Even a decade ago, if you were discussing the history of the royal game and its most brilliant players in a room full of chess aficionados, they would talk about the mightly Russians (erstwhile Soviets), like Mikhail Tal and Botvinnik the brilliant Americans like Bobby Fischer, the tenacious Polish players like Bartosz Socko, the strategic Chinese masterminds like Xie Jun and the illustrious Hungarians like the great Judith Polgar. These countries have boasted a plethora of chess geniuses over the years. All that while, we Indians had only one name on our lips to put forward against all global chess icons, whether from this generation or from the glorious past. That deserved name was none other than the five-time World Champion, Viswanathan Anand, the pride of our nation.
However, in recent years the global landscape of chess has evolved and its forefront is India. We are lucky to be the generation witnessing the most glorious days of Indian chess. I’ll share a simple statistic to elucidate my point. In the ongoing Chess World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, for the first time ever, there were four Indians who qualified for the quarter-finals — D Gukesh, R Praggnanandhaa, Arjun Erigaisi, and Vidit Gujarathi. Anand hailed it as a “historic moment for Indian chess.” We no longer have to listen to Americans or Russians going on about their never-ending list of chess geniuses. Now, we have our own homegrown chess prodigies who are shining on the world stage.
Now here's a statistic that deserves even more appreciation. 18-year-old Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa became the second-ever Indian after Anand to secure a spot in the FIDE World Cup semi-finals, after an intensely-fought sudden-death tie-breaker with his fellow countryman, Arjun Erigaisi. Following his victory, a beautiful sight emerged and a photograph capturing that moment has gone viral on the internet, and justifiably so. The photograph depicts Praggnanandhaa's mother, Nagalakshmi, standing beside her victorious son with a simple smile of contentment and pride glowing across her face. The photo has quickly become a symbolic emblem of the powerful bond that a mother and her child share. Such a bond is so powerful and universal because a son’s achievement is as much his as it is also his mother’s. Along with this picture, another complementary snapshot depicts Nagalakshmi, with tears of pride and joy glistening in her eyes, as she basked in a solitary moment of overwhelming emotions following her son’s historic victory.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and rightly so. Through just a couple of photographs, a story of unconditional motherly love, dedication, struggle, and finally triumph emerges. Even if someone has no interest in the game of chess, they can relate thoroughly to these pictures as it conveys such an all-embracing theme. After his glorious win, R Praggnanandhaa is gearing up to face the prolific Italian-American chess grandmaster, Fabiano Luigi Caruana, in the semi-finals. With his mother's blessings and the support of an entire nation by his side, it should come as no surprise if Praggnanandhaa outwits Caruana in the semi-finals and goes on to play the world’s best, Magnus Carlsen, in the finals.
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