World no.18 D Gukesh battles 21 players

by Himank Ghosh
3/28/2023 – 16-year-old Dommaraju Gukesh is one of the brightest talents of India and World Chess. He is now World no.18 with a FIDE Rating of 2730. The current India no.2 graced the ChessBase India Chess Club with his presence on Saturday, 18th March 2023. There was a big challenge in front of him – he was to give a simultaneous exhibition to 21 players, with the top five seeds having an Elo rating of over 2000. The spectacular even simul was held at the Phoenix Marketcity Mall in Mumbai. | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

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The 44th Olympiad Gold medallist records his first FritzTrainer at ChessBase India studio

Gukesh in Mumbai on the 16th of March. One of the main reasons was to work with Sagar Shah on a brand new Fritztrainer in the new ChessBase India studio, and to create exclusive material for ChessRanga.

The Gukesh ambush at Mumbai Airport| Video: ChessBase India

The plan also included a doing a simul at the ChessBase India Chess Club at the Phoenix Marketcity, and record a free-wheeling podcast to know more about the personal life of the young chess super-star! How much of this could be achieved in three days that Gukesh was going to spend in Mumbai had to be seen!

Most times in these three days, when Gukesh was asked if he was hungry, the boy would reply not really! Gukesh is by no means a foodie!

Gukesh's work ethic is tremendous! The young boy stayed up as late as 2 a.m. on the first night, working on material for his recordings. Sagar simply dozes off.

When Sagar woke up around 2 a.m. that night, they began analyzing one of Gukesh's games. They reached a position (in the picture) where Black has sacrificed a piece for initiative. Even at this late hour, Gukesh wanted to think on his own as to how Black should fight for something here. He could just press the button and the engine would give the answer. But the youngster never really does that. He lets his mind do the thinking and only when he wants to check his analysis does he switch on the engine.
Gukesh's faith on himself stems from his practice at a young age where he played chess without the use of an engine until he became a GM.

Before the recordings: Gukesh likes to begin his day with meditation and breathing exercises!

Gukesh is the first guest to record at the newly launched ChessBase India studio!

Hard at work in the brand new ChessBase India Studio | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

Gukesh has reached such a high level of play at a very young age. How did he manage to do that? Well one of the secrets is his excellent attacking instincts. That is exactly what we decided to delve into as we set about making the first ever ChessBase Fritztrainer with Gukesh. We analyzed several of his attacking games in great depth, asking relevant questions at the right moment. The idea is to hone your attacking instincts as you go through the games of Gukesh. The Fritztrainer will be out very soon.

Is this photo good enough for the cover of a Fritztrainer? | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

One of the things planned with Gukesh was a simultaneous exhibition with some of the strongest players of the city of Mumbai at the ChessBase India Chess Club located inside the Phoenix Marketcity mall. A total of 21 players would face Gukesh.

This was the lineup Gukesh was up against:
1. CM Kshatriya Vekhande 2224
2. CM Vedant Vekhande 2178
3. WIM Parnali S Dharia 2142
4. CM Gaurang Bagwe 2125
5. Ketan Boricha 2092
6. Jeet Shah 1959
7. Anirudhha Potawad 1913
8. Aryan Josh 1874
9. Jaiveer Mahendru 1686
10. Ketan Patil 1637
11. Ram Vishal Parab 1591
12. Mihir Shah 1568
13. Nitin Badoni 1498
14. Ajay Panigrahi 1481
15. WCM Kriti Patel 1434
16. Aarav Iyer 1406
17. Samarth Gandhi 1313
18. Nithin Chandan 1291
19. Neemay Bhanushali 1194
20. Arjun Prabhu 1141
21. Narayani Marathe
Most of the opponents above were young and ambitious players. So, they were generally underrated. Each of the opponents had 45 minutes on their clock. Making the challenge even more difficult, there was only 1 hour for Gukesh to play against all of them! We asked Gukesh as to what he felt about this line-up. The boy with his attitude that is filled with humility as well as confidence said, "It will be a good challenge!"  Apart from the players, a huge crowd had gathered to watch the games.

Gukesh's Growing Fanbase in Mumbai! | Video: ChessBase India

Before the simul, we visited an orphanage to teach some chess! | Photo: Venkat Krishna

In the ten minutes or so that Gukesh had between his visit to the orphanage and the start of the simul, the youngster was keeping himself sharp by solving some quick tactics!

Get, set and go - The simul was held within the premises of one the busiest malls in the city and a lot of people gathered around to see the young star in action | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

Pondering over his next move | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

IM Sagar Shah was providing live commentary of the event | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

ChessBase India's Head of Sales Supriya Bhat was the event director of the simul - all the intricate details were taken care of by her! | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

A birds-eye view of the simultaneous exhibition | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

After a long, grueling battle, Gukesh ended the simul with a final score of 12.5-8.5 in his favor. A total of seven players managed to defeat Gukesh, three drew against him and Gukesh won the remaining eleven games. The time of one hour for Gukesh proved to be too little. At some point the super GM started to spend a lot of time on the top boards, where he had complex positions. On the lower boards where he had great positions, he started to run out of time. We requested some of the players to increase the time on the clock as physically it became impossible for Gukesh to make his moves on all the boards. Considering the difficulty level of the simul a score of 12.5-8.5 was excellent.

Seven-year-old Narayani Marathe, the youngest participant of the simul

One of the heartwarming stories from the simul was that of seven-year-old Narayani Marathe, who lives in Nandurbar. When she and father saw on the ChessBase India video that D Gukesh has come to Mumbai, they booked their ticket for a 500 km travel. The little girl arrived on the day of the simul at the venue and waited quietly on the sidelines seeing Gukesh in action. There was one player who didn't turn up for the simul and Narayani got a chance to play against her hero. She fought really hard and was the last one to finish her game. Later we got to know that Narayani has pictures of four great players in her study room – Vishy Anand, Bobby Fischer, Magnus Carlsen and D Gukesh! What a wonderful story of Narayani meeting Gukesh.


Narayani at her place in Nandurbar

How wonderful it is to meet the person on your poster, in real life

Watch the final moments of the simultaneous exhibition as Gukesh checkmates seven-year-old Narayani Marathe:

Final Moments: Gukesh vs Narayani | Video: ChessBase India

After the simul had ended, it was now time for the meet and greet ceremony with the fans. Even after such an exhausting battle, Gukesh was more than happy to give autographs and interact with all the fans.

The popularity of chess as a sport is growing each day in the country and Gukesh is one of the flagbearers of it

A lot of young fans were really excited to meet with the World no. 18! | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

Another very special surprise was waiting for Gukesh! He was gifted this beautiful artwork of how he has progressed as a chess player in such a short time span. On this occasion, Gukesh also inaugurated the ChessBase India Chess Club membership program! The youngster becomes the first member of the first ever ChessBase India Chess Club.

It's very hard to believe that Gukesh became a grandmaster at the age of twelve, in 2019, and now has a FIDE Rating of 2730 | Design: Abhyudaya Ram

Special Gift to Gukesh & New Announcement Reveal! | Video: ChessBase India

Post-simul interview with Gukesh

After all the events had ended, it was time for a short interview with Gukesh about the simul! Sagar Shah took Gukesh to the Phoenix Marketcity Mall office and asked him a few questions.

Gukesh on toughest simul he has ever given | Video: ChessBase India

Sagar Shah (SS): Gukesh, today you played a simul at the ChessBase India Chess Club. Actually when we decided to hold this simul, we decided to make it the toughest simul. It would be a challenge for you with 21 players, it was also your idea. In the end, the scoreline was 12.5-8.5 in your favor. Are you happy with it, are you not so happy - how is the feeling?

D Gukesh (DG): Yeah, overall I don't think I can be happy with the 12.5-8.5 score. I think it was quite a tough simul. I mean, I did think it was possible to get a good score with one hour versus 45 minutes, but I completely miscalculated it. After a point, there were lots of games where time scrambles happened. Of course, I couldn't play well at those moments. In a lot of games I flagged, or something happened in the time scramble.

The time difference turned out to be a huge factor in the simul | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

The main challenge for me was that the strong players were putting a lot of pressure, so I had to spend a lot of time there. Against the slightly weaker players, I had lot of good positions but I just didn't have the time to convert it - in some boards, I just flagged. 1 hour was a bit less, but it was a good lesson.

SS: What time control would you choose next time for such a simul, if the rating average was similar?

DG: I think 90 minutes for me and 40-45 minutes for the opponents would be good. That would be also quite challenging, but I think it would be possible to get a high score there. This was my first time playing a clock simul alone, and I think there were five players with a rating of more than 2000.

SS: And they were all underrated. For example, Gaurang Bagwe is rated 1900 (Rapid), but his strength is somewhere around 2200.

Commonwealth 2022 U-14 Gold and U-20 Bronze medalist - CM Gaurang Bagwe | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

DG: He actually made a move which I completely missed. ...b5 was a brilliant move!


In Gaurang's own words:

"This move made me really happy because it takes immediate actions to punish 17.exf4"

SS: He played a brilliant game! If you had to choose one game that you thought was your favorite today, would it be this one with Gaurang?

DG: With Gaurang, I was better out of the opening. But after I played some careless moves, he completely took over. I mean , 17...b5 was probably the highlight of the simul!

SS: Also, I think WIM Parnali's game was very nice!

WIM Parnali S Dharia (2142) is a former Asian U-18 Gold and U-20 Rapid Silver medalist | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

DG: Yes, 27...Nd4 was a very very nice move by Parnali. I lost both of these games, but I think they were very good.


27...Nd4! is a beautiful tactical shot.

SS: It shows so much about you as a player, that in spite of losing these games, you like those moves. You like chess so much!

DG: I actually really liked the way I played against the first board, CM Kshatriya Vekhande.

CM Kshatriya Vekhande (2224) was the highest rated player in the simul | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

I found some really nice ideas like 18.g6 and put him under a lot of pressure. 20. Bg4 Nf8 21. e4! was also a very nice find. I'm pretty sure at some point I was winning, but as I said, in time scramble, I just didn't have time to convert it.


 SS: Now that you are such a world class player, you're World no.18, everyone wants to play with you. In such a simul, when you lose seven games and draw three, does that impact you in any way? Do you think "Now everyone will say I beat Gukesh", or do you think " That's okay, I learnt something". How do you feel about these things?

DG: Well, game-wise I don't think I played bad at all. I played some good games, I had lots of good positions, but I think I could've been a bit more careful with the time. Taking one hour on the clock was my decision, I thought it should be fine. From next time, I should be more careful. Especially since there were so many strong players, I should've taken more time.

SS: When you come back to Mumbai, we can keep the same rating average of 21 opponents and keep more time! It would be like the return of Gukesh. Thank you Gukesh!

DG: Yes, that would be fun! Thank you.

A nice candid shot of Sagar and Gukesh! | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram


Just to give you a glimpse of how sharp Gukesh's opponents were - in this position Black played Rxf2. But what is Black's point after Bxe4? Isn't he simply losing material? Well, not really. Anirudhha unleashed ...Qh4!! A powerful move after which Black emerges with two extra pawns!

Check out all the pictures from the simul here.

The Gukesh Simul vlog | When Gukesh took on 21 Opponents Together | Video: ChessBase India

Abhyudaya Ram handing over the nice creative gift that he made to Gukesh. The pictures in the simul were taken by Abhyudaya.

We did so much in three days. A big thanks to D Gukesh for visiting Mumbai and spending his valuable time with us! Stay tuned for the ChessBase Fritztrainer, videos on ChessRanga and a special 80-minute podcast that will come up on the ChessBase India YouTube channel in the next few days!

Replay few games from the Simul



Himank Ghosh is an Engineering undergrad from the small city of Berhampore, West Bengal in India. Himank handles the social media pages of ChessBase India, also writing articles on various chess incidents and transcribing player interviews from time to time. He enjoys covering various chess tournaments and taking in-person/online interviews of chess players. Apart from chess, his prime interests lie in Bengali literature and 90s video games.