When Vishwanathan Anand played mentor
Derek Abraham / DNA

He’s a three-time world chess champion and arguably India’s greatest sportsperson ever, but not many know that Viswanathan Anand actually finds time to even guide, mentor and encourage budding chess professionals of the country.

Grandmaster GN Gopal, the top seed — and now joint second in the points table — at the 47th National Premier chess championship currently underway at the Goregaon Sports Club, is one such beneficiary.

Gopal, a 20-year-old from Kerala, is the only GM from the state and is constantly in touch with the iconic star. “It’s known that Anand is absolutely down to earth. But the way he keeps track of us is worth appreciating,” says Gopal, who has an ELO rating of 2593 and is India No.8.

“Sometime ago, I played the match of my life and managed to beat Sergey Belinksy,” Gopal recalls. Belinsky, meanwhile, is a two-time Russian champion and a close confidante of the legendary Garry Kasparov. “Belinsky is a great player and I was extremely overjoyed after getting the better of him. And guess what, I log on to my mailbox and the first congratulatory mail was Anand’s,” Gopal says proudly.

Anand had written, ‘Dear Gopal, you played a model game. The manner in which you sidelined the rook on G6 was too good.’ Now, this is what dreams are made of. A legend of the game complimenting you just helps you raise the bar.

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