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'It hasn't yet dawned on me that I'm a grandmaster'

9/7/2006 – At 13 Parimarjan Negi is currently the youngest grandmaster in the world, and the second youngest in history. He is also becoming India's second chess superstar. On his recent return from Europe he was given a hero's welcome at a tumultuous press conference.
 

At 13, Parimarjan Negi is currently the youngest Grandmaster in chess, and the second youngest in the history of the game. He did it at the age of 13 years and 142 days, which is only surpassed by Sergey Karjakin, who was 12 years and seven months when he became the youngest GM in history. In comparison Vishy Anand, the patriarch of Indian chess, reached this milestone at the age of 18 (in 1987), which was considered very young at the time.

The favourite toys of today's young brigade are their laptops, since they prepare with the help of databases that have over three million games. It is this preparation that has significantly narrowed the gap between the young and the not-so-young masters of the game. Parimarjan is a product of this tech-savvy generation.


On August 17, on his arrival from Europe, a huge press meeting in Delhi


With his parents and other dignitaries before the press conference


Talking to the media – there were 13 Indian television stations present...


...and around 50 journalists from newspapers, magazines and agencies


One of Negi's sponsors: Sanjay Singh, VP of the Tata Group

What sets the soft-spoken Parimarjan apart from the pack of other Indians, who have won age-group medals at the World, Asian and Commonwealth levels, is that he has been guided better. The turning point in his career came when his first teacher, G. B. Joshi, realised it was time to use the services of better coaches. And Parimarjan's father, J. B. Singh, managed to bring Grandmaster Evgeny Vladimirov into the picture.


Negi's trainers Vishal Sareen and G.B. Joshi


Working with Vladimirov and notebooks

This seasoned Kazakh trainer, once part of Gary Kasparov's team of seconds, had earlier worked with GM Pentala Harikrishna, and was also the coach of the Indian Olympiad team in 2002. Known for his superior endgame techniques, Vladimirov was the one who taught young Parimarjan how to get started if he wanted to make it big.


With his school principal and some of his teachers

It is the intensity with which Parimarjan works on his chess that has encouraged coaches to happily work harder with him. Russian trainer Ruslan Sherbakov puts it aptly, "Parimarjan has got everything required to become a top world player – a huge talent, outstanding working ability and a great passion for chess. How many times his parents called us to finish classes and join for dinner but Parimarjan's reply was always, 'one more position please'." If Sherbakov works on the opening repertoire of Parimarjan, Ukrainian trainer Aleksander Goloshchapov has started guiding the youngster on sharpening his positional understanding.


At the press conference in Delhi Parimarjan made a speech, which was kindly placed at our disposal by his parents (who also sent us the above pictures).

Parimarjan's Speech

Respected Dignitaries on the dais, ladies and gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to thank the Delhi Chess Association for their support and setting up this function, which I see as an opportunity to share with you all in a nutshell, my journey to the grandmaster title.

I have had an eventful voyage in my chess career since I started in 1998. From playing in my first tournament to addressing you all as a Grandmaster, I have had a fair share of success and failure. When I started playing chess, I had no idea of the masses of knowledge required to excel in the game. And now it just seems to get bigger and bigger. Though it has not yet dawned on me that I am a Grandmaster, I realise that I only stand on the first step of the long-winding, spiral staircase of my international career. I fully understand that many important challenges lie ahead and that this is only the first step towards greater goals.

Here I would like to make a specific mention of the year so far. Since the New Year Day, it has been a journey towards certain goals that I honestly did not perceive before. The International Master title and the first GM norm came in the space of a week, and in the very next tournament here in Delhi came the second Grandmaster norm. Honestly, I did not expect the second norm to follow so soon. But once I had two norms – I wanted to chase the third and the final one in a hurry. Thank god. I didn’t have to wait too long.

On this day I feel truly humbled by the love, affection and blessings of my family, well wishers and also those from the media, and those who wished me well without even knowing me.

My parents have played the most crucial role in developing and shaping my chess. When no sponsorship support was available, my parents made several sacrifices to keep me going. I can’t thank them enough.

Equally, I owe a lot to the constant support and encouragement of my coaches and sponsors.

I would like to start by thanking SEBI chairman Mr. M. Damodran. He is not only instrumental in helping my parents find sponsorship support for my chess, but also remains an encouraging guide to me.

My school Amity International, that has not only helped me in academics but also in my career. I sincerely thank the Founder President of Amity International Dr. Ashok Kumar Chauhan, the Chairperson Mrs. Amita Chauhan, and my school’s principal Mrs. Bharti Sharma, and all my teachers, and friends for helping me in my studies.

My idol, Vishwanathan Anand’s words of encouragement have always been very inspiring for me to strive hard. He is just the perfect idol for all of us aspiring youngsters.

Today the TATA group funds my expenditure. I am grateful to Air India for inducting me in their scholarship scheme. I would also like to thank Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and Sports Authority of India for granting me scholarship for part of my training in the past couple of years. I thank Mr. Pradeep Jain, chairman Parsvnath group and Vice President of the All India Chess Federation for his contribution.

I would like to thank Mr. GB Joshi, for helping me develop my chess skills in my formative years, And my other coaches since then – Evgeny Vladimirov, Ruslan Sherbakov, Alexander Goloshchapov and Vishal Sareen. Recently I have also worked for short spans with Elizbar Ubilava, and Nigel Short. I also owe a lot to V.S. Negi, Updesh Sharma and D.S. Negi who have been a great help. And I am very grateful to Mr. Vaibhav Agashe – sports psychologist, who has helped me a lot in the psychological aspect of the game.

In the end I would like to mention Mr. Bharat Singh Chauhan who has been a consistent support for me for many years now and also Mr. Rakesh Rao who has guided me all through with his words of wisdom.

I thank you all ladies and gentleman. Hoping to meet your expectations the next time around.

Thanks a lot.


Anand on Parimarajan

"I have met Parimarjan, quite a few times. In Corus 2005, I got to see him play. In spite of the tough competition he held his own. He seems a really cool kid, unfazed by results. For a child it is quite impressive. I think we spoke when he got his IM title, soon after Hastings, and he just seemed so calm. Clearly he has a lot of talent and is working hard. It is also very heartening to see that he has a good structure around him. His school, family have been able to support him. It is nice to see that he can enjoy being a kid and also be a prodigious talent. I think a grandmaster title is a milestone. When you cross it, you have this problem of what to aim for. He should enjoy the title. You can only earn it for the first time, once in your life. Goals will always be there and records too. Carpe Diem ["seize the pleasures of the moment"] and enjoy the events.

Clearly he seems to be working with a lot of Soviet coaches. He has also played a few international events and, that has given him exposure and confidence. At this age it is difficult to quantify improvement. You will find a huge spurt in ratings and then a few years without much of a performance. Just playing a lot of events, facing new players, different styles will be an excellent preparation. Whatever theoretical preparation he does, will be able to give him confidence to play and also mould his intrinsic skills as a chess player. Just play different events, formats and don't start getting obsessed about ratings or GM title. This is the fun time, as you grow your knowledge and worries double."


Short on Negi

For a year Nigel Short has been training Stephen Moss, senior correspondent of The Guardian newspaper in Britain. After 48 weekly lessons Stephen admits that after a year's immersion his play was woefully inconsistent. He got better at dispatching weak players, but rarely gave stronger players a good game. In his latest column Nigel contrasts the effort with his training of an Indian chess prodigy:

I have worked with some extraordinarily gifted young players over the past three years and am currently coaching Parimarjan Negi, the 13-year-old grandmaster from India. One of the most striking differences between teaching a young prodigy and a mature rookie is the level of recall. During the course of a day's work with Parimarjan, we examine many hundreds, if not thousands, of positions. Most, if not all of that information, is committed easily to memory and in the correct sequence. With Stephen, I can show him a simple line no more than a few moves deep which is forgotten half an hour later. It is difficult to do much about this.

Read also Short's remarks on Negi in July 2006

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