With his father and some books for company at an apartment in Budapest, 14-year-old Indian chess player Leon Mendonca is not exactly feeling stuck even though he has been away from home for almost a month because of the coronavirus-forced travel restrictions.
The International Master, with an Elo rating of 2452, went to Budapest to compete in a tournament which was to end on March 17. But he has been forced to stay back after India enforced its first set of travel restrictions which barred flights from Europe.
He was supposed to take a flight back on March 18 but was stopped from boarding with the airline informing him about the Indian restrictions.
“We are safe and sound in an apartment in Budapest, waiting for the lockdown (in India) to get over before returning,” Mendonca told PTI from the Hungarian capital.
“I wake up at 7.30 am and I say my prayers. I also do some yoga to maintain my physical fitness and do some meditation as well. I divide my time between academics and chess.
“I practice chess based on what I think is a priority, and what I feel like doing. I also read some chess books recently, ‘Saying No to Chess Principles’ by Evgeny Bareev and ‘Life and Games of Mikhail Tal,” he added.
The youngster misses his mother and sister but understands the gravity of the situation.
“It is important to remain at home and stay safe as the world battles the coronavirus. We stay at home and don’t go out much. Dad cooks for us and gets supplies for up to 10 days from the supermarket nearby.
“I am doing what I would have done irrespective of the coronavirus and I don’t feel much of a difference,” he said.
The player’s father Lyndon narrated the sequence of events before the two were stranded.
“Leon finished his last round on March 17 and we were due to return on 18th morning. We were denied boarding as the Qatar Airlines crew said that they would be forced to fly us back from Doha to Budapest instead of Delhi as we would have crossed the deadline of 18th March 12:00 GMT by the time we reached India,” the young IM’s father Lyndon said.
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Lyndon, an engineer, said it was tough to be held up in Hungary during such difficult times.
“But it is important to stay positive during the coronavirus pandemic and also pray for the well-being of the world,” he said.
Mendonca played in the Aeroflot Open in Moscow, which featured several other Indian players, and headed to Budapest after an event in Vietnam got postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Goan player is supported, among others, by Microsense Networks and had participated in the camp for youngsters conducted by the legendary Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand in Chennai late last year.
Lyndon said although the two have not needed any help to sustain themselves so far, they have been assured of help should the need arise.
“Friends have offered to transfer funds anytime,” he said.
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