A champion plots his moves on the board

A champion plots his moves on the board

In an interview conducted by the organisers of the traditional open tournament in Gibraltar in 2019, D Gukesh, now 17, proudly proclaimed that he wanted to become the world champion, and that if Magnus Carlsen was the defending champion, then, he would like to beat him — he was 12 at the time. His words might have been dismissed by many as the aspirational ramblings of a child, but they were delivered with a calmness and maturity that has since become his trademark.

Grandmaster D. Gukesh of India(PTI)

The fact that Gukesh is now the candidate to challenge the world title shouldn’t surprise anyone. But the pace at which he has developed has even shocked Carlsen. At the start of 2022, the youngster had an Elo rating of 2614 and his progress till then had been along expected lines. But he found a higher level that year — winning four open tournaments in a row in Spain and also putting together a streak of eight consecutive wins at the Chess Olympiad. His ambition didn’t allow him to rest easy; his Elo rating went past 2750 and a very focussed push has now seen him outscore experienced pros Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Ian Nepomniachtchi by half a point to win the Candidates and earn himself a shot at the world champion.

Gukesh’s low-key approach and love for the grind have allowed him to make rapid strides and when one considers that he is still a teenager and in an early stage of evolution, the sky is truly the limit. Come the end of the year, Gukesh will have the opportunity to be spoken about not as the youngest winner of the Candidates but as the youngest world champion ever.

If nothing else, one knows he’ll be prepared.