India's 'Candidates' For Chess Throne: The Trailblazing Trio That Took The World By Storm In Toronto

Chess legend Garry Kasparov's exclamation that 'the children of Vishy Anand are on the loose!' is one of numerous markers of India's rising dominance in the sport. Let's learn more about the trio that did the country proud at the prestigious FIDE Candidates tournament

D Gukesh
Grandmaster D. Gukesh of India during the Round 11 match against Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana of USA at the FIDE Candidates 2024 chess tournament Photo: D Gukesh

In 2013, when Magnus Carlsen defeated Viswanathan Anand to become the new world chess champion in Chennai, a seven-year-old boy from the same city who had just started playing the game had no idea that he had just witnessed the starting of a new era in the sport.

Eleven years later, that boy is now headlining the beginning of another new era in chess.

When Carlsen got the better of an ageing Anand in 2013, Russian chess great Gary Kasparov had termed it as the start of a "new era in chess".

More than a decade later, D Gukesh's triumph at FIDE Candidates 2024 has again pushed the Russian Grandmaster to use a similar expression to describe the change the chess world is witnessing.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Kasparov called Gukesh's historic win "the culmination of the shifting tectonic plates in the chess world".

Chess is believed to have been developed from India's 'Chaturanga' but Russia (previously the Soviet Union) dominated the game traditionally. However, in recent times, Indians are rising at a rapid pace to take the world of chess by storm. This is what Kasparov was alluding to when he said the "shifting tectonic plates".

"The 'children' of Vishy Anand are on the loose!" Kasparov added in his post.

Here is a look at three of those "children of Vishy Anand" who are on the loose, as the Russian Grandmaster says.

Dommaraju Gukesh

Entering the Candidates, Gukesh had a lot of 'youngest-ever' records to his name.

A prodigy, the Chennai-born became India's youngest and the world's second-youngest Grandmaster at just 12 years. He is currently the world's third-youngest Grandmaster.

In 2022, he achieved a live FIDE rating of 2700 and was the fourth-youngest player to do so. Last year, Gukesh also ended Anand's 37-year reign as India's top-rated player.

However, despite all these 'youngest-ever' accolades, not many thought he could become the youngest Candidates winner when he landed in Toronto.

With top players like Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Ian Nepomniachtchi in the fray, a 17-year-old becoming the challenger to the world champion was hard to think of, and even harder to do.

But the prodigy that the 17-year-old is, he has now become the youngest-ever Candidates winner, beating the record of Kasparov by a good five years. His win at the tournament has established India as the fastest-rising nation in the chess world, and himself as the ambassador of this rise.

However, another 'youngest-ever' title awaits him later this year when Gukesh faces the reigning world champion Ding Liren of China in a bid to become the youngest world champion ever.

Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa

Another Chennai-born chess prodigy, R Praggnanandhaa was among the three Indians competing in the open category at this year's Candidates, and he was seen by many as India's best bet at the competition.

Having one of the greatest youth careers ever, Praggnanandhaa's CV till now is spotless. He was the youngest international master in chess history, a tag which he achieved when he was just 10. At 12, he had become the second-youngest from the country (after Gukesh) to claim the Grandmaster title.

Praggnanandhaa made heads of casual chess fans turn last year when he reached the final of the FIDE Chess World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana were among the giants slayed by the teen prodigy before he was tamed by Magnus Carlsen in the final.

In Candidates, Praggnananandhaa had to settle with a 50 per cent score.

The Tamilian is being hailed as the future of the game and chess fans all around the world are expecting him to only get better.

Vidit Gujrathi

At 29, calling Vidit a child is a bit of a stretch, but him being "on the loose" is a fact as he remains one of India's top chess players at the moment.

Gujrathi was the most experienced among the Indian trio that had qualified for the open category at the Candidates. Victories over World No. 3 Nakamura and World No. 4 Alireza Firouzja at the tournament have shown that the Nashik-born Grandmaster can easily get past the best on his day.

A late bloomer, if we go by the standards of Praggnanandhaa and Gukesh, Gujrathi was always a formidable player but has found consistency in recent times and earlier this year, also became India's top-ranked player for some time.

Gujrathi played his first World Cup in 2015 where he could not advance beyond the first round. In 2017 and 2019, he reached the third round of the event.

He then won the prestigious FIDE Grand Swiss Tournament last year in November to book his ticket to the Candidates tournament, where he finished a respectable sixth.

His exploits at Candidates have established him among the world's best but the competition remains super-tight, especially in India. With multiple prodigies threatening to take over the chess world, how Gujrathi adapts himself will be interesting to see.