Parimarjan Negi was only 13, when he became the second-youngest grandmaster. With a World Chess Federation rating of 2641, he recently replaced Andhra Pradesh’s Pendyala Harikrishna (25) to become the country’s youngest grandmaster.

Parimarjan Negi (19), India’s youngest chess grandmaster who bagged the title at the age of 13, talks about his journey, from the time he received a special chessboard as a gift to winning titles one after the other both in India and abroad.

What prompted you to enter the arena of chess and ‘checkmate kings’?

Chess was one of my favourite hobbies. I would play board games like chess and ludo since I was a kid but it all started when I received a magnetic chessboard as a gift. 

The magnetic factor made it all the more exciting. I gradually mastered the rules and soon playing chess became more than just a hobby.

What were your feelings when you won the title of ‘India’s youngest chess GM’ at 13?

I felt a huge relief. I ensured not to brag about it to my friends (many of them didn’t even know what ‘chess grandmaster’ meant then). Instead, I focused on the subsequent games.

What were the pressures and challenges you faced when you entered the profession?

For me, recovering from bad tournaments — be it at any level — is definitely challenging. To stay motivated also needs effort.

Keeping up my motivation levels when attending tournaments back-to-back is quite tough.

Who is your role model? 

I admire many Indian sporstmen, but I don’t idolise any chess player. I don’t like to idolise. However, I’ve learnt a lot from Andre Agassi and his biography.

What are your views about world chess champion Viswanathan Anand?

He is definitely the reason behind the popularity of chess in our country.

I have looked up to him for inspiration and will continue to do so. I want to compete with him in a future game.

How do you prepare ahead of a tournament?

Most tournaments last for ten days with several rounds. I am a little tense prior to a game, but I try to focus on the game ahead. 

If I have an afternoon game, I need a two-hour morning preparation. It’s more about controlling emotions and not getting distracted. 

I indulge in self-talk, often motivating myself while keeping distractions away.

Does the Indian government extend financial support to chess grandmaster aspirants?

Since I won ‘India’s youngest chess grandmaster’ title, the support provided to me has been very good. 

The sports ministry does provide some aid, besides, the National Skill Development Corporation scheme has always been a crucial support for me.

How did you cope with your studies amidst all your tournaments?

It was never a problem. My work didn’t clash with my studies. During exams, I would take a break for a month or two from the game to prepare. My school has also been very supportive of me. However, currently I’m entirely focussed on the sport.

What are your plans for the future?

I am currently a professional chess player, but I want to be on the top of the game. Also, I need to imbibe consistency in my performances.

What advice would you want to give Sergey Karjakin who won the ‘world’s youngest chess GM’ title?

I don’t really have any advice for him. I think he should be giving me some advice (laughs).

What is your advice to budding chessmasters?

Play chess like any other board game. Don’t take it as a tedious task, play it as if it were a hobby. It does help in aspects like concentration and focus.

Please share some mantras to deal with defeat?

Initially, when I would face defeat, I would go crazy. But gradually, I realised and learnt that no matter how bad a defeat is, it is advisable to leave it behind oneself and look forward. One should never think ‘I’m the only one who has lost’, the best players have also witnessed defeat and overcome it.

Most exciting game: The game I played after bagging the youngest grandmaster title

Most tedious game: The first time I met the first grandmaster norm (you have to meet three norms to qualify for the title, some of them being an Elo rating of at least 2500, in addition, at least two favorable results from a total of at least 27 games in tournaments involving other Grandmasters)

The queen in your life: Other than chess queens, it is hard to say…

Recreation tactics: Movies, TV shows, books

Aspire to be like: Andre Agassi

Strongest opponent: Teimour Radjabov (World No 4)

Favourite sport apart from chess: Tennis

Dream match: Just win against whoever I play with

Associate a name with the following:

King: Eminem
Queen: Kristen Stewart
Bishop: Minister with a long name
Knight: Myself


Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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