The game of chess has been played for 1500 years. Therefore, it is fitting that the first country to give this game a family with multiple Grandmasters is the country where the game was born, India. As Susan Ninan explains in this article, “few have fit the chess prodigy descriptor as well as India’s Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa. He was 10 years old when he became the then-youngest International Master, the second-highest title after Grandmaster.
He became the second-youngest Grandmaster in 2018, defeated five-time world champion Magnus Carlsen three times in a row in online games, and is only the second Indian after Viswanathan Anand to make a World Cup final and qualify for the Candidates tournament.”
Courtesy Pragg’s exploits, he is now a celebrity. What fewer people know is that his sister, Rameshbabu Vaishali, has also become a Grandmaster. This makes Pragg and Vaishali the first ever brother-sister pair to become Grandmasters: “The first in the family to play chess, Vaishali’s skill and toil have never been in doubt. She’s now ended India’s 12 year-wait, becoming only the third-ever female Grandmaster after Koneru Humpy and Harika Dronavalli. It also makes the Chennai siblings the first Grandmaster brother-sister pair in history.”
Given how much the rest of us fret about our kids, you might be keen to understand how the parents of Pragg and Vaishali pulled off this unprecedented feat. To that end, you might find it helpful to read Susan Ninan’s piece and see the pics of the kids with their Tiger mom. It will give you a sense of the clarity, the intensity and the drive of a middle-class family of modest means to conquer the world.
Susan Ninan writes, “Having the most promising male and female Indian chess player in the country coming from the same family is a pretty remarkable sight.
Father Rameshbabu handles the logistics and travel planning and mother Nagalakshmi is the sergeant on eternal vigil who accompanies both children through long tournaments around the world.
No glib PR work goes into their image building. Vaishali usually manages both their social media accounts and Praggnanandhaa often seeks her out for help with responding to emails. It’s almost like a family-run start-up on a chess excellence mission.
In 2012, Vaishali and Praggnanandhaa won the nationals and qualified for the Asian youth championships in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. Back then the primary concern for the family was shoring up the money to meet travel expenses for three. They managed to stitch together the funds and both returned champions – Vaishali in the under-12 girls, and Praggnanandhaa in the under-8 boys.
“We have grown up winning age-group tournaments together. Recently, we won the same medals at the Olympiad and Asian Games. Now we’re headed to the biggest tournament of our lives together.””
The ‘biggest tournament’ Vaishali is referring to is: “The 2024 Candidates Tournament will be an eight-player chess tournament, held to determine the challenger for the 2024 World Chess Championship match. It is scheduled to be held from 2 April to 25 April 2024 in Toronto, Canada, alongside the Women’s Candidates Tournament” [Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
The good news for India doesn’t stop there. Alongside, Pragg and Vaishali, at the 2024 Candidates, there will be another Indian Grandmaster, Vidit Gujrathi from Nashik, Maharashtra.
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