Just a few days after coaching India 2 to a bronze medal at the Chess Olympiad, R.B. Ramesh has moved on to his next assignment. He has landed in the United States to help his ward R. Praggnanandhaa’s campaign at the FTX Crypto Cup, beginning in Miami on Monday.
Praggnanandhaa was part of the victorious Indian team at the Chennai Olympiad. And that was quite a young team too. Though seeded only 11th, the expectations were huge about Ramesh’s boys.
Besides Praggnanandha, the team contained three other teenagers, D. Gukesh, Nihal Sarin and Raunak Sadhwani. B. Adhiban, 29, completed the squad.
This, however, isn’t the first Indian team to win an Olympiad medal under Ramesh’s training. In 2014, he had guided the Indian team to a first-ever Olympiad team medal.
“Both the wins are special and we were the underdogs on both occasions,” Ramesh told Sportstar over phone from the US on Saturday. “But this time around, I knew that the team had chances for a medal. And when we won the bronze, we felt we should have won the gold.”
He is happy that his boys did what was expected of them. “Gukesh was of course too fantastic and he lived up to our expectations, scoring heavily on the top board,” he said. “I thought Nihal would show the consistency we needed on the second board and he remained unbeaten. I thought Praggnanandhaa would win us crucial points on the third board and he did that. Raunak scored a couple of superb wins on the fourth board and Adhiban too contributed.”
Ramesh is glad that the team could do it at home. “I never thought chess could become so popular in India,” he said. “It felt strange to hear people chanting ‘Ramesh sir, Ramesh sir’ when I moved about at the venue in Mamallapuram. We were recognised at lounges and the airport security check as well.”
He believes the Olympiad is a turning point for Indian chess. “I think it is for the first time that chess has reached out to the common man,” he said. “During the last fortnight, I don’t think there was anybody in Tamil Nadu that didn’t know about the Chess Olympiad, thanks to the State government’s organising and marketing of the tournament. Now we should ensure that chess doesn't lose the moment that it has got.”