Winning the title of grandmaster (GM) in the fifth round of the 37th Benasque International Open Chess tournament in Spain has not put an end to Anurag Mhamal’s dreams; instead it has motivated him to go higher. NT KURIOCITY finds more about Goa’s first GM
RAMANDEEP KAUR | NT KURIOCITY
Being the first to achieve something is a memory to cherish for a lifetime and Anurag Mhamal who is now the 48th GM from India and the first from Goa is going to live his life with this prestigious title.
He learnt chess from his father Arvind Mhamal who is a chess official in Goa. Anurag says: “My father introduced me to chess at the age of 6. And at that time I was not really interested in chess. One day my father took me to a tournament at Ezekiel Methodist School, Bambolim, there I managed to beat everybody and that really spiked my interest in chess. It was from then that my father began coaching me regularly.”
Expressing his happiness over achieving the title of Goa’s first GM, Anurag says: “I feel really good. It is nice to be Goa’s first GM but this is not the end. I want to go much higher than this so I am just practicing towards that.”
The title grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can attain, and it is a difficult task. A GM needs three norms besides crossing 2500 Elo ratings. Anurag achieved his first grandmaster norm in Kolkata in 2013 but after that it stalled for quite some time. He achieved his second norm in the 32nd Open International Cappelle Ia Grande 2016 in Paris and the third norm followed later that year in the month of August. The 22-year-old says: “But along the way I accomplished another couple of norms in the Karpos International Open Chess Tournament 2017 in Skopje, Macedonia and 27th Open de Gros International Chess Tournament 2017 in San Sebastian and I finally achieved the GM title in Spain after attainting an Elo rating of 2500.”
When asked if he always wanted to be a chess player, Anurag who is a Dempo Goodwill Ambassador says: “Actually at one point I was not sure. When I was in class 11 I thought studies would be a great idea but at that crucial point I got the sponsorship from Dempo’s as they were doing the goodwill ambassador scheme and luckily I got in.” After this Anurag began playing seriously and worked hard on his chess skills. Since then he has always been inkling towards chess and wanted a career in chess.
And if you think he is solely busy with the game of chess then you are mistaken. Besides chess, Anurag follows football. He likes mixed martial arts a lot and used to play table tennis too.
Although it is always believed that chess is meant for intelligent people, Anurag opines that it is not just for intellectuals. He says: “Anybody can play chess. It depends on your interest and if you really like the game. If you feel like sitting for four hours on a chess board then you can also be a chess player. And you need to work hard off the board so it is all about the mindset of the person.” He further adds: “I do not think you need to be talented to be a chess player; just like in studies anybody can be good.”
Anurag did his schooling in People’s High School, Panaji and moved to Dhempe College of Arts and Science. He then joined S S Dempo College of Commerce and Economics and switched to Commerce because he wanted to play chess continuously which was not possible while in science stream. He had also taken first year admission in BCom but because of his busy schedule he could not pursue and complete it.
In a time when everyone says that studies are important to prosper in life, Anurag left his graduation to make a career in chess. Commenting on the same he says: “Currently, I am trying my best to better myself in the field of chess and pursue a career in it. Studies and graduation have their place but I believe maybe there are other ways to get ahead in life too.”
Be it chess or any other profession, Anurag feels it is always good to see people pursuing their interests. Giving a piece of advice to aspiring chess players out there, he says: “I would like to say that chess is not an easy game. It does not happen fast, it takes time and you need to work hard for it. Keep working towards it, keep reading books and playing chess on the board. Be focused and dedicated to the game.”
He does not have any future plans yet but his goal right now is to achieve 2600 Elo ratings and he is working towards it.