Even by chess standards, a sport where whiz kids keep getting younger, R. Praggnanandhaa’s International Master norm at 10 is a giant baby step. To put this in perspective, five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand completed the IM norm at 15. Reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen was 12. This clearly underlines that the boy from Chennai is indeed a promising talent and may be the one to closely follow in the future.
However, enduring, lasting success in chess is incredibly hard. You hear more stories of chess prodigies who have fallen by the wayside, some lost to depression, than those who made it to the pinnacle. It needs not just talent, but also deep pockets and an inexhaustible ambition to chase the ultimate glory. Anand’s is a classic point, though he is an exception. He belonged to an upper middle-class family, but he not only had the unflinching drive to conquer the world, but also to whittle out lucrative sponsorship deals at the right time. Many others who were similarly talented weren’t as lucky. They lacked either the unconquerable will or an ultra-aggressive PR machinery. Then there’s the pressure of competing with different opponents day in and day out and the countless sacrifices a player must make.
As he grows, in age and stature, Praggnanandhaa will be more acquainted with the pressures that accompany him wherever he goes. How he copes with them will be suggestive of his mettle. A more tangible barometer of his destiny would be the age at which he becomes the Grandmaster. The youngest was Ukrainian Sergey Karjakin (12 years and seven months). Carlsen completed it a few months after his 13th birthday. If Praggnanandhaa can best him, or even manage the norm before his 14th birthday, we can, perhaps, celebrate the rise of a future champion. Until then, for his own good, we can rave about him in a guarded and tempered manner.