Chess, like Mathematics and Music is a nursery for child prodigies: Jamie Murphy. And if chess is a nursery, it is all the more important to nourish and nurture those who promise to create their very own magic, early on the 64 squares.
The Kramnik-Microsense Chess India Programme, a unique first-time venture is one such effort where former world champion Vladimir Kramnik was involved in training six of the most talented teenagers from the country in Geneva, Switzerland from August 14-24.
Personally picked by Kramnik (after scrutinising their games) for the training are D Gukesh, R Praggnanandhaa, P Iniyan, Prithu Gupta, Raunak Sadhwani and Leon Mendonca. Nihal Sarin, another big promise too was considered but prior professional commitments kept him away. Gukesh hit the headlines early this year as the second youngest ever in the history of chess to earn the coveted Grandmaster (GM) title at 12-plus years.
Praggnanandhaa, all of 13, is another precious and promising prodigy whom the chess world has taken early notice of and is keen on providing a platform. 12-year-old Leon Mendonca of Goa was like a tornado, scoring all his three IM norms in whirlwind fashion in a span of just 17 days in three tournaments. Raunak, Prithu (recently became India’s 64th GM) and Iniyan too have done enough to impress and be picked up by Kramnik.
A child prodigy himself, Kramnik, the 14th World Chess Champion, stands tall not just in height but in stature amongst those who wore the crown with pride and performances. He had dethroned the then ‘invincible’ Gary Kasparov in 2000 in a stunning title match and had lost the crown to India’s Viswanathan Anand at Bonn in 2008. Hailed as a ‘purist’ for his positional understanding and precise handling of the pieces, he had stamped his own individuality on the 64 squares and his retirement from professional chess early this year has left a void. He had endeared himself to Anand and Indians when he had lent a helping hand to Anand in the defence of his World title against Veselin Topalov in 2010.
Interestingly, apart from Anand who has been firmly anchored in the top ten for more than three decades, only Harikrishna has been able to make a brief appearance in the top ten in world rankings from India. Prodigies promised plenty but fell short of the towering Anand who till date remains the highest rated Indian, for nearly four decades. Anand too admits Indian chess has an amazing depth in the eight to 20 age category and that the need of the hour was to give them platforms to train and compete. In fact, just before the training camp, Anand had spoken to all the six youngsters and advised them to make best use of the opportunity.
Speaking about camp Kramnik said, “I think India has the strongest chess generation in the world right now, maybe the strongest ever in one country. I am now retired from chess and not playing competitively anymore, but it means a lot to me that I can share my knowledge with the most promising juniors who can achieve something big in the future.”
In the first interaction session with the players, Kramnik spent time to get to know the players personally, addressed their queries. Speaking before the camp, Kramnik discussed his plan saying, ”We will be touching upon all the aspects of the game including opening, middlegame and the endgame. I will give my insights of how I prepare psychologically and professionally for chess tournaments and I would share with them my views on many issues of professional chess. I will also be sharing secrets which only top players are aware of because of their experience of playing chess at the highest level.”
Microsense, a wireless technology solutions company headed by S Kailasanathan has been sponsoring 20 Indian players in covering their tournament training and travelling expenses, readily chipped in to sponsor this programme after Fredric Friedel the co-founder of ChessBase (a chess software giant based in Germany) came up with the idea. Kailasanathan says, “Microsense vision and mission is to have a galaxy of Indian chess stars in world top 10 and top 20, a world champion in open and women category
ChessBase India founders I M Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal have planned the logistics of this training programme and have accompanied the teenagers to Switzerland.