In early July this year, Indian-American Abhimanyu Mishra stunned the chess world by breaking a record that had stood for 19 years.
Abhimanyu or Abhi, as he likes to be called, is all of 12-years-old, with an unstoppable bubbling energy for chess. He does not care for hobbies, for chess takes up all his interest and time. He can practice chess moves for 12 hours a day when he wants to, more so when he has a world record to beat.
A resident of New Jersey, USA, Abhi was progressing well on the ladder with ample support of his coach Arun Prasad Subramanian and parents Hemant and Swati Mishra, dedicating a huge chunk of his time practising moves on the chessboard. He was beating opponents on a regular basis as he steadily gathered points. It wasn’t long before he and those around him realised that the Youngest Chess Grandmaster title was an achievable target. He finished two years of schooling in one year so that he could focus completely on his game for that year. But to his horror and dismay, Abhimanyu began to run short of time as the Covid-19 pandemic wrought havoc with tournament schedules and border closures.
Abhi had 22 months to break the record, but things began to look bleak as in-person matches became a rarity. He could not participate in any tournament for 14 months. Then all of a sudden, Budapest in Hungary opened its doors to chess tournaments, so Abhi and his father booked a one-way ticket, determined to grab the opportunity to achieve this long-cherished goal.
They lived in Budapest for several months on a tight budget as Abhi’s father, a software engineer by profession, continued to work remotely, staying up till 3 in the morning to keep up with East Coast timings. Abhi displayed superhuman abilities as he raced against time, playing about 70 matches in 77 days, defeating players of all ages and nationalities, focused on collecting the magic points at all costs. Three incredibly tough months later, this earnest and tenacious little boy gathered enough points to become the world’s Youngest Chess Grandmaster at 12 years, 4 months and 25 days, breaking a 19-year-old record set by prodigiously talented Russian champion Sergey Karjakin in 2002. Abhi still had 67 days on hand when he broke the record.
“Finally, all my efforts over the last many years, everything has finally paid off, and yeah, I was very happy. I don’t think I was able to sleep that night,” said Abhi, speaking to Inside Edition. “I feel on top of the world,” he said.
For the Grandmaster Title, Abhi defeated 15-years-old Leon Mendonca, a grandmaster from India, in the ninth round of the Vezerkepzo GM Mix tournament in Hungary.
What started as a hobby introduced by his father when he was 2, chess became the centre of Abhi’s world as he learnt to move the pieces on the board. He beat his father when he was only 6, and by 7, the little champ was winning national tournaments.
“My next intermediate goal is Super Grandmaster, which is around [the] top 20, 25 in the world,” Abhi told the Inside Edition. “My final goal is to become a world champion” and to “bring the title back to America.”
He plans to achieve this goal by the time he is 15. Abhi has already shown that when he sets his sights on a goal, he gives his all for it and often gets there in the end.
Should Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen, a 30-year-old from Norway, be a little worried? Only time will tell.