Coach credits second for Gukesh’s bravery with black

Left: Vishnu Prasanna, Source: Facebook. Right: D Gukesh, Source: Photo Chess/Maria Emelianova

Ability to soak pressure, solid performances with black pieces and finding opening novelties to catch the opponent off guard — these are broadly the standout features of D Gukesh’s victorious campaign at the Candidates chess competition, in the eyes of his coach, GM Vishnu Prasanna V.

Like everyone else, Vishnu heaved a sigh of relief and joy when Fabiano Caruana abandoned his marathon and eventually futile quest for victory against Ian Nepomniachtchi. “The significance of this is hard to measure. It’s a massive boost for Indian chess,” Vishnu told RevSportz on Monday.

“We had discussed and come to a conclusion that in this competition, second place has no meaning. We wanted to win this. Whether that was theoretically or practically possible or not was a different matter. Our sole goal was to win it. Having said that, it was a bit surprising to see him improve his game in each round,” said the coach, who has been working with Gukesh from 2017.

Not conceding ground with black was a major feature of this journey. In the open section, Gukesh won most number of games — three — with those pieces. He scored 4.5 points with white and 4.5 with black. Even in the 14th and final round, he dominated World No. 3 Hikaru Nakamura with black pieces before settling for a draw.
“We have to credit his second, Grzegorz Gajewski for that. Gukesh’s game with black has become stronger after he started working with him. Those surprise moves are also Gajewski’s speciality. He keeps coming up with such unique ideas. In the last game, Gukesh played bishop e7, which is an unusual move,” noted Vishnu. Gajewski is a Polish GM, who worked with Viswanathan Anand.

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It has been said a number of times, and it’s still worth mentioning that composure and powers of calculation under duress was a highlight of Gukesh’s triumph in Toronto. Except for a few seconds against Alireza Firouzja under time pressure in the seventh round, the youngster didn’t wilt. Seasoned GMs on live commentary were astonished to see it game after game.

“It does come down to how you handle nerves. Absorbing pressure played a big part at the Candidates. Gukesh’s pressure management was better than the experienced players in this tournament. It’s something we work on. We talk about different scenarios and how to react in those. He does a lot visualisation of situations and solves the problems,” said Vishnu.

The 38-year-old also feels focus and hunger for success are the other factors that set Gukesh apart. “At the top level, everybody works hard. Gukesh has tremendous drive to achieve. He wants to be the best in the world. His focus is the differentiating factor. I’d say that his drive is more than others. On the board, we see a reflection of that.”
Maturity defying age, qualities not usually associated with teenagers, talent, hard work, right guidance and assistance and appetite for success — in a nutshell, that sums up the latest sensation of global chess who is threatening to change world order.

Also Read: Gukesh makes history in Candidates chess