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R Praggnanandhaa: Chess Deceptively Cheap Yet Expensive

Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa of Indian chess, who recently participated in the FIDE Candidates in Canada for the first time, emphasised the importance of corporate sponsors in the sport, as training can be “easy and cheap” on the surface but “very expensive” in practise. Praggnanandhaa, who earlier this year signed a long-term sponsorship deal with Adani Group, is presently competing in the Rapid and Blitz tournament in Poland. Speaking of his stay in Canada, he remarked, “It was a great experience. It’s a major competition with a lot of pressure.

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In terms of the result, I played better than I scored. I must learn from what went wrong and focus on future tournaments.”

This preceded his maiden Grand Chess Tour, in what kickstarts a packed schedule for the Grandmaster. “The Grand Chess Tour starts with the Rapid and Blitz tournament in Poland in May. Then there is the Superbet Romania classical tournament from June 24 to July 6. The Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz in August will be followed by the Sinquefield Cup, which is a classical tournament.”

The excitement and eagerness to participate at the highest levels is palpable. “This will be my first time, so I am very excited. Apart from that, I’m also playing the Norway Chess in May and the Real masters in Switzerland,” revealed the 18-year-old.

Praggnanandhaa said his journey can only be successful if there is a strong support system backing him. This is because training to be the best is not a walk in the park. To his, and his family’s relief, the Adani Group became a pillar of strength.

“The Adani Group has been amazing. Chess training may look easy and cheap but it’s a very expensive sport due to all the travel and paraphernalia. That’s why I am grateful for the support. The training camps cost a lot. Thanks to the Adani Group, we don’t have to worry too much about that, and I can focus on playing chess,” he said.

“Without the Adani Group, it could have been hard to participate in top-tier international tournaments because they can be quite expensive. My parents were facing financial issues before I got my first sponsor. It was difficult because my sister was also playing and travelling. This is why corporate sponsors like the Adani Group are essential for sports,” said Praggnanandhaa.

For a teenager to keep up with the rigours of playing chess at the highest levels is a tough task. As he readies for three months of touring and tournaments, Praggnanandhaa gave an idea about the physical and mental regimen that helps him perform. “There are a few things that go into preparing for big tournaments, starting with the technical aspect. You must be ready with opening ideas and your mind should be ready to calculate and play well,” he said.

Praggnanandhaa also touched upon how he has taken to other sports to keep his mind and body fresh. “To prepare for Candidates, I was doing physical sports. I was also doing exercise during the camps. We are allocated a certain time for physical training, apart from the actual chess training. I love playing badminton. Recently, I started playing Beach Volleyball. I really enjoyed it,” he said.

He added, “You need to be ready for long tournaments because playing 14 games is not easy. Keeping focus throughout is something we are working on. Also, 14 games are very tiring. The physical aspect comes when you’re playing one game for 5-6 hours. If you do that for the whole tournament, it’s obviously very tiring to concentrate; it takes a lot of energy.”

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