do wrong (during a match), I can text him and he will gladly analyze it. I’m glad I’m part of the Westbridge-Anand Chess Academy as well as where I have four other coaches. I am in regular contact with Mr. It was a great experience for me.
Q. What is school life like for a chess grandmaster?
I don’t have many friends in school. I don’t go to school much. Whenever there is an exam, the teachers at school will help me study, make it easy for me to understand, so that I can write the exam. I have to say thank you to Velammal School and the teachers there. Even now, I am going through board exams. They (teachers) taught me important things, such as important lessons that are difficult to learn, they will teach me. In that way, I am very lucky to be in this school.
Q. The attention you’ve received, especially after the win over Magnus Carlsen, are you surprised?
I accepted the event knowing there would be exams, but I thought I would just play without any pressure. Always a good chance to play these guys (Carlsen, Giri, Liren and others). But I didn’t expect that I would make it to the final. I surprised myself for sure, but I think I played pretty well. I am happy about that. It was a pleasant surprise.
Q. Do you rely on any particular techniques?
It’s very difficult to play an opening these days, so I didn’t prepare in advance. You just need to be more open with loopholes, there’s always some element of surprise for your opponents. That way, I won’t say I have a specific loophole that works for everyone. It’s just trying to be generous and surprise people.
Q. Is there anything specific you are doing to develop this momentum?
Lately, I’ve been playing quite a few tournaments. For the past six months, I’ve been fine. Before that, I made a lot of mistakes, which we identified and tried to fix. That’s one of the reasons that I feel like I’m playing better now. I think one of the problems I had was time management, chess clock management, but I think it’s much better now. Overcoming weaknesses is important.

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