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India’s Pair of Prodigies, Praggnanandhaa & Gukesh Ride the Soaring Chess Wave

Albeit the pair became familiar with fame years ago, popularity soared to an unparalleled ceiling recently,

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For Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa and Dommaraju Gukesh – the pair of prodigies, who have emerged as the nation’s prized possessions in the chess circuit – familiarity with fame commenced many years ago. Teenagers, for whom combating the sharpest minds in the sport constitutes their day job, are hence unfazed by the chasing salvo of cameras and questions.

Yet, as popularity soared to an unparalleled ceiling for them over the last few weeks, for perfectly justifiable reasons – Praggnanandhaa became the youngest runner-up in the FIDE World Cup, and also only the second Indian to qualify for the Candidates Tournament, while Gukesh became India’s number one ranked player, ending Viswanathan Anand’s 36-year-long stay at the top – both players acknowledged the support from their family.

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Teen GMs Acknowledge Parents’ Support

Currently competing at the TATA Steel Chess India Rapid & Blitz, being held in Kolkata’s National Library, Gukesh is seen being accompanied by his parents. Father Rajinikanth, who once was a practising ENT surgeon before devoting all of his time to Gukesh’s career, has also learned the sport, for a couple of reasons.

Responding to a question from The Quint during a press conference, he stated “I am the first chess player in my family, but my father also got interested in the sport once I started playing. He mainly plays for fun. When I used to travel to tournaments as a kid, he got bored by sitting outside and thought he also should start playing chess. Now, he even has an ELO rating, but it is only a hobby.”
Albeit the pair became familiar with fame years ago, popularity soared to an unparalleled ceiling recently,

Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa is almost always seen being accompanied by his mother, Nagalakshmi,

(Photo: FIDE/Maria Emelianova)

Praggnanandhaa, too, echoes similar sentiments, as he informs the press “My mother is always there by my side, not only as an emotional support, but helping me in many other things like preparing food. You need someone to support you in such a long tournament like the FIDE World Cup. If I had gone there (Azerbaijan) all alone, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything.”

Good Chances of Winning an Asian Games Medal, Pragg and Gukesh Believe

Following the event in Kolkata, the pair, alongside eight other players, will be departing for Hangzhou, to compete at the 2022 Asian Games. Ahead of the competition, both remain cautiously optimistic of winning a medal.

Albeit the pair became familiar with fame years ago, popularity soared to an unparalleled ceiling recently,

Gukesh is excited to compete in his first Asian Games campaign.

(Photo: TATA Steel Chess India)

“This is my first Asian Games. It is a very prestigious event, so I am very excited. The training camp of Indian players (with Boris Gelfand) was tiring, but also brilliant. I won’t say I am sure about winning a medal as there are many great teams, but we have good chances,” Gukesh said.

“I think we have a very good chance of winning a medal. We just had a camp and I particularly enjoyed each and every moment of it,” Praggnanandhaa commented.

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Being at the Epicentre of the Growing Chess Wave

Finding themselves at the epicentre of the sport’s growing popularity, Praggnanandhaa and Gukesh, despite having a combined age of only 35, are perfectly aware of their macrocosmic responsibilities, barring barely medals and accolades.

Albeit the pair became familiar with fame years ago, popularity soared to an unparalleled ceiling recently,

Praggnanandhaa wants to continue inspiring youngsters.

(Photo: PTI)

As a fan of chess, I am very happy to see the growing popularity. This will bring in more sponsors and we will have more young players from India. From my personal viewpoint, I know a lot of people are following me now, so it is very important for me to do well and inspire them. Maybe, more young players who are even better will be coming up.
Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa

The 18-year-old believes he can be a world champion. His compatriot is no different, as he claims “It is quite bad if I did not believe I can be the world champion. I have trust in myself, and I believe if I can do all the right things, I will be the champion. I have made some progress, which I’m happy about, but I have high expectations from myself.”

Now, attention turns to the Asian Games.

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