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Gukesh wins the tournament held to celebrate 110th anniversary of the Hillerød Chess Club

by Sagar Shah - 18/02/2020

If you want to achieve something truly special, you have to move away from the crowd. Gukesh and his family are an excellent example of the same. While every youngster plays around 100-120 rated games in a year, Gukesh played over 200 to become a GM. While everyone usually feels that you should play in only strong events, Gukesh decided to play in the Hillerød Chess Club tournament where he was the second seed. He scored 8.0/9, gained some valuable Elo points and won the tournament by a half point margin. Before he left for his next tournament - the Cannes Open in France, we got in touch with him and did an interview on his victory. Get to know the unique thoughts of India's finest talent. 

Gukesh's first tournament win in 2020

Hillerød Chess Club was established in the year 1910! In 2020, they celebrated 110 years of its existence. The winner of the tournament was GM D. Gukesh, the second youngest GM in the history of the game. Gukesh started off as the second seed, scored 8.0/9, and finished ahead of the entire pack by half a point.

Gukesh at the closing ceremony with the organizers of the event | Photo: Rajinikanth

Gukesh's biggest competitor for the top spot at the tournament was GM Zeng Chongsheng. Until round seven both of them were leading with a score of 6.5/7. Gukesh and Zeng Chongsheng had already drawn their game in the fifth round. However, in the penultimate game of the event, Gukesh drew his game while the Chinese GM succumbed to a loss after overstretching against FM Jens Ostergaard.

Jens Ostergaard handed the Chinese GM, the only defeat of the event | Photo: Hillerød Chess Club

Gukesh, thus took a half point lead and won his final round game to seal the deal with 8.0/9.

The final standings of the tournament

While Gukesh winning the tournament was a great result for the youngster, usually a player like him prefers to play in tournaments where he has many grandmasters above him in terms of rating like the Gibraltar Masters or the Aeroflot Open, Reykjavik Open etc. Why did Gukesh decide to play the Hillerød chess club tournament where the first prize was a meager 3,000 DKK (Approximately Rs.31,000) and also where he was the second seed. We decided to do a short interview with the youngster and ask him these questions. Gukesh was kind enough to find time for this interview before he began his tournament in Cannes.

"I hope to get more invites from strong closed Round Robin events this year"

Sagar Shah (SS): How does it feel to win your first event of 2020?

D Gukesh (DG): I am happy and relieved that I won this tournament!

The closing ceremony with the winner Gukesh flanked by GM Zeng Chongsheng (second) and IM Siva Mahadevan (left, who finished third). | Photo: Rajinikanth

SS: Being the second seed, was the tournament easy for you or was it tough?

DG: The pressure was always there as I was expected to win most of my games but apart from a couple of games, I was able to control my play the way I wanted.


SS: You were the second seed, the prize fund was also not very high. Why did you decide to play this event?

DG: I had already accepted to play for my club at the Cannes Open and just wanted to tag one more event since I was already in Europe. Hillerød open suited the schedule .


SS: How was the organization and conditions offered by the organizers?

DG: Mr. Carsten Pedersen was an extremely friendly organiser who was very supportive from the start and gave good conditions to me and my dad. He took care of us very well during our stay. We just loved the stay provided as it was a nature resort, close to the forest and had a huge kitchen to cook our own food. We also had amenities like Table Tennis and Fusball which was helpful to relax.


SS: Which was your favourite game from the event?

DG: I like my 3rd and 4th round games against IM Siva Mahadevan and Jacob Mikkelsen Minosri.


D. Gukesh vs Siva Mahadevan

The position is quite unconventional (look at the rook on g1!) But Gukesh found a very nice way to win material. Can you find it? White to play and win.

SS: Tell us a bit about your seventh round game where you were completely lost and your opponent missed a mate in one! How did it feel?

In this position Gukesh's opponent could have easily sealed the deal with ...Rb7 or Qxg3. But instead he played ...Rxd3 and got mate in one move with Qg7!

DG: It was pretty disappointing game from me right from the start and my opponent was executing his moves perfectly. I was almost about to resign but just continued with some blind hope and suddenly he blundered into mate in one from a completely winning position. Though it was just huge relief, it wasn't comfortable. I was also surprised by the way in which my opponent handled the situation. He burst into loud laughter as soon as I delivered the checkmate and was cheerful. He even discussed about the game in a friendly way on the next day! Huge respect for him!

Jesper Schultz-Pedersen lost his game against Gukesh, but won his respect | Photo: Xtracon Open

SS: How has Microsense been helping you in your journey and how was the January camp of Microsense Kramnik Gelfand camp useful for you?

Gukesh was part of the Microsense Kramnik Gelfand training program in January 2020 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

DG: Microsense has been fully supportive for the past one and a half years helping me financially and also providing quality training camps from legends like Kramnik and Gelfand. It's a privilege to be trained under Kramnik sir and Gelfand sir and they have given lot of inputs which I am trying out and I am sure it will help me in the long run. This is my first tournament after the camp and my time management which was troubling me in the recent past is far better in this event thanks to their tips. I also want to thank my coach Vishnu Prasanna sir whose guidance has been invaluable. I hope to keep improving and justify their belief in me.


SS: It was very cold in Denmark and you used to travel from your hotel to the playing hall, a distance of nearly 3 kilometre on a cycle! Was it tough?

Rajinikanth and Gukesh powering their way through the Danish cold!

DG: It was easy for me as I was just the pillion rider. My dad toiled hard cycling through the cold to make sure I reached in time for my game in every round!


SS: Finally, Gukesh tell us, do you have an aim for 2020? If yes, what is it?

DG: My main aim is to improve my game overall, learn and rectify from my own mistakes and obviously climb up the ratings ladder to get opportunities and invites from strong closed tournaments.

A fantastic quality of Gukesh is that he always wants to learn more. After winning the last round he knew he had become the champion, but he didn't want to lose the opportunity to analyze with his opponent. | Photo: Rajinikanth