12-year-old from New Jersey becomes world’s youngest chess grandmaster


Abhimanyu Mishra is now the youngest chess grandmaster in the world. The New Jersey tween, all 12 years, 4 months and 25 days old, broke Sergey Karjakin’s 19-year record with a third standard in Budapest on Wednesday. Karjakin, who was a challenger at the Magnus Carlsen World Championships in 2016, obtained his GM title at 12 years and 7 months.

In pursuit of the GM title, Abhimanyu and his father have been camping in Budapest since April of this year. He achieved two standards in two months, and his final standard came with a victory over Indian general manager Leon Mendonca with black pieces to the GM Vezerkepzo mix on Wednesday in his final tournament opportunity in the Hungarian capital before traveling to Sochi for Fide. World Cup.

For a Grandmaster title, a player must score three GM standards and earn an Elo rating of 2,500 and above. Standards can only be awarded in tournaments where at least 50% of the opponents are defending champions, and at least a third of them are GMs.

Abhimanyu got used to the younger accolades and currently holds the record for youngest international master.

Shortly after becoming the world’s highest-rated Under-9 player, he was invited by the Kasparov Chess Foundation for a rigorous three-day evaluation in November 2018. He was the youngest in the herd of players who have been called, and from the handful selected for the Young Stars program. This opened up the opportunity to interact, showcase his games, and solicit feedback from Kasparov twice a year, outside of one-on-one training sessions with GM coaches.

“At his age, having Garry as a mentor and reviewing his games is straightforward a dream for any chess player,” said Hemant Mishra, Abhimanyu’s father. “There was also an interview with the parents, and it was perhaps the happiest day of my life.” He was granted special permission to be in the room when Kasparov analyzed Abhimanyu’s matches, taking numerous notes of every remark from the former world champion. Since last year, the pandemic has forced a delay in online sessions.

Even before he had babbled his first words, Abhimanyu was introduced to chess pieces through gripping stories by his father at the age of two and a half. Learning the sport was good, but as a young boy in tournaments the struggle was to match the physical endurance of players at least five times his age. In a winning position, with a pawn at the New Jersey Open, the 5.5-year-old Abhimanyu has already found himself struggling to stay awake on the board after midnight. “His opponent obviously thought there was no way a kid this young could go on until so late, so he just stalled and didn’t play a shot for a whole hour,” said Hemant looking back. “Abhimanyu somehow wanted the torment to end, so he offered a draw. His opponent refused and said, ‘No way, I win this!’

This defeat, says Hemant, “changed everything”. This was to be the starting point for the father-son team that would launch hacks, simulations, and just about anything to survive in a universe of ruthless adult gamers. The workaround for managing sleep during games that dragged on late into the night was for the young boy to develop the habit of napping between laps in his car or spare bedroom at the tournament site.

In the next year’s edition of the competition, Abhimanyu, playing against a 35-year-old chess coach, took bathroom breaks to splash his eyes with cold water and did the hundred not between movements to combat fatigue. They were locked into a death-fired pawn-turn finale, and this time, too, the game dragged well past 2 a.m.

Fortunately, his opponent crossed the line and lost. “I didn’t win because I’m the best player, I won because you don’t know the finals well enough!” Abhimanyu would retort insolently after the hard-fought victory. Despite being a player from a generation fed on computers, a heavy diet of chess books was his first learning tool. He had done an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of “Silman’s Complete Endgame Course” at the age of 6.

In his quest for an instant messaging standard two years ago, Abhimanyu underwent a 10-day mock exercise at home to bring his body and sleep schedule back to California time, three hours behind the New Jersey. With his father, he went over the preparations until 3 a.m. every night, walked past their house to stay awake, and then flew to California on the day the tournament started. “I was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to do well,” said Hemant. “The time difference, besides having to play black against a 2650 GM, seemed too difficult. After nearly six hours of play, Abhimanyu managed to force a draw. For me it was like a win because he had successfully overcome the challenges of his age. “

Named after the young hero of Hindu mythology in strategic warfare who went to fight against certain death, Abhimanyu matches his age with the number of hours he spends daily chess. He has the support of coaches in GM Arun Prasad and GM Magesh Chandran, and the private months of competitions last year were spent doubling the setting in intense training.

“So far I’ve taken calls, but once he becomes CEO he’s free to choose what he wants to do with his life,” Hemant said. “Whether it’s the tournaments he participates in or whether he wants to continue playing chess. That will be his decision.” The 12-year-old himself, of course, dreams of one day being world chess champion.

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