Gujrathi became the fourth Indian Grandmaster after Viswanathan Anand, Krishnan Sasikiran and Pentala Harikrishna to go past the 2700 ELO mark. In addition, Gujrathi performed well at the Chess World Cup in Georgia in September. However, the major talking point of the year was the way how he held current world champion Magnus Carlsen to a draw in the Isle of Man tournament.
Despite the achievements, Gujrathi is not satisfied. Such has been the youngster’s drive towards perfection that he still has some regrets about missed opportunities.
‘Did not take my chance’
Gujrathi was India’s only realistic hope in the Chess World Cup in Georgia after heavyweights Viswanathan Anand, Pentala Harikrishna and Karthikeyan Murali had crashed out. He was facing Ding Liren and dominated every game in the classical and tie-breaker. In one crucial tie-breaker, an error from Gujrathi resulted in Ding capitalising to score the win and knock the Indian Grandmaster out.
Three months on, there is still sadness. He rues, with his voice still emotional, the fact that one slip-up was so costly. “I lost because I did not take my chances. Ding got one chance and he exploited it perfectly. I was on top in each game but I failed to capitalise. Not converting those chances was a massive blow. If I had won against Ding, my World Cup and year would have been different,” he told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview.
Mind of a champion
The icing on the cake for Gujrathi was his draw against world champion Magnus Carlsen in the Isle of Man tournament in October. Gujrathi admitted that playing with a level head was vital in getting that result. The mere mention of that match brings out joy, relief and laughter in the youngster’s voice.
“The pressure during the World Cup was immense. I came to the Isle of Man tournament without any pressure. I was chilled out and probably that was the reason for drawing with Carlsen,” Gujrathi said.
The 22-year-old highlighted one major factor in Carlsen’s being a different kind of a champion. “A mixture of mental stability, immense psychological strength and supreme understanding that makes him special,” he said.
Breaking into top 10
Gujrathi’s success in the last couple of years has been due to the long hours spent in improving every aspect of the game. “Previously, my work ethic was horrible,” cringes Gujrathi. “I was working hard but was not making the jump to the next level. I have expanded my array of openings. I am in the process of developing an all-round game.”
In 2018, Gujrathi, along with Anand will participate in the Professional Rapid Online (PRO) Chess League, the world’s first online event, and also the Chess Olympiad. When asked whether he is ready to assume the mantle of India’s next chess superstar, Gujrathi was cautious.
“Anand is still going strong. It will be interesting to play against him. This is the first time that I could be facing Anand and I am looking forward to it,” Gujrathi said. However, just like his quest for perfection, Gujrathi’s aims are higher. “I want to break into the top 10, which will be a good start,” the Indian Grandmaster added.