From the CEO

On 21st of April 2024, exactly a week ago, Gukesh became the new World Championship Challenger by winning the FIDE Candidates 2024. Doing this at the age of 17 he has become the youngest ever Challenger to the ultimate throne, surpassing Garry Kasparov's feat by close to 3 years! If Gukesh's wins the World Championship Match in November 2024, he will become the youngest ever World Champion in the history of the sport. In this newsletter I want to talk about the people who have played a massive role in Gukesh's growth as a chess player and have helped him excel at the sport.

1. Gukesh's self confidence (himself):

He belonged right there! Not even for a moment did I feel that Gukesh was trying to make himself feel comfortable in the tournament. It was just another tournament for him. This self confidence that Gukesh has within himself cannot be faked. It is something that he has developed over the years and during the Candidates tournament it held him in good stead.

Photo: Michal Walusza

2. Rajinikanth - Gukesh's father:

Gukesh's father Rajinikanth accompanied him to the tournament. But over the years if you see, he has evolved his role. He now ensures that Gukesh gets the best possible environment to be in the right mindset. He has very few opinions. He makes sure that he trusts Gukesh. A good example of this was when in the final round Gukesh had drawn his game against Nakamura and the game Fabi vs Nepo was going on. The FIDE officials were keen for Gukesh to stay back in VIP room until the results were announced, but Gukesh was keen to go back to the hotel. Rajinikanth very carefully heard what Gukesh wanted and made it happen. 

3. Padma Kumari - Gukesh's mother:

Ever since Gukesh got into the Candidates, which was at the end of 2023, there was one person who believed that Gukesh has excellent chances to win the Candidates and that was his mother. It always helps when you have someone who believes in your abilities deeply and is someone whom you can always go back to in case you lose your belief in yourself. For Gukesh it was his mother. After losing to Alireza Firouzja mid-way through the tournament, Gukesh spoke with his mother and it fired him up, putting him in the best mental shape he could be.

4. Current main trainer Grzegorz Gajewski:

Gajewski was a long-time second of Vishy Anand. A couple of years ago, he decided to dedicate all his efforts to Gukesh's growth. This was a very interesting switch. It was clear that Gajewski had learnt a lot from being the second of 5-time World Champion Vishy Anand. But what was very critical for Gajewski to understand was that Gukesh was a different player as compared to Anand. While his experience was going to be useful, he needed to change his methods. And this he did admirably. One of the things that Gajewski mentions is how their entire preparation for the Candidates didn't revolve just around openings. And it was clear from Gukesh's play. He wasn't getting the best novelties in. But he was going for these little new ideas in the openings that would ensure that his opponents were not in their preparation.

Photo: Maria Emelianova

5. Sponsor Sandeep Singhal and WestBridge:

Traditionally one has imagined the relationship of a sponsor and a player to be one where the sponsor gives the money and resources and the player benefits out of it and the sponsor benefits out of the eyeballs received. In Gukesh's case, this is quite different. Sandeep Singhal, the co-founder of WestBridge Capital came to the tournament venue to check Gukesh's games while the event was in the progress. During the 8th round win against Vidit, he stood in the balcony almost watching the entire game and enjoying in thoroughly. When the 13th round ended, he booked a flight from New York to Toronto, just so that he could attend the final round and the closing ceremony. This relationship that Gukesh shares with his sponsor is truly beautiful. It shows how invested Sandeep is in the journey of the youngster.

Photo: Maria Emelianova

6. Long time trainer Vishnu Prasanna:

Many people say that Gukesh is mature beyond his years. At the age of 17 years, he doesn't seem like someone who is 17. His depth of thinking is immense. One of the persons who has contributed massively to this is his long time trainer Vishnu Prasanna. Gukesh and Vishnu met each other nearly 6-7 years when Gukesh was rating around 2200. From there they have been together till date. During their training sessions, Vishnu would not just speak with Gukesh about the chess aspects of play, but they would also discuss the psychological elements of chess. This led to Gukesh developing a deep understanding of psychological elements of the game and this has in turn translated into his fearless approach on the chess board.

7. Mentors Vishy and Aruna Anand:

A lot has been spoken about Vishy Anand and his contribution to Indian chess. However, in Gukesh's case it can be mapped 1-1. Right from supporting him through the training of WACA, to ensuring that he works with Gajewski, to giving him those little nuggets of advice at the right time, Vishy has played a key role in the development of Gukesh as a player. Aruna Anand, Vishy's wife and long-time manager is the go-to person for Rajinikanth (Gukesh's dad) whenever he has difficult situations to surmount. It goes without saying that when it comes to the World Championship Match, the help of Aruna will be invaluable.

8. Velammal School:

This is not a person, it's an institution. It's the place where Gukesh went to study for the first 5 grades. But then he stopped going to school as chess took up a major chunk of his time. The Velammal school has always been understanding of this fact that Gukesh's interest and passion lay in chess. They let him pursue it in full throttle mode. Not only did they give him exemptions from attending school or examinations, they took the next step by supporting his chess journey financially. It does not come as a surprise that the Velammal school has more than 10 Grandmasters of Indian chess who have studied there, and the number is only going to keep growing.

To have a career like Gukesh, it is clear that there will be a lot more people who have contributed positively to his journey. However, the current team of his parents, trainers, sponsor and mentors is a very closely knit one. It creates the right environment for him to go for his goals without having to worry about things off the board. If you are a chess player then you can try to surround yourself with the right set of people like Gukesh has done. It would help you to give your 100% on the board. And if you are a chess parent who is reading this, then it makes sense to create the right environment for your child so that they can excel at something they love. - Sagar Shah

17-year-old Gukesh becomes the youngest ever to win FIDE Candidates 2024, creates history

The 17-year-old prodigy D Gukesh is now a World Championship Challenger. The calm and composed teenager is not worried about becoming the youngest ever to win FIDE Candidates tournament. He became the second Indian after Vishy Anand to win a Candidates. From winning individual Gold at the 44th Chess Olympiad 2022, the boy went to play the game which Magnus Carlsen enjoyed the most en route to his victory at FIDE World Cup 2023. The teenager seized his final opportunity to qualify for the Candidates 2024 by winning Chennai Grand Masters 2023 in December, organized by us, ChessBase India. We all witnessed this soft-spoken powerhouse's journey to the top. As he said, he is only halfway through. We hope to see him conquer the very mountaintop this year as the World Champion. Photos: FIDE/Michal Walusza

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Zhongyi Tan convincingly clinches FIDE Women's Candidates 2024, Koneru Humpy second

GM Zhongyi Tan (CHN) drew her final round game against GM Anna Muzychuk (UKR) to win FIDE Women's Candidates 2024. Zhongyi scored 9/14 and finished a whopping 1.5 points ahead of the rest. GM Koneru Humpy defeated GM Tingjie Lei (CHN) to finish second 7.5/14. Tingjie also scored the same and finished third according to tie-breaks. GM Vaishali scored her fifth win in-a-row. She defeated GM Kateryna Lagno in the final round to end up with 7.5/14 and placed fourth. After four losses in-a-row from Round 5 to 9, she made a fantastic comeback by winning her next five games and finished ahead many three stalwarts. Zhongyi will challenge Wenjun Ju (CHN) for the Women's World Championship. Photos: FIDE/Michal Walusza


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10 reasons why Gukesh's triumph at FIDE Candidates 2024 is special

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GM Arjun Erigaisi started off 29th TePe Sigeman & Co Chess Tournament 2024 with a win over reigning Women's World Champion - Wenjun Ju (CHN). The win moved him up to World no.5 in the live ratings. Wenjun played a line in the Grunfeld which she herself won with the white pieces. However, in this game, it was Arjun who deviated and capitalized on his opponent's mistake. Anton Korobov (UKR) also started with a win as he seized his opportunity against Nodirbek Abdusattorov (UZB) in the endgame. Marc` Andria Maurizzi's (FRA) ambitious approach did not work against Vincent Keymer (GER). The defending champion, Peter Svidler drew against the Sweden no.1 - Nils Grandelius. Round 2 starts tomorrow Sunday 28th May at 3 p.m. local time, 6:30 p.m. IST. Photo: Mikael Svensson/tepesigemanchess

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Sardinia Festival 2024 R1: 13-year-old Sauat Nurgaliyev surprises Jorden van Foreest

13-year-old FM Sauat Nurgaliyev (KAZ) stunned GM Jorden van Foreest (NED) in the first round of Sardinia World Chess Festival 2024. The teenager thought that the strong super GM will shock him but it happened the other way in the game. About 300 players are taking part combining Group A, B and C. 21 GMs, 34 IMs, 2 WGMs and 6 WIMs with an average rating of 2278 in Group A making it a very strong event. Top seed GM Vladimir Fedoseev (SLO) and the highest rated Indian in the field - GM Bharath Subramaniyam H made a winning start. A 97-year-old players drew his first round game against a 70-year-old opponent in Group C. Round 2 starts tomorrow at 3 p.m. local time, 6:30 p.m. IST. All photos by Shahid Ahmed unless stated otherwise.

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