Chess sensation Gukesh returns home to rousing reception

Gukesh being welcomed on his arrival at the Chennai airport. Photo: PTI/R Senthil Kumar

Chennai: History-making teen Indian Grandmaster D Gukesh was swamped by fans as he returned to an enthusiastic reception here on Thursday after becoming the youngest challenger to the world title following his triumph at the prestigious Candidates Chess Tournament in Toronto.

Hundreds of students from the Velammal Vidyalaya, the school where Gukesh studies, lined up at the airport at least one hour before his flight landed to greet the 17-year-old chess prodigy.

The crowd built up and the area around the arrival gate was jam-packed in no time.

Gukesh walked out at around 3 am and he was immediately flanked by the jubilant crowd. In no time, he had garlands around his neck even as the police jostled to escort him out safely.

"I feel very happy for this homecoming, this is a special achievement. I was in a good space since the beginning of the tournament, I had full confidence that I will emerge top in this tournament and luck was on my side as well," Gukesh said while talking to the media at the airport.

"It's good to see so many people enjoy chess...I thank the Tamil Nadu government. I thank my Appa, Amma, coach, friends, family, sponsor and my school for being alongside me and playing an amazing role in helping me win this tournament," he added.

Gukesh being greeted by his mom. Photo: PTI/R Senthil Kumar

His mother Padma, who is a microbiologist, was there to receive him along with some other members of the family and the champion had a huge smile on his face the moment he spotted her in the crowd. They exchanged a hug after greeting each other.

Gukesh's father Rajinikanth, who is an ENT surgeon but quit his practice to support him, had travelled with him to Toronto for the tournament.

On Monday, Gukesh became the first Indian after the great Viswanathan Anand to win the Candidates Tournament, which is held specifically to decide the challenger for the reigning world champion.

He became the youngest ever challenger for the title, bettering the record created by the legendary Garry Kasparov 40 years ago.

The triumph entitles Gukesh to a clash against reigning world champion Ding Liren of China in the last quarter of the year.

Kasparov had lauded Gukesh's performance, describing it as "the Indian earthquake in Toronto". He had also said that the Indian performance at the Candidates marked a "tectonic shift" in the sport's global world order.

Among the players Gukesh beat in Candidates was the 18-year-old R Praggnanandhaa, another prodigal talent to emerge from the city. In all, five Indians, three men and two women, competed in the tournament.

Gukesh has been making waves for quite a while now. He became India's youngest Grandmaster at 12 years, seven months and 17 days in January, 2019.

Currently, he has a FIDE rating of 2743, while his peak rating happens to be 2758, which he attained last September.

Gukesh is 16th in the FIDE Rankings at present, while his best ranking to date happens to be eighth, which he reached last September.

Among his top recent performances was a silver medal at the Hangzhou Asian Games last year in the men's team category.

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