CHENNAI: There was a video on Twitter a couple of days ago where Vidit Gujrathi was seen doing skipping exercises at home.Sportspersons are trying all sorts of things in order to maintain basic fitness levels at the time of lockdown.But the chess player was not doing that just for the sake of it. He was trying to get close to something he also likes doing.
India No 2 after Viswanathan Anand and World No 23, Gujrathi is not all about chess. He likes working out at the gym and walking. If at home in Nasik, he plays basketball. When in Europe for training or competitions, he plays badminton and does swimming. The COVID-19 outbreak has stopped all that and he is making do with the treadmill at home. “Since playing chess and working on it means I am seated for long periods of time, I go for long walks to make up for it. That’s not happening now. Also, I like playing other games. Inside our building complex, there is a basketball court and some of the players there are semi-professionals. Playing with them is fun. I keep myself engaged with other sports also when I am abroad,” Gujrathi told this daily.
“It’s not possible to devote a lot of time to other sports when I’m playing tournaments or training in full intensity. When that happens, it’s a minimum of six hours of chess every day. I am trying to include activities like free-hand exercise, yoga in that routine.”However, with all that stopped, the older of two siblings is spending time with his doctor parents and sister, who is also in the medical field.Having travelled extensively from a young age, the 26-year-old is new to staying at home. If pressed, he finds it difficult to remember when he last spent more than five-six days in a month at home.
Tournaments cancelled in Europe and the US, Gujrathi isn’t sure when he will be playing again. The Chess Olympiad scheduled for August has also been postponed. There is no certainty over the resumption of the chess calendar. Having maintained a rating of 2700-plus (2726 at the moment) for over a year, the youngster is missing out on valuable game time. That, however, is far from his mind at the moment. “It’s hard to complain. It’s a global crisis and people are suffering on a large scale. Compared to that, what we chess players are going through is very minute,” said Gujrathi.
The Grandmaster is using the time to do something he can’t otherwise. That is reading. Not merely to kill time, but to understand something deeper. Monk and author Om Swami and propagators of Japanese philosophy on a ‘perfectly imperfect life’ are among his favourites. Heady, but may just be the right time delve in such stuff.