For the last few years, the focus in the chess circuit has been on who will break Sergey Karjakin’s record as the youngest-ever Grandmaster (GM) in chess history. Two Indians — Dommaraju Gukesh and Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa — came close to obliterating the record of 12 years and seven months set 19 years ago, but missed it by a close margin.
Gukesh missed the mark by 17 days while Praggnanandhaa overran it by 100-odd days, getting his title in 12 years, 10 months and 13 days. But on Wednesday, Abhimanyu Mishra, an Indian-American chess prodigy, broke Karjakin’s record to become the youngest GM. He achieved his third and final GM norm at the age of 12 year, four months and 28 days.
Mishra earned his third and final norm at the Vezerkepzo GM Mix tournament in Budapest, Hungary, defeating India’s GM Leon Luke Mendonca to take the final step on his long and arduous journey to become a GM — a journey interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abhimanyu’s parents, Swati and Hemant Mishra, trace their roots to Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, and are in the United States for the last 14 years. Both are software engineers and they are settled at Englishtown, New Jersey.
It was Hemant who introduced Abhimanyu to chess when he was just two-years-old. Hemant wanted to prevent his son getting addicted to video and electronic games and thus pushed him towards chess. Abhimanyu took to the sport like fish to water and his progress really stunned Hemant.
The results too started coming soon as Abhimanyu dominated the age group events in the US and then set himself on course to improving Karjakin’s record. The first step was becoming an International Master and Abhimanyu achieved that two years ago when he set aside Praggnanandhaa’s record to become the youngest IM in the world.
Abhimanyu could have overcome Karjakin’s record even earlier but the COVID-19 pandemic played spoilsport as the chess circuit was suspended in March 2020 and the game moved online. But one can’t become a GM by playing online chess and, therefore, in April 2021, Hemant and Abhimanyu left the United States for Hungary as offline events had started there.
Abhimanyu set up his chase in Budapest by participating in the weekly First Saturday Chess Tournaments that are basically held to help players complete norm requirements.
Though for 14 months COVID-19 pandemic prevented him from rewriting history, it could not stop Abhimanyu from reaching his goal of becoming the youngest-ever chess GM.
Abhimanyu will now wait for his title to be ratified by FIDE, the sport’s world governing body, which looks like a formality as the 12-year-old has achieved the norms and also fulfilled the rating requirement.