Vidit: I aim for more!

"This is not my limit, I aim for more," he promises.

Chess Champ Vidit Gujrathi Going Places
Feb 18, 2018, 06:50 IST | Manisha Mohite

After Winning The Chess Challengers Event In The Netherlands Last Month, Nashik-Based Vidit Gujrathi, Heads To Moscow In His Quest To Keep India's Flag Flying High In The Anand-Dominated Sport

Considering that only three Indians before him had crossed the Elo 2700 mark, one would expect Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, 23, to be ecstatic, more so since he is 30th position in the world rankings. The lanky Nashik-based youngster however makes it clear that he might be pleased, but has more ambitions.

"This is not my limit, I aim for more," he promises. A strong statement, but one given after power-packed performances in recent months. He won the Tata Steel Chess Challengers tournament in Netherlands last month to qualify for the Master's event (regarded as a Grand Slam event in chess) scheduled next year. Last September he held reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen to a draw in his very first encounter against him.

Favourite for Aeroflot Open Chess Tournament

He has also been honoured with the Shiv Chhatrapati Puraskar (late by any standards) this month and starts as a hot favourite in the Aeroflot Open, one of the world's biggest Open tournaments which gets underway in Moscow tomorrow. Vidit at a very young age has also worked as a second for Anish Giri, who has been featuring consistently in the top 12 in world chess, an indication that his positional sense and innovative ideas have been seeking world attention.

Enroute he has won many medals, at Asian and World level and represented India in team events. However, going hasn't been smooth especially after he earned the GM title in 2013. Vidit ventured tantalisingly close to the Elo 2700 mark numerous times thereafter, even garnering a bronze at the World juniors but breaching the mark became bothersome. "I pursued the 2700 mark almost with a vengeance but was always thrown back hard when I approached it. It was disheartening, depressing and frustrating and even last year after missing a win against Peter Svidler, I considered quitting chess. That was however a temporary phase" revealed Vidit.

Barrier to cross

Vidit then strengthened his armoury by logging more practice hours, experimented with meditation and literally stopped thinking about the elusive 2700 figure. He did not reset his goals, nor did he evaluate his chances but approached each and every game with intense desire and determination to win and it paid handsomely for he crossed the 2700 quietly, without even realising it.

"Only after reaching the hotel room after winning against Alexander Areschenko in the Spanish League last year did I come to know that I finally crossed the barrier without even realising it," added Vidit. Apart from the strong support by his doctor parents Santosh and Nikita, it was GM Alon Greenfield of Israel, his coach who held together his game and spirit to walk unwaveringly along the path he had set for himself.

Dad, the challenger

Like most Indian kids, Vidit started with cricket as a hobby but found chess more gripping and pursued it more seriously. His intense desire to defeat his dad in a chess game ultimately determined his destiny. Then began the tough part, since Nashik did not boast of a chess culture like Mumbai, Chennai or Kolkata.

Mom's sacrifice

His mother gave up her medical practice and accompanied him to tournaments and after winning the World Under-14 Youth Championship in 2008, it was more or less a foregone conclusion that he would serve Caissa Chess Academy and not follow in his parent's footsteps despite excellent academic results.

The decision to work with Giri was also a very crucial one, since prodigies would rather pursue their own dreams rather than fuel those of the established stars. Vidit however shrugs off. "I didn't even think twice before accepting the assignment, I had nothing to lose and on hindsight, got valuable insights into how the top players work and the extent to which they are consumed by passion for their craft. Generally they say that a person's character is defined by the average of five persons he hangs out with and Giri's has been a cent per cent positive influence."

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