Taking on Leon in Playchess

by Frederic Friedel
1/10/2021 – He's a 14-year-old lad, mischievous and full of fun. For a full year now Leon and his father Lyndon, who hail from Goa, India, are stuck in Europe, due to severe Covid restrictions. But Leon, aged 14, used this exile wisely: to gain his grandmaster title. Today at 3:30 p.m. CET you can challenge him on Playchess. But do be gentle with him – he is rated just 2538! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

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Leon will be playing against Premium members of the ChessBase Account. The time control will be 3 min + 2 sec increment. The games will be commentated by IM Sagar Shah, who will be analyzing them with Leon after they are over! This is a perfect way to match your wits against a great chess talent, and at the same time learn from the commentary and post-game analysis.

If you do not have a ChessBase Account already you can get one here - Premium membership costs just €49.90 per year or €4.99 per month (Starter account 34.90/year). You can compare what each account has to offer here. You can watch the Blitz Challenge without an account.

The Blitz Challenge with Leon will take place on Sunday, January 10, 2021 at 3:30 p.m. European time (8 p.m. IST – check the time in your location here). You can challenge Leon or simply watch the games in:

The event is being staged by ChessBase India, which has 550,000 subscribers on YouTube, with 144.7 million views of individual videos last year (10.6 million hours of viewing).

GM Leon Mendonca

Leon Mendonca scored three GM-norms in a little over three months and crossed the 2500 rating barrier to become India's 67th GM. He managed to achieve this feat at the age of 14 years 9 months and 17 days.

Leon scored three GM-norms and crossed the 2500 barrier during the Covid-19 pandemic | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Sunway Chess Open

A typical tournament photo: guess who is the opponent everyone fears!

Leon's story of becoming a GM is an inspiring one. In March 2020 he and his father were stranded in Europe, when their flight back home was the first to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the nine months from after that Leon played in 16 tournaments, gained nearly 100 rating points and earned a full GM title.

The first norm came at the Rigo Chess GM Round Robin (16-24 Oct), the second at the 1st Saturday Budapest (07-17 Nov) and the final norm at the Vergani Cup Italy (26 -30 Dec). The picture is of Leon receiving his final GM norm at the Vergani Cup in Italy.


Playing in mask is never easy, but Leon has mastered the art over the last nine months!

From being on the edge financially, to fighting at European borders to enrol in tournaments, to missing his mother and sister back at home, Leon has seen it all in these last nine months. This experience has definitely made him into a stronger individual. There were many times when the 14-year-old felt homesick and missed his mother. However, the love for chess and his father's constant motivation proved enough to keep him going and achieve this milestone.

Speaking to ChessBase India, Leon said, "A lot of people have been responsible for me reaching here. I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart: 1. The Almighty for his countless blessings! 2. My parents and sister. 3. Vladimir Kramnik, Boris Gelfand, Judit Polgar and Vishy Anand.

The happy family in pre-Covid times: Anita, Leon, Beverly and Lyndon | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Leon attended two training camps with ex-World Champion Vladimir Kramnik and ex-WCh Challenger Boris Gelfand, in Switzerland and in Chennai

When Leon was stranded in Budapest, Judit Polgar lifted the spirits of the youngster by meeting with him and showing him around the city! 


At her house in Budapest: Judit and Leon. Full report here and here

Leon is not just a great chess player, but also a wonderful musician!

The talented chess musician IM Leon Mendonca | Video: Sagar Shah

Sister Beverley, 17, is also musically talented: she plays the piano, writes songs and sings them herself. You will do well not to miss this! 

One of Leon's finest efforts: beating IM Viktor Gazik at the World Juniors 2019

Leon at 12, | Video: Sagar Shah

Finally two games Leon annotated for us:


Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.


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