It’s often easy to overlook the efforts and sacrifices that go behind making a prodigy achieve success at the highest level. “Gifted athlete” is a term that is often associated to define the athlete’s success. When Abhimanyu Mishra became the youngest Grandmaster, breaking a 19-year-old record set by GM Sergey Karjakin, the world rejoiced. The chess community was awestruck at the 12-year-old’s achievement.
Abhimanyu Mishra evolved into a prodigy. All his father, Hemant Mishra, wanted was to make sure his son avoided the trend of getting addicted to phones or tablets. Hemant was aware that toddlers were getting drawn into the virtual world and he wanted his 2-year-old son to do something better.
Hemant said Abhimanyu started playing the game when he was 2 years and 8 months old. He was not a natural when he started out and the proud father added it took him a couple of years to get used to the game.
But once he started taking part in competitive tournaments at the age of 5, the family decided that it would concentrate efforts into helping him grow as a professional chess player.
“We started way back when he was 2 years and 8 months. The idea was to introduce this Roya Game to him. We prefered him spending time on this game, rather than working on his phone or iPad because at that time, I saw many kids who were addicted to that,” Hemant told media.
“That’s how it started. He started playing tournaments from the age of 5. We were lucky to get very good coaches, Grand Master Arun Prasad Subramaniam and Grandmaster Mahesh. They started planning everything and we were just executing.”
When Abhimanyu defeated 15-year-old Indian GM Leon Luke Mendonca at the Vezerkepzo GM Mix tournament in Budapest on June 30 to pick up his third GM norm and secure the Grandmaster title, there was joy and a bit of relief too.
‘I don’t watch him play live’
Abhimanyu and his father have been camping in Hungary since April while his mother Swati and sister Ridhima were in New Jersey, backing the chess star from home. Hemant was remotely working even as he travelled with his son to tournaments. While he was vaccinated against the Covid-19, the caring father had to take all the precautions as they travelled amid the pandemic. Abhimanyu, 12, had played over 70 games over the last 2 months in a foreign land.
And when history was created, it was Ridhima who was providing live updates. Abhimanyu’s mother told media Today that she hardly watches him play and that’s part of superstition.
“We know, move by move, what’s happening. As soon as the opponent resigned he became the youngest GM. I got to know. Ridhima Mishra. I have a superstition. I don’t watch it live. I think I jinx it. Ridhima was watching it and she was giving commentary,” Swati said.
Abhimanyu is relieved that their 3-month stay in Hungary finally came to an end.
“It feels amazing to get the record after staying here for 2 and a half, 3 months. Finally, my hard work of 7-8 years paid off,” the youngest GM said.
When sleep was Abhimanyu’s toughest opponent
Abhimanyu’s 10-year-long career has had its fair shares of ups and downs but he considers the defeat that came after he struggled to control sleep as a 5-year-old as one of the turning points.
“That was when I was five. There was a tournament. There were rounds a day. Each game would go for 6-7 hours because the time control was so long.
“This was the 2nd game of the day. It was going way into the night and at some point, I was winning but then he started taking so long because he knew that I was a five-year-old kid and I wouldn’t be able to stay awake for long. After a while, I wasn’t able to keep staying awake.
“At some point, I offered a draw. He declined the draw and I unnecessarily lost the game. It was way past my bedtime.
“Next year, the same tournament, the same situation happened, this time I was 6, but I was better prepared. When that happened, it was 2 am. At some point, he offered a draw, I declined the draw and somehow he lost. That was an amazing game,” Abhimanyu added.