Two of India’s finest young Grandmasters from Chennai, R. Praggnanandhaa and D. Gukesh, were felicitated by their school, Velammal Nexus, on Monday, with a cash award of Rs. 20 lakh each for their recent accomplishments.
Seventeen-year-old Gukesh became India No. 1 in FIDE rating list recently, displacing the former five-time World champion Viswanathan Anand who was country’s top-ranked player in the world since July 1986. Eighteen-year-old Pragg, as he is fondly called, bagged silver medal at the World Cup held in Baku, Azerbaijan, losing to Magnus Carlsen in the final.
Speaking at the function, Pragg while thanking Velammal MHSS (and M. V. M. Velmohan, Correspondent, Velammal Education Trust) where he studied from LKG to Std. XII, said he first met Anand at his school when he came home after winning the World championship crown in 2012. “It was an inspiring moment for me as I went on to win the gold in the Asian youth (u-8) championships,” he said. He profusely thanked Velammal for supporting him throughout his career. “My advice to you (students) is give your best in whatever you do. Keep trying. Never give up.”
Gukesh, too, on his part, thanked Velammal for supporting him. Informing that Anand has been “my idol”, Gukesh said he started playing chess after watching the five-time champion play.
Anand praised Velammal for its constant support to chess and also recalled the Tamil Nadu Government’s consistent support to chess achievers. “When I became the first Indian to qualify for the Candidates tournament in 1990, the State Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi honoured me in a function. It is a tradition that continues now,” he said.
Udhayanidhi Stalin, TN Sports Minister, assured Pragg and Gukesh all the support in the future.
Later, Velammal Nexus gave away Rs. 10 lakh and Rs. five lakh respectively to the players who were part of the Velammal MHSS school teams that won the gold (u-12) and bronze (u-18) medals respectively in the World schools team chess championships in Aktau (Kazakhstan). S. Velavan, Velammal’s chess coach at the World schools championships, was given Rs. 3 lakh.
V. Haritha Shree was given Rs. 2 lakh for becoming Asian u-14 girls’ No. 2, according to the Asian Tennis Federation rankings.
Later, speaking to the media, Pragg and Gukesh expressed confidence of winning the gold medal in the Asian Games. “The camp by Boris Gelfand, former World No.3, at Kolkata was good and there was a sense of team spirit,” said Pragg.
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