A note on the issue: The games won in the mind

In the past few years, India’s chess players have exhibited mental agility and razor-sharp focus to steadily climb the ranks, and this week we delve into everything that has led to this moment

Shalini Umachandran
First Published11 May 2024
R. Vaishali (left) and Russia’s Aleksandra Goryachkina at the FIDE Candidates Tournament in Toronto, Canada.
R. Vaishali (left) and Russia’s Aleksandra Goryachkina at the FIDE Candidates Tournament in Toronto, Canada. (PTI)

It’s often said that most battles are won in the mind—that seems especially true of chess, a game that relies little on chance and is entirely about strategy. Watching clips of chess matches and post-match press conferences for this week’s cover story only seemed to reinforce the fact that these are games played in the mind. We’re all used to the drama and tumult of sports like tennis and cricket, especially since its IPL season. In contrast, in the final moments of Gukesh D.’s game with Hikaru Nakamura in the Candidates tournament, held late last month, the commentators—who were miles away and streaming the match—were the only ones exulting.

Gukesh himself just shakes hands with Nakamura and impassively starts gathering pieces and setting the board for the next game. He’d just become the youngest winner ever of the Candidates, and the youngest challenger for the forthcoming World Chess Championships. “I wasn’t 100% sure till the last game, I mean even during the last game, I wasn’t sure,” the 17-year-old said at the post-match press conference, revealing an altogether different side to everything we associate with sports. 

Also read: Gukesh D and the rise of Indian chess

Granted, the results were announced 15 minutes later, but the teenager revealed a remarkable stoicism, which is probably what gets one to that level in chess—apart from, of course, mental agility, hours of practice and razor-sharp focus. Over the past few years, India’s chess players have exhibited all of this on the world stage and steadily climbed the ranks, and this week we delve into everything that has led to this moment.

Our other stories in this issue are no less about the creativity that comes from contemplation. Veteran theatre person M.K. Raina, who revived Kashmir’s Bandh Pather folk theatre, discusses the role of culture in keeping a society sane and accountable. Stage managers tell Lounge what it takes to put together the massive, artistic stages for performers such as Ed Sheeran. We channel the zany creativity of Monday’s Met Gala to curate a list of beautiful objects to accompany great recommendations for what to read, watch, drink, eat and do this weekend.

Write to the Lounge editor shalini.umachandran@htlive.com @shalinimb

Also read: Missing at the Met Gala 2024: escapism

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