“Big-Game Players”: Gukesh D Picks MS Dhoni And Tennis Great As ‘Inspirations’


India’s latest chess sensation D Gukesh admires the way charismatic former India skipper MS Dhoni and iconic tennis player Novak Djokovic soak intense pressure, saying he gets inspired by that special trait of the two special athletes. Gukesh, 17, scripted history by winning the Candidates Chess Tournament in Toronto recently to become the youngest ever challenger to the world title, bettering a record created by the legendary Garry Kasparov 40 years ago. The triumph entitles Gukesh a clash against reigning world champion Ding Liren of China in the last quarter of the year.

The Chennai-based teen bettered Kasparov’s record by quite a distance as the Russian great was 22 when he qualified in 1984 to clash with compatriot Anatoly Karpov.

Gukesh, on his return after winning the Candidates, told PTI, “I think the way Dhoni and tennis great Novak Djokovic handle themselves under immense pressure, they are big-game players and always come out on top and bring out their best whenever needed. That is why I am attracted to them.” While Dhoni, the former India and Chennai Super Kings skipper, led India to twin World Cup successes and five IPL titles, Serbia’s Djokovic has won a record 24 Grand Slam titles, and has enough in the tank to win a few more.

Norwegian chess great Magnus Carlsen, the five-time world champion who forfeited his qualification spot for 2024 citing the lack of motivation in playing the longer version of the game in the existing tournament structure, has been a motivation for several youngsters and Gukesh is one of them.

“There are a lot of things you can learn from him (Carlsen). Not just chess, but also the mental attitude. He has one of the best mentalities in the world in any sport, I would say.” The champion Grandmaster added that all chess players would have felt nervous during their careers but, with experience, they learn to handle it.

“We all get nervous, and with experience, we all learn how to deal with it. Yeah, I guess some maturity and practice.” Gukesh is looking forward to the challenge from reigning world champion Ding Liren and says his preparations will for the summit clash will start soon. The All India Chess Federation (AICF) is exploring the possibility of hosting the world title contest in the country.

“My training for the final will start soon, and I hope it will be very enjoyable.

The legendary Kasparov lauded Gukesh’s feat in ther Candidates, saying the teenaged GM was “the Indian earthquake in Toronto”.

The Chennai lad said it means a lot to him.

“Kasparov is one of my heroes and one of the greatest chess players of all time, and to get a huge compliment and notice from him, it really means a lot,” he said.

On cricket, Gukesh said he hadn’t been following cricket lately but he was an avid sports lover.

“Recently, I haven’t followed cricket a lot. But I enjoy all kinds of sports, especially tennis. I like to play some sports, and generally, I am just in love with sports,” he said.

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