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How Gukesh used a loss to fuel his historic win

Source: PTI
April 22, 2024 14:51 IST
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Seventh-round loss gave me energy, motivation to aim for title: Gukesh

D Gukesh

Photograph: Kind Courtesy Michal Walusza for FIDE/X

For most athletes victory is usually the biggest motivator but not for history-making teen Indian Grandmaster D Gukesh, who said he got the "energy" to become the youngest Candidates chess champion thanks to his seventh-round loss to Iran's Firouzja Alireza.

The 17-year-old from Chennai, whose father is an ENT surgeon and mother a microbiologist, drew his 14th and final round game against American Hikaru Nakamura to win the prestigious tournament and become the youngest challenger for the world championship title.

He will take on China's Ding Liren in that match later this year.

"I was feeling really good from the start but after my seventh round loss against Alireza, I was really upset. It was a painful loss. But the next day I had a rest day and was feeling my absolute best," Gukesh told PTI videos in a zoom interview from Toronto.

"The loss kind of provided me with the energy and motivation. After the loss I really felt that if I continue doing the right thing, and I am in the right mental state then I can really go for the wins," he added.

Gukesh became only the second Indian after five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand to win the Candidates. In the process, he bettered a 40-year-old record by the great Garry Kasparov, who became the youngest to challenge for the world title in 1984 at the age of 22.


Reflecting on how the tournament went for him, the world's third youngest Grandmaster said, "The focus from the beginning of the tournament was to trust the process, to be in the right mindset and play the right chess."

"I think throughout the tournament, I managed to do that well and consider myself fortunate enough to have the results go my way."

On how he felt after winning the title and becoming the youngest challenger for World Championship title, Gukesh said "It was a beautiful moment, I was so happy and relieved to have officially made it. I was just super happy."

The Indian needed the last game between Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia and top-seeded American Fabiano Caruana to end in a draw and this is exactly how things panned out.

Had any of these two players won, the tournament would have needed a tie-break as Gukesh and the winner would have ended up in joint lead.

"I was trying to prepare for the tie-break, Me and my trainer were discussing for the tie-break beforehand but soon after we started discussing we got to know that there will be no need for it," Gukesh said.

On what will be his plan for the world title match, the dates and venue for which are yet to be decided, he said: "I did not have much time to think about the World Championship final after winning the (Candidates) tournament."

"I am really looking forward to the build up and the work we will put in for the match and really looking forward to play the match."

For now, the youngster is keen on some time off and is also chuffed about getting a congratulatory message from Viswanathan Anand.

"He congratulated me, I haven't had a chance to talk to him yet but hopefully will catch up soon with him," he said.

"I spoke to my parents, they are really happy and glad. I spent some nice time with my trainer and my sponsor and some of my friends. There are a lot of messages, I am looking forward to reply to them and talk to my friends."

On what will be his immediate plan before the World Championship match, he said, "I am going to relax for a few days now, It has been really stressful for the last three weeks.

"I will cool off for sometime and then will think about the World Championship match on how I will plan to take things forward.

"The general plan is clear that I focus on playing good chess and try to be at my absolute best." 

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