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Lockdown: 14-year-old Indian IM stuck in Hungary

Source: PTI
April 10, 2020 20:25 IST
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Leon Mendonca

IMAGE: The International Master, with an Elo rating of 2452, had travelled to Budapest to compete in a tournament which was to end on March 17 and he has been there for nearly a month because of the lockdown in India. Photograph: Kind courtesy, Basil Sylvester Pinto/ChessBase India

With his father and some books for company in an apartment in Budapest, 14-year-old Indian chess player Leon Mendonca is not exactly feeling stuck even though he has been away from home for almost a month because of the coronavirus-forced travel restrictions.

The International Master, with an Elo rating of 2452, had travelled to Budapest to compete in a tournament which was to end on March 17.  He was supposed to take a flight back on March 18 but He was forced to stay back after India enforced its first set of travel restrictions which barred flights from Europe. He was stopped from boarding with the airline informing him about the Indian restrictions.


"We are safe and sound in an apartment in Budapest, waiting for the lockdown (in India) to get over before returning," Mendonca told PTI from the Hungarian capital.

"I wake up at 7.30 am and I say my prayers. I also do some yoga to maintain my physical fitness and do some meditation as well. I divide my time between academics and chess.

"I practice chess based on what I think is a priority, and what I feel like doing. I also read some chess books -- 'Saying No to Chess Principles' by Evgeny Bareev and 'Life and Games of Mikhail Tal," he added.

The player's father Lyndon narrated the sequence of events before the two were stranded.

"Leon finished his last round on March 17 and we were due to return on 18th morning. We were denied boarding as the Qatar Airlines crew said that they would be forced to fly us back from Doha to Budapest instead of Delhi as we would have crossed the deadline of 18th March 12:00 GMT by the time we reached India," the young IM's father Lyndon said.

Leon misses his mother and sister but understands the gravity of the situation.

"It is important to remain at home and stay safe as the world battles the coronavirus. We stay at home and don't go out much. Dad cooks for us and gets supplies for up to 10 days from the supermarket nearby.

"I am doing what I would have done irrespective of the coronavirus and I don't feel much of a difference," he said.

Lyndon, an engineer, said it was tough to be held up in Hungary during such difficult times.

"But it is important to stay positive during the coronavirus pandemic and also pray for the well-being of the world," he said.

Leon played in the Aeroflot Open in Moscow, which featured several other Indian players, and headed to Budapest after an event in Vietnam got postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Goan is supported, among others, by Microsense Networks and had participated in the camp for youngsters conducted by the legendary Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand in Chennai late last year.

Lyndon said although the two have not needed any help to sustain themselves so far, they have been assured of help should the need arise.

"Friends have offered to transfer funds anytime," he said.

Chess players raise over Rs 2.39 lakh for PM CARES Fund

A total of 17 Grandmasters and over 180 chess players participated came together to take part in an online blitz event to raise over Rs 2.39 lakh towards the PM CARES Fund for COVID-19 relief.

The players who participated in the "Let's Fight Corona Together" fundraiser online blitz organised on Thursday by ChessBase India, a chess portal, included India's No.2 Vidit Gujrathi, national champion Aravindh Chithambaram and Nihal Sarin among others, a press release said.

Gujrathi, Sarin and Chithambaram finished on top with eight points from nine rounds before Sarin claimed the top spot on tiebreak.

The main aim of the event was to raise money for the PM CARES Fund for coronavirus relief and a total of Rs 2,39,742 was collected.

The country is under a 21-day lockdown due to the  COVID-19 pandemic which has led to the death of over 90,000 people worldwide and over 190 in India.

Gujrathi also streamed his games live and his efforts resulted in a collection of Rs 37,028 in under two hours, the release said.

Apart from Gujrathi, Sarin and Chithambaram, young GM D Gukesh and veteran Dibyendu Barua took part in the event.

GM Arjun Erigaisi contributed Rs 25,000 and GMs K Sasikiran, Neelotpal Das and Barua contributed Rs 20,000 each.

There was no entry fee, but one had to contribute a minimum of Rs 100 to participate in the event, the release said adding all the money was collected was to be transferred to the PM CARES fund for the fight against COVID-19.

The release further said ChessBase India is also holding live sessions during the lockdown period in both English (IM Sagar Shah) and Hindi (FI Niklesh Jain) and they have raised Rs 74,179 in the last 16 days of the lockdown.

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