Son of an Indian-origin software professional parents, Indian-origin chess player Abhimanyu Mishra was born and has been brought up in New Jersey in the United States. While other children at the tender age of two and a half years learn to play with toys, Abhimanyu Mishra was being introduced to chess by his father. He turned out to be a quick learner and by the age of five, he played his first tournament and subsequently began to compete in local tournaments. Over the years, his mastery in the game and in November 2019, when he was barely 10, he became the world’s youngest International Master, breaking the record held since 2016 by Rameshbabu Praggnanandha, who lives in Chennai and has gone on to become a Grand Master.
Not content with this, Mishra has continued to shatter the records in the chess world and on June 30, 2021, he became the world’s youngest Grand Master. But success has not been easy for Mishra, who trains for eight to ten hours every day. He says that this rigorous training helped him become the world’s youngest Grand Master by defeating 15-year-old, Leon Mendonca, an Indian Grand Master in the ninth round of Vezerkepzo GM Mix tournament in Hungary in June. Mishra broke a record that had held for 19 long years by Ukraine’s Sergey Karjakin.
“I felt very happy and felt on top of the world, the game lasted for around five hours and I managed to win from a drawn position. My opponent was quite tough, however, I gave my best to earn the GM title,” Mishra says.
Mishra attributes his success to the fact that he began playing chess from a very early age. “I was introduced to the game very early in life and I started playing and understanding the game. I realised it sharpens all the skills required in life, analytical, emotional, decision making. Also, the feeling you get when you put in the number of hours in the game and beat your opponent is unparalleled,” he says.
According to the International Chess Federation, there are 69 Chess Grand Masters in India. In 1988, Viswanathan Anand became the first Indian to become a Grand Master and in August 2021, Harshit Raja became the 69th Indian to hold the title.
Mishra says that his role model and inspiration in the world of chess is the Norwegian World Champion Magnus Carlsen. “The way he has been dominating the world of chess is so motivating and there is so much to learn from him,” he says.
Mishra says that though over the recent years many children have been lured to video games, he does not believe that the traditional games would be severely impacted. “No one can take away the charm from the traditional games like chess, cricket, baseball or soccer. The passion with which these games are played cannot be compared to the video games,” he says.
Besides intensive training lasting several hours every day, Mishra says he had drop out of school, where he is currently in grade 7, for a year in order to prepare for the Grand Master title. He says that the hours hat he puts in his daily training match his age, rising each year.
For the Grand Master title, he received coaching by GM Arun Prasad Subramanian as well as GM Magesh Chandran Panchanathan and GM Harikrishna Pentala. While he is thankful to his coaches and trainers, Mishra says above all he owes his success to his family.
“I used to practice for almost 10 hours in a day and my biggest cheerleader and backbone was my family. They have always supported me, whether I succeeded or failed,” Mishra says.
The pandemic and lockdowns that have disturbed the lives of practically all adults and children around the world, proved to be a boon for Mishra as he used the period to further intensify his training. In fact, despite the travel restrictions in place, Mishra and his father moved to Hungarian capital Budapest for three months to allow him to compete in the chess circuit and to earn the Grand Master title.
“There is no sacrifice that is too big when you support your kids to achieve their goals. So, other than being socially inactive, it was only the financial aspect that we needed to take care of, as chess is a costly game and we had spent a lot of our savings during the entire course of his training,” Hemant Mishra, the father of the world’s youngest GM tells Media India Group.
He says that he and his wife are extremely proud of the achievements of their son. “Words can’t describe our happiness, we were elated and couldn’t be any more proud. He managed to break a record that that had been standing for 19 years. And all this was achieved during the pandemic,” adds the senior Mishra.
Abhimanyu is currently enrolled in an online school and is trying to balance the classes and chess, which indicates that the 12-year old’s journey has just begun, and being the youngest Grand Master is just another milestone in his ambitious path ahead. “My next goal is to reach 2700 FIDA rating and then to become World Champion one day,” says the world record holder.