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Facing 21 players with 1 hour on the clock : The Gukesh Simul

by Himank Ghosh - 20/03/2023

16-year-old Dommaraju Gukesh is one of the brightest talents of India and World Chess. At such a young age, the WestBridge-Anand Chess Academy mentee has reached a FIDE Rating of 2730! The current India no.2 graced the ChessBase India Chess Club with his presence on Saturday, 18th March 2023. There was a big challenge in front of him - he was giving a simultaneous exhibition to 21 players, with the top five seeds have a FIDE rating of 2000+ and 4 titled players in the mix! Check out the article below to know about the wonderful simul held at the Phoenix Marketcity Mall, Mumbai and how Gukesh fared.

World no.18 visited the ChessBase India studio in Mumbai

Gukesh arrived at the Mumbai airport on 16th March. ChessBase India co-founders Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal went to pick him up.

A quick selfie after picking up Gukesh at the airport! | Photo: Sagar Shah

One of the main reasons of Gukesh coming to Mumbai was working with Sagar on a brand new Fritztrainer about his best games in the ChessBase India Studio, and creating exclusive material for ChessRanga. The plan also included a doing a simul at the ChessBase India Chess Club at the Phoenix Marketcity and a free-wheeling podcast to know more about the personal life of Gukesh! How much of this could be achieved in 3 days that Gukesh was going to spend in Mumbai had to be seen!

Calling a very good friend of ours on the way! Any guesses, who he was?

Fun fact: Both Vidit and Gukesh are currently on the same Elo - 2730!

Most of the times in these 3 days when Gukesh was asked if he was hungry, the boy would reply not really! Gukesh is by no means a foodie!
The Gukesh ambush in Mumbai | Video: ChessBase India

Gukesh's work ethic is tremendous! The young boy stayed up as late as 2 a.m. on the first night, working on material for his recordings.

When Sagar woke up around 2 a.m. that night, they began analyzing one of Gukesh's games. They reached a position (in the picture) where Black has sacrificed a piece for initiative. Even at this late hour, Gukesh wanted to think on his own as to how Black should fight for something here. He could just press the button Ctrl+k and the engine would give the answer. But the youngster never really does that. He lets his mind do the thinking and only when he wants to check his analysis does he switch on the engine. Gukesh's faith on himself stems from his practice at a young age where he played chess without the use of an engine until he became a GM.

Before the recordings - Gukesh likes begin his day with meditation and breathing exercises!

Going to the studio via the Vidyavihar railway station bridge

Gukesh opening the ChessBase India studio! He is the first guest to record at the newly launched ChessBase India studio!

Hard at work in the brand new ChessBase India Studio! | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

Gukesh has reached such a high level of play at such a young age. How did he manage to do that? Well one of the secrets is his excellent attacking instincts. That is exactly what we decided to delve into as we set about making the first ever ChessBase Fritztrainer with Gukesh. We analyzed several of Gukesh's attacking games in great depth asking relevant questions at the right moment. The idea is to hone your attacking instincts as you go through the games of Gukesh. The videos will be out very soon.

Does this image look good for the cover image of the Fritztrainer?! | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

One of the things planned with Gukesh was a simultaneous exhibition with some of the strongest players of the city of Mumbai at the ChessBase India Chess Club at the Phoenix Marketcity! A total of 21 players were facing Gukesh.

Some of the strongest players at the ChessBase India Chess Club got a chance to play against the India no.2

This was the lineup Gukesh was up against:

1. CM Kshatriya Vekhande 2224

2. CM Vedant Vekhande 2178 

3. WIM Parnali S Dharia 2142

4. CM Gaurang Bagwe 2125

5. Ketan Boricha 2092

6. Jeet Shah 1959

7. Anirudhha Potawad 1913

8. Aryan Josh 1874

9. Jaiveer Mahendru 1686

10. Ketan Patil 1637

11. Ram Vishal Parab 1591

12. Mihir Shah 1568

13. Nitin Badoni 1498

14. Ajay Panigrahi 1481

15. WCM Kriti Patel 1434

16. Aarav Iyer 1406

17. Samarth Gandhi 1313 

18. Nithin Chandan 1291

19. Neemay Bhanushali 1194 

20. Arjun Prabhu 1141

21. Narayani Marathe

 

Most of the opponents above were young and ambitious players. So they were quite under-rated. Each of the opponents had 45 minutes on their clock. Making the challenge even more difficult, there was only 1 hour for Gukesh to play against all of them! We asked Gukesh as to what he felt about this line-up. The boy with his attitude that is filled with humility as well as confidence said, "It will be a good challenge!"  Apart from the players, a huge crowd had gathered to watch the games.

Gukesh's Growing Fanbase in Mumbai! | Video: ChessBase India

Before the simul, we visited an orphanage to teach some chess! | Photo: Venkat Krishna

In the 10 minutes or so that Gukesh had between his visit to the orphanage and the start of the simul, the youngster was keeping himself sharp by solving some quick tactics!

Some practice games going on between the players before the simul starts! | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

The arrangement of 21 boards for the simultaneous exhibition | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

Gukesh in front of his poster for the simul! | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

Get, set and go - The simul was held within the premises of one the busiest malls in the city and a lot of people gathered around to see the young star in action. | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

A birds-eye view of the simultaneous exhibition and the surrounding crowd | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

Pondering over his next move | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

IM Sagar Shah was providing live commentary of the event! | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

ChessBase India's Head of Sales Supriya Bhat was the event director of the simul - all the intricate details were taken care of by her! | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

An exciting day at the ChessBase India Chess Club | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

After a long, grueling battle, Gukesh ended the simul with a final score of 12.5-8.5 in his favor. A total of 7 players managed to defeat Gukesh, 3 drew against him and Gukesh won the rest of the 11 games. The time of 1 hour for Gukesh proved to be quite less. What started to happen at some point is the super GM started to spend a lot of time on the top boards, where he had complex positions. On the lower boards where he had great positions, he started to run out of time. We requested some of the players to increase the time on the clock as physically it became impossible for Gukesh to make his moves on all the boards. Considering the difficulty level of the simul a score of 12.5-8.5 was excellent.

7-year-old Narayani Marathe, the youngest participant of the simul

One of the heartwarming stories from the simul was that of 7-year-old Narayani Marathe, who lives in Nandurbar. When she and father saw on the ChessBase India video that Gukesh D has come to Mumbai, they booked their ticket for a 500 kilometre travel. The 7-year-old arrived on the day of the simul at the Phoenix Market city mall and waited quietly on the sidelines seeing Gukesh in action. There was one player who didn't turn up for the simul and Narayani got the chance to play against Gukesh. She fought really hard and was the last one to finish her game. Later we got to know that Narayani has pictures of 4 great player in her study room - Vishy Anand, Bobby Fischer, Magnus Carlsen and Gukesh! What a wonderful story of Narayani meeting Gukesh.

Narayani in her work place in Nandurbar

How wonderful to meet the person on the poster in your room in real life!

Check out the final moments of the simultaneous exhibition as Gukesh checkmates 7-year-old Narayani Marathe:

Final Moments of the simul! Gukesh vs 7 Year Old Girl | Video: ChessBase India

Most interesting games from the Gukesh Simul

After the simul had ended, it was now time for the meet and greet ceremony with the fans. Even after such an exhausting battle, Gukesh was more than happy to give autographs and interact with all the fans. 

The popularity of chess as a sport is growing each day in the country and Gukesh is one of the flagbearers of this revolution. It doesn't come as a surprise that some many people wanted a picture with him!

A view of Gukesh interacting with fans from the first floor of Phoenix Marketcity mall! | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

A lot of young fans were really excited to meet with the World no. 18! | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

Another very special surprise was waiting for Gukesh! He was gifted this beautiful artwork of how he has progressed as a chess player in such a short time span. On this occasion, Gukesh also inaugurated the ChessBase India Chess Club membership program! The youngster becomes the first member of the first ever ChessBase India Chess Club.

It's very hard to believe that Gukesh became a Grandmaster in 2019, and now has a FIDE Rating of 2730! | Design: Abhyudaya Ram

The first membership card of ChessBase India Chess Club! The first four digits are his date of birth, the next four 0001 refers to the first ChessBase India Chess Club (Mumbai). And the last four digits are his membership number| Design: Abhyudaya Ram
Special Gift to Gukesh & New Announcement Reveal! | Video: ChessBase India

Post-simul interview with Gukesh

After all the events had ended, it was time for a short interview with Gukesh about the simul! Sagar Shah took Gukesh to the Phoenix Marketcity Mall Office and asked him a few questions.

The energy in Gukesh's smile is infectious! | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram
Gukesh on toughest simul he has ever given | ChessBase India Chess Club, Mumbai | Video: ChessBase India

IM Sagar Shah (SS): Gukesh, today you played a simul at the ChessBase India Chess Club. Actually when we decided to hold this simul, we decided to make it the toughest simul. It would be a challenge for you with 21 players, it was also your idea. In the end, the scoreline was 12.5-8.5 in your favor. Are you happy with it, are you not so happy - how is the feeling?

GM D Gukesh (DG): Yeah, overall I don't think I can be happy with the 12.5-8.5 score. I think it was quite a tough simul. I mean, I did think it was possible to get a good score with 1 hour versus 45 minutes, but I completely miscalculated it. After a point, there were lots of games where time scrambles happened. Of course, I couldn't play well at those moments. In a lot of games I flagged, or something happened in the time scramble.

The time turned out to be the biggest factor in the simul | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

The main challenge for me was that the strong players were putting a lot of pressure, so I had to spend a lot of time there. Against the slightly weaker players, I had lot of good positions but I just didn't have the time to convert it - in some boards, I just flagged. 1 hour was a bit less, but it was a good lesson.

 

SS: What time control would you choose next time for such a simul, if the rating average was similar?

DG: I think 90 minutes for me and 40/45 minutes for the opponents would be good. That would be also quite challenging, but I think it would be possible to get a high score there. This was my first time playing a clock simul alone, and I think there were 5 players with a rating of more than 2000.

 

SS: And they were all underrated. For example, Gaurang Bagwe is rated 1900, but his strength is somewhere around 2200.

CM Gaurang Bagwe is one of the strongest young talents on the rise | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

DG: He actually made a move which I completely missed. ...b5 was a brilliant move!

Position after 17...b5! In Gaurang's own words: "This move made me really happy because it takes immediate actions to punish exf4".

SS: He played a brilliant game! If you had to choose one game that you thought was your favorite today, would it be this one with Gaurang?

DG: With Gaurang, I was better out of the opening. But after I played some careless moves, he completely took over. I mean , ...b5 was probably the highlight of the simul!

 

SS: Also, I think Parnali's game was very nice!

WIM Parnali S Dharia (2142) is one of the strongest female players in the city of Mumbai | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

DG: Yes, ...Nd4 was a very very nice move by Parnali. I lost both of these games, but I think they were very good.

Position after 27...Nd4 - beautiful tactics on the board!

SS: It shows so much about you as a player, that in spite of losing these games, you like those moves. You like chess so much!

DG: I actually really liked the way I played against the first board, CM Kshatriya Vekhande.

CM Kshatriya Vekhande (2224) was the highest rated player in the simul | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

I found some really nice ideas like 18.g6 and put him under a lot of pressure. 20. Bg4 Nf8 21. e4! was also a very nice find. I'm pretty sure at some point I was winning, but as I said, in time scramble, I just didn't have time to convert it.

Position after the beautiful pawn break 21.e4!

SS: Now that you are such a world class player, you're World no. 18, everyone wants to play with you. In such a simul, when you lose 7 games and draw 3, does that impact you in any way? Do you think "Now everyone will say I beat Gukesh", or do you think " That's okay, I learnt something". How do you feel about these things?

DG: Well, game-wise I don't think I played bad at all. I played some good games, I had lots of good positions, but I think I could've been a bit more careful with the time. Taking 1 hour on the clock was my decision, I thought it should be fine. From next time, I should be more careful . Especially since there were so many strong players, I should've taken more time.

 

SS: When you come back to Mumbai, we can keep the same rating average of 21 opponents and keep more time! It would be like the return of Gukesh. Thank you Gukesh!

DG: Yes, that would be fun! Thank you.

A nice candid shot of Sagar and Gukesh! | Photo: Abhyudaya Ram

Gukesh vs Anirudhha Potawad

Just to give you a glimpse of how sharp Gukesh's opponents were - in this position Black played Rxf2. But what is Black's point after Bxe4? Isn't he simply losing material? Well, not really. Anirudhha unleashed ...Qh4!! A powerful move after which Black emerges with 2 extra pawns!

Check out all the pictures from the simul here.

The Gukesh Simul Vlog | When Gukesh took on 21 Opponents Together | Video: ChessBase India

After Gukesh returned to Sagar and Amruta's flat, he was greeted by the well-known stand-up comedian Samay Raina! We end the article with the video of this very exciting game between Samay and Gukesh, where Gukesh took 2 minutes on the clock and Samay had 10 minutes:

Never underestimate Samay Raina! | Samay vs Super GM Gukesh (2730) | Video: ChessBase India

Abhyudaya Ram handing over the nice creative gift that he made to Gukesh. The pictures in the simul were taken by Abhyudaya.

We did so much in 3 days! A big thanks to Gukesh for visiting Mumbai and spending his valuable time with us! Stay tuned for the ChessBase Fritztrainer, videos on ChessRanga and a special 80-minute podcast that will come up on the ChessBase India YouTube channel in the next few days!

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