We were all hugging and smiling and it was beautiful: Gukesh reflects on his historic Candidates triumph

D Gukesh with the Candidates 2024 Trophy (Image: FIDE)

Seventeen-year-old D Gukesh has left an unforgettable mark on the world of chess with his historic victory in the FIDE Candidates tournament held in Toronto. His achievement not only makes him the youngest-ever to claim this prestigious title, but he is also the youngest World Championship challenger in history, following in the footsteps of the legendary Viswanathan Anand as only the second Indian to clinch the Candidates title.

Gukesh’s journey to this remarkable win has been nothing short of impressive. In August 2023, he reached a noteworthy milestone by attaining a rating of 2750, solidifying his status as one of the game’s brightest talents. His notable performance at the Chess World Cup 2023 saw him advance to the quarter-finals, where he faced off against the reigning champion Magnus Carlsen.

In an exclusive interview with RevSportz, Gukesh shared his thoughts on various aspects of the competition, his mindset, and his aspirations for the future.

Relief and Joy

Reflecting on the intense final moments of the tournament, Gukesh expressed his immediate emotions of relief and happiness. He said, “I am obviously very relieved. I was watching the other game and got to know (about the win), I felt totally relieved and so happy. It will probably take a bit more time to fully sink in.”

Thrilling Finale

Gukesh described the last round of the tournament as incredibly exciting, acknowledging the stress it brought to the players. “The last round was so exciting. Obviously, it’s super stressful for the players but in terms of the attention and the interest in the sport, it was a wonderful thing. I think everything went absolutely perfectly for chess today,” he remarked.

Focus and Determination

Discussing his approach to the tournament, Gukesh emphasised his focus on playing good chess rather than dwelling on predictions or favourites. And that in turn played a crucial role in his success. “Coming into the tournament, I was not really thinking about my chances or who is the favourite to win and all the other things. I just wanted to play good chess. I knew that if I continue playing well and I stay in good shape and keep my spirits high, I have every chance to win the event. And it helps that I had a good start.”

Managing Pressure

Acknowledging the pressure that comes with high-stakes competitions, Gukesh candidly spoke about his nerves and expectations. “I can’t say I didn’t feel any pressure. I had a lot of expectations and a lot of pressure for sure. I think the key was that I kept a strict routine and I was following it every day and that put me in good shape, and I had a clear head.”


The Sweet Moment of Victory

Describing the euphoric moment of victory, Gukesh recounted the heartwarming scene with his father where he was told about the Candidates win. “It was the best moment in the three weeks that we have been here. Me and Prasanna were watching the Caruana game and we were so nervous that we decided to go outside for a walk.

“We were chatting casually and I turned back and I saw my father running and he said, ‘it’s over’ and I had won it. We were all super excited. We were all hugging and smiling and it was beautiful,” he noted.

Aiming for the World Championship

Looking ahead, Gukesh expressed his eagerness to compete at the highest level and pursue the ultimate goal of the World Championship. “I am really looking forward to the World Championship and I will try to focus on the process. I will try to prepare well, I’ll be at my absolute best for the match,” he told.

As D Gukesh revels in the glory of his historic victory, his journey serves as an inspiration to aspiring chess players worldwide. His story exemplifies the power of talent, hard work, and unwavering dedication in achieving greatness on the chessboard, leaving a lasting impact on the sport and its enthusiasts.