"Of course, (Viswanathan) Anand is a legend, and it will be nice to overtake him, but I (would rather) want to be the next (first) Vidit."
When someone makes such a bold statement with complete nonchalance, you pause for a second. You are taken aback. After all, the comparison that had been drawn was with the greatest Indian chess player of all time, and arguably among five of the greatest the world has ever seen. But the very next moment, when you realise the gravity of the statement, you are overwhelmed by a sense of respect. You admire the conviction and the will to carve out a niche and name for oneself, free from the burden of comparisons with the greats. The admiration gets greater when you see that the individual making that statement is no more than 23-years-old.
He is the third-highest-ranked chess player in the country, only the fourth Indian to bag the coveted 2,700 Elo rating, the player who had fought the marauding Magnus Carlsen to a stalemate in the recently-concluded Isle of Man Open, he is in more ways than one, the future of Indian chess. He is none other than Vidit Gujrathi.
On Monday, Gujrathi was in Mumbai, where he was felicitated as the 'Sportsman of the Year' by the Sports Journalists' Association of Mumbai, and it gave Firstpost an opportunity to catch up with him. In a candid chat, the chess ace shared stories of his growth and development as a chess champion, his method of preparation before a big match, the duel with Carlsen, the comparison with Anand and much more.
"If I keep playing as I have been in the past few months, it is very much possible (becoming the next Anand)," Gujrathi said, before reminding us of the merit of having an identity of his own.