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Final GM norm: A race against time for Abhimanyu Mishra

For over a month now Hemant Mishra and his 12-year-old son Abhimanyu have been in Budapest, more than 7,000 km away from their home in New Jersey, United States. And they are there with no return ticket.

They plan to stay on in the Hungarian capital till Abhimanyu completes his Grandmaster (GM) title. And if he does it by September 5, he will become the world’s youngest GM, beating the record set by Russia’s Sergey Karjakin 19 years ago.

Abhimanyu needs one more GM norm — he scored two from Budapest these past few weeks — and to touch an Elo Rating of 2500 points, which he is 29 shy of at the time of filing this feature. “My short term goal is to become the world’s youngest GM,” Abhimanyu tells Sportstar over phone from Budapest. “After that I want to cross the 2700 rating.”

There are less than 40 players above that rating, which separates the world’s super strong from the strong. “Abhimanyu is certainly capable of reaching there,” says his coach S. Arun Prasad over phone from New Jersey. “He has always been better than others of his age, but during the past one year, he has become much stronger.”

Abhimanyu giving a simultaneous display. The youngster feels he is blessed to work with the former World champion Garry Kasparov. “It is a psychological boost just to be in the same room as him,” he says. “I am grateful to whatever support the foundation has provided.”   –  Special Arrangement

 

Till Arun took over, Abhimanyu had been coached by another US-settled GM from Chennai, P. Magesh Chandran. “He came to me when he was four and I sensed that he was someone special,” he says. “Unlike kids of his age, he was willing to put in long hours of preparation.”

His father had prepared him for that from a very early age. “I taught him chess when he was two-and-a-half years old,” says Hemant, who hails from Bhopal. “I had begun playing chess late in my life, but I wanted to ensure that Abhimanyu got all the facilities one required to become a top chess player.”

That has come at a price, though. He says he had to spend something like Rs. 2 crore on Abhimanyu’s career so far, hiring the best coaches and making him play in tournaments abroad.

When Hemant, who works in the IT sector, found that Abhimanyu would be needing more money to further his career, he decided to go for crowdfunding. So his wife Swati set up an appeal.

“We didn’t have any other option,” says Hemant. “There are no corporate sponsors for chess prodigies in the US, unlike India.”

Even when Abhimanyu became the world’s youngest International Master in 2019, breaking the record of India’s R. Praggnanandhaa, he didn’t get any support, says Hemant. He, however, became part of the Kasparov Chess Foundation’s programme for young players.

Abhimanyu with his father Hemant before leaving for Budapest. When Hemant, who works in the IT sector, found that Abhimanyu would be needing more money to further his career, he decided to go for crowdfunding, and his wife Swati set up an appeal.   –  Special Arrangement

 

Abhimanyu feels he is blessed to work with the former World champion Garry Kasparov. “It is a psychological boost just to be in the same room as him,” he says. “I am grateful to whatever support the foundation has provided.”

Getting picked by Kasparov’s foundation was a turning point for Abhimanyu. Another had come long before, at the World cadets chess championship in Brazil in 2007.

Representing the USA, he finished runner-up in the Under-8 event. T. J. Suresh Kumar was the coach of the Indian team then.

“I was impressed by his performance,” says Suresh. “He had won the first eight games and needed only a draw from the last three rounds.”

But he couldn’t, and had to settle for the second place. “He is a better player after that tournament,” says Hemant. “He learnt from his mistakes.”

Arun says Abhimanyu is a quick learner and could absorb even the complicated lessons in chess theory very well. “And he never shies away from hard work,” he says. “He certainly has the potential to be among the world’s top 10.”

Abbimanyu is aiming even higher, though. “My long-term goal is to be the World champion,” he says.

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