By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Even as the chess world is raising a toast for the 12-year-old Abhimanyu Mishra, an Indian origin American for becoming the youngest GM in the world, there are two Tamil Nadu connections and a Maharashtra connection for that achievement.
For it was Grandmaster’s (GM) Arun Prasad Subramanian, Magesh Chandran Panchanathan and his wife Anuprita Patil from Maharashtra — all settled now in the US — who had shaped Abhimanyu’s chess career.
Interestingly it was Subramanian’s pep talk to Abhimanyu minutes before the last round at the chess tournament in Budapest in Hungary that helped in setting up a new record.
“While on a video call, I found Abhimanyu’s face lacked the usual cheerfulness. At that point, I told him about the fame and shame that would result if he wins that round. The rhyming words brought a smile on his face and he went on to win the game,” Subramanian told IANS.
With his win, Abhimanyu who had earlier became the youngest International Master in 2019, erased the 19-year-old record held by Russian GM Sergey Karjakin as the youngest chess GM.
Be that as it may, the making of the GM Abhimanyu is the result of his dedication and the hard work since the age of five, his father Hemant Mishra’s dedication and belief in his son and also the work of his coaches.
“Hemant, an IT sector employee, came to us when Abhimanyu was four or five years old. What surprised us was Hemanta’s commitment. It was a 45- minute drive from his home to our coaching centre one way. And after one hour of coaching, it will be again a long drive back home,” said Panchanathan, who runs the Kings and Queens Chess Academy in New Jersey.
Initially Abhimanyu was coached by Panchanathan’s wife Anuprita Patil. After seeing his rapid progress, Abhimanyu came under Panchanathan’s fold.
“Kids can be pushed to work, but not to play. What was striking was Abhimanyu’s continued intensity in chess. We had seen kids having serious intensity in chess and later getting interested in a different field,” Panchanathan said.
Both Panchanathan and Subramanian full time chess coaches in the US were astounded to see Abhimanyu sitting for hours before the chess board without becoming restless, a rare feature in kids.
“After a couple of hours of coaching sessions, I would have given him some chess lines to study and work. Already he would have spent about four/five hours-commuting and in the class. But he would complete the assignment at home the same day and come to class afresh the next day,” Subramanian said.
Another astonishing feature the two coaches saw in Abhimanyu was his memory power and his uptake of chess moves and positions.
“Like a sponge he would absorb everything shown to him and he would squeeze out what is needed over the board in tournaments,” Subramanian said.
At tournaments Abhimanyu is ready for a long grind and will not offer a draw to his opponent.
Basically, an aggressive player on the board, Abhimanyu has strong preparations in chess opening moves as well as a sharp eye in tactical positions.
While Subramanian coached Abhimanyu in openings and middle games, Panchanathan took care of the end game strategies.
Soon the two GM coaches started seeing Abhimanyu playing like a GM. The boy also started beating IMs and highly rated GMs.
“Hemant always made Abhimanyu play in open tournaments where seniors compete and not in the age group categories,” Panchanathan said.
Last year Abhimanyu started beating Panchanathan regularly in practice games.
“Well, that is what a teacher wants,” the coach said.
According to Subramanian, the chess prodigy is adding about 200 Elo rating points to his account a year since 2015.
While Subramanian and Panchanathan have an Elo rating in the 2,500 band, they also told Hemant that for Abhimanyu to go up further he has to be trained by players with a rating over 2,700 points.
They suggested Abhimanyu to be trained by another Indian GM P. Harikrishna, now ranked 21 in the world with a rating of 2,730 points.
“It is not easy to win against Harikrishna from an equal position,” Panchanathan added.
Abhimanyu had also attended camps held by GMs Gelfand, Kramnik, Aagaard, Chuchelov and also the Kasparov Foundation.
With a wild card entry, young Abhimanyu’s next target will be the FIDE World Cup to be held in Sochi in Russia.
Will this Abhimanyu fighting with elephants, horses, a queen and soldiers break into the top chess league which is sort of the ‘Chakravyuha’ (a military formation mentioned in Indian epic Mahabharat and which was broken by Abhimanyu one of the epic’s heroes) is to be seen.
His two coaches say Abhimanyu has all the markings to break into that league and come out successful.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at [email protected])