Abhimanyu Mishra becomes youngest grandmaster in chess history

At 12 years, 4 months and 25 days, Indian American chess player breaks Sergey Karjakin’s 19-year-old record.

Abhimanyu Mishra, Indian American tween from New Jersey, has become the world’s youngest chess grandmaster breaking Sergey Karjakin’s 19-year-old record with a third norm in Budapest on Wednesday.

Mishra did it at just 12 years, 4 months and 25 days, while Karjakin, who was a world championship challenger to Magnus Carlsen in 2016, had earned his GM title at 12 years, 7 months, ESPN reported.

In chase of the GM title, Abhimanyu and his father Hemant Mishra, a data management professional, who introduced him to chess when he was just two-and-a-half, have been camping in Budapest since April this year.

He earned two norms over two months, and his final norm arrived with a win over Indian GM Leon Mendonca with black pieces at the Vezerkepzo GM mix on Wednesday in what was his final tournament opportunity in the Hungarian capital before he travels to Sochi for the Fide World Cup.

Read: New Jersey teenager Akshat Chandra wins the US Junior Chess championship (August 12, 2015)

For a grandmaster title, a player must score three GM norms and touch an Elo rating of 2500 and above. The norms can be awarded only in tournaments where at least 50% of the opponents are titleholders, and at least one-third of them GMs.

Named after Hindu epic Mahabharata’s young hero in strategic warfare who went to battle in the face of certain death, Abhimanyu matches his age with the number of hours he spends daily on chess.

He has coaching support in GM Arun Prasad and GM Magesh Chandran, and the months starved of competitions last year due to Covid-19 pandemic have been spent in doubling down in intense training.

“Up until now I’ve been taking the calls, but once he becomes GM, he’s free to choose what he wants to do with his life,” Hemant told ESPN. “Whether it’s the tournaments he plays or if he wants to continue to play chess at all. It’ll be his decision.”

The 12-year-old himself, of course, is dreaming of being world chess champion one day.

Abhimanyu has made something of a habit of youngest-ever distinctions and currently holds the record for youngest international master.

Soon after he became the highest-rated under-9 player in the world, he was invited by the Kasparov Chess Foundation for a rigorous three-day assessment in November 2018.

He was the youngest of the flock of players who were called, and among the handful picked for the Young Stars program.

It threw open the opportunity to interact, present his games and seek feedback from Kasparov twice a year, apart from individualized training sessions with GM coaches.

Read: Abhimanyu Mishra Becomes Youngest Grandmaster In Chess History (June 30, 2021)

“At his age, to have Garry mentor and go over his games is straight out of a dream for any chess player,” Hemant was quoted as saying. “There was a parent interview as well, and that was perhaps the best day of my life.”

He was granted special permission to be present in the room when Kasparov analyzed Abhimanyu’s games, taking copious notes of every remark by the former world champion. Since last year, the pandemic forced a shift of the sessions online.

Even before he’d babbled his first words, Abhimanyu was introduced to chess pieces through engaging stories by his father at age 2 and a half.

Despite being a player belonging to a generation nursed on computers, a heavy diet of chess books formed his early learning tool. He’d done strengths and weaknesses analysis of on “Silman’s Complete Endgame Course” by age 6.

In his chase for an IM norm two years ago, Abhimanyu put himself through a 10-day mock drill at home to wind his body and sleep schedule to California time, three hours behind New Jersey.

Together with his father, he went over preparations until 3 am every night, took walks outside their home to stay awake and then flew to California on the starting day of the tournament. “I was pretty certain he wouldn’t be able to do well,” Hemant told ESPN.

“The jet lag, plus having to play black against a 2650 GM, looked too difficult. After close to six hours of play, Abhimanyu managed to force a draw. To me, it felt like a win because he’d managed to fight the challenges of his age.”

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