MAHABALIPURAM: "If I'm going to kill myself, I am going to do it after the last round." That was what D Gukesh was thinking to himself after his loss to Nodirbek Abdusattorov in the 10th round of the chess Olympiad on Monday.
The loss cost India B dearly. If Gukesh had won or drawn the game -- he was in control of proceedings till the end game -- the tie would have gone in their favour. It would have also put them in the perfect spot to seal gold ahead of the final round.
After Gukesh & Co expectedly beat Germany on the final day to win bronze ahead of the senior Indian team, the 16-year-old, who had cried while leaving the venue on Monday, called it 'as a moment of madness' and 'stupid'. But he was also mindful of his performance in a campaign that has shown that he can mix and match with the best. He beat the likes of Fabiano Caruana, Alexei Shirov and Gabriel Sargissian while drawing the likes of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. All of the above-mentioned names are at least 14 years his senior and are more experienced in dealing with pressure situations.
This wasn't lost on the teenager who finished with nine points from a possible 11, the best performance by an Indian in this Olympiad.
"Overall, it's been a very enjoyable event," he said. "The performance has been special. I did not expect to play so well, but it could easily have been better. Yesterday (Monday), I played an extremely good game. I completely outplayed my opponent, and then a moment of madness. We could have had a great chance of gold medal if I had won or drawn it. But these things happen. It is a great learning experience for me."
The biggest learning he picked up from the Olympiad is falling short on time. "Against Abdusattorov, I had a completely winning position. But I was spending a lot of time trying to find the best move. I got into time trouble eventually. That is something that has already happened to me. I repeated the same mistake, which was quite stupid."
He felt slightly better about himself after Viswanathan Anand, team mentor, paid them a visit. "Anand tried to cheer me up," he said. "He said these things have happened a lot of times in his career. He was showing examples of the times he lost from winning positions. I felt better after that. That such a great player has also gone through the things that I am going through."
Gukesh also quashed suggestions that he had lost a bit of his sharpness after playing in 100 rounds. If anything, he claimed that it helped him.
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"I don't think playing all 11 games affected me. It only helped me because I got into the flow from the start of the event. I scored 8/8, and to rest me would have been quite a bad decision. If someone is in such great form, it is usually better to keep going. One minute of complete madness and the team's whole chances are gone. But a lot of things went my way. I won against Caruana and overall, I should not be complaining."
Gukesh also lavished praise on his coach, Vishnu Prasanna, who has worked with him for the last five years. One of the unorthodox things they do is focus on the mental aspect. Gukesh recognised this as an important facet of their training sessions. "My coach has been a tremendous support for the last five years. He has really improved my game and the psychological aspect of the game as well. We talk a lot about how to handle myself during tournaments. That has really improved my mental stability."
Apart from that 'one moment of madness', Gukesh, making his over-the-board Olympiad debut, demonstrated that throughout the tournament, including in big clashes against some of the best players. The end result? His live ratings stand at 2725.2, an increase of 26.2 points across the 11 rounds. It's the best jump by an elite player featuring at the Olympiad.