We are not looking too far ahead, says Gukesh’s mother

Chennai, Apr 22 (PTI) Microbiologist Padma Kumari is known for her equanimity in her family but her voice was choked with emotion when she picked up the phone on Monday evening.

Perhaps the historic triumph of her son D Gukesh, at the Candidates Chess tournament in Toronto, was yet to sink in.

When the novel coronavirus was spreading its ugly tentacles four years ago, Padma showed remarkable composure as she regularly examined test reports of sick patients inside a city hospital, leaving her Grandmaster son extremely worried.

Gukesh, who is also known to remain calm, albeit in the game of 64 squares, would be amazed at the manner in which his mother would go about her job in that hour of crisis.

But Monday was different, as her 17-year-old became the youngest ever challenger to the world title, bettering a record created by the legendary Garry Kasparov 40 years ago.

“He will be looking forward to the World Championships; it is one of the biggest tournaments in chess. But we are not looking too far ahead, as we will be celebrating this win now. We need to let this sink in first,” an emotional Padma told PTI.

“Feeling extremely happy with his performance and achievement. It’s an ode to all the hard work that he has done throughout. Winning the Candidates was one of his dreams, and it’s a huge feeling.” While Tamil Nadu has produced top Grandmasters such as Viswanathan Anand, R Praggnanandhaa and Aravindh Chithambaram, it was Anand’s World Championship clash against Magnus Carlsen here in 2013, which inspired him to take up the sport.

“While he was seven years old, he began playing the sport by seeing some family members play. The same year, he saw the World Championship contest between Vishwanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen, and it was then that he became inspired by Vishi to take up the sport,” she remembered.

“The sport quickly became his passion, and we allowed him to follow it up. It turned out to be a good decision, as he has attained every small achievement step-by-step.” Gukesh’s journey wasn’t easy as his family dug into their savings and also turned to crowd-funding to fuel his dream.

Padma said that it was only after he became a GM in 2019 that the financial problems were taken care of.

“Financially, there were a few hardships. But that was sorted after he became a GM. While he continues to work hard, we are doing the same to be able to support him in whatever way we can,” she added.

Besides finances, Gukesh also stopped attending school full-time after class IV to focus on chess.

Although it was a hard call to take, Padma thanked his school (Velammal Vidyalaya School in Chennai) for being one of his biggest backers.

“The biggest challenge was to decide between his studies and chess. We had to sacrifice (his academics), and it was a hard decision to make,” she said.

“His school is the biggest supporter. Whenever he wanted to go to a tournament, they gave him home duty. Till now, whatever academics he has had, whenever he was free, he used to write the exams.

“In the middle, we had even thought of him pursuing his studies alongside playing chess. But from hereon, I believe it’s full-time chess for him.” However, the most significant sacrifice was made by his father, Dr Rajinikanth, who gave up his career as an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon to help his son realise his dream.

Rajinikanth had to stop his practice as the father-son duo travelled worldwide on a shoestring budget when Gukesh chased the final GM norm. Meanwhile, his mother became the primary breadwinner, taking care of the household expenses.

Padma was also emotional about Gukesh’s father giving up his career and hailed him as the one who helped the boy rise to this level.

“He is the one who has helped him reach this level, starting from the very small steps. As a doctor, to give up his whole career is the biggest sacrifice a father can make, especially after settling down, given that you have to overcome a lot of challenges to become a doctor,” she said.

“He has stopped practising his profession for the last seven to eight years and has done whatever he can for Gukesh.” Gukesh became India’s youngest GM at 12 years, seven months and 17 days in January 2019, and Padma believes most of the credit should go to his coaches.

“We didn’t know anything about chess. Whatever he has learnt is from his coaches, and they get all the credit for bringing out the best in him,” concluded Padma.

Source: PTI News


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