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Gukesh crushes Caruana, Raunak subdues Perez as India overpower USA 3-1 at Chess Olympiad

Step by step, D Gukesh is leaping into chess stardom. Move by move, he is scalping one chess immortal after the other. Alexei Shirov first, Fabiano Caruana now. Round by round, he is racking up the records. He is now the India No 2 on live ratings, and is on the joint-longest unbeaten streak with Vladimir Kramnik for anyone on his Olympiad debut. Day by day, the world is congregating around the teenager who wears the undulating attention around him lightly, as though he has self-exiled from fame and success.

At the press conference table after spearheading India B’s 3-1 heist over the USA, he sits with stern eyes and a grim face, accentuated by the thickening stubble that could win him an audition in a campus romcom. He talks shyly — words trickle out of him, sentences punctuated with deep pauses. He smiles rarely — he forced a reluctant smile after incessant persuasion from the photographers. He was asked to do a thumbs-up — he made a feeble attempt. He wears success lightly. Probe him about any of the milestones he has racked up in the last few days and months, he would give an I-am-not-bothered look. He, simply, is not the average 16-year-old. Of course, he is a Grandmaster which only a handful are or have been at his age. But even among the teenaged-GM brethren, he is the most withdrawn of the lot. Perhaps, he emotes through his pieces. The ever cool king. Caruana tried several straight as well as not-so-straight paths to topple Gukesh’s king. He miserably failed. The queen was a bit panicky. After Gukesh failed to decode the line of Caruana’s opening and found himself exposed too early in the game, his queen was on a square-hopping spree. Like the skipping game you play in school. There was an insane sequence—the queen on C2 was pushed to b5, and two moves later, she was relocated to d7, then to b7, back to d7, then b7, then back again to d7, and then to the base d8. Gukesh hardly does the theatre, but his queen certainly did and in the process managed to distract Caruana.

The American of Italian descent read more into the games than what was there on the board. He sensed a trap, or perhaps a novelty even, or the method behind the madness. Not enjoying his best form, he panicked. And then Gukesh’s angry, stifled knights took over, striding past every attempted piece of resistance. Gukesh’s presence of mind and the ability to not drift was staggering. He had the insight to realise his exact mistake and the foresight to come out of it. “I was caught in the opening as it went along unfamiliar lines for me. But did not panic.”


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