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"I never thought he would lose" - Gukesh's Mother Padma Kumari on her son winning the Candidates 2024

by Rasika Ratnaparkhi - 04/07/2024

It was November 2013 when a seven-year-old boy from Chennai, attended the World Championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen. Little did he know that 11 years later, he would find himself in a similar position, but this time as a challenger for the World Championship title! Gukesh Dommaraju has become the youngest chess player ever to win the Candidates Tournament at just 17 years old. Now, he will challenge the reigning World Champion Ding Liren for the title in Singapore in November 2024. As Gukesh won the Candidates, ChessBase India flew down to Chennai to do a short interview with Gukesh's mother Padma Kumari.

An interview with Gukesh's mother Padma Kumari after her son won the Candidates 2024

Gukesh's mother Padma Kumari greets her son as he returns from Canada after winning the FIDE Candidates 2024

Back in 2017, after winning the under-11 national title Gukesh expressed his dream to become the youngest World Chess Champion to ChessBase India. Fast forward to April 2024 and Gukesh has won the Candidates tounament and is now just one step away from becoming the 18th World Champion. Gukesh became the youngest player ever to win the FIDE Candidates, achieving this title at the tender of just 17 years. Throughout the tournament, Gukesh showed incredible fighting spirit and maintained his cool, both on and off the board. When asked who he feared the most in the Candidates Tournament, Gukesh confidently replied, "No one." Gukesh's confidence stems from a very strong family support, especially his mother Padma Kumari who has unwavering belief in her son's abilities.

Gukesh's interview on ChessBase India after he won the national under-11 championships in Pune in 2017

ChessBase India had the opportunity to speak with Gukesh's mother, Padma Kumari, after his triumphant victory at the Candidates Tournament. Aditya Sur Roy and Abhyudaya Ram travelled to Gukesh's home in Chennai as they boy was on his way back home from Toronto with his father Rajinikanth. In this conversation, Padma Kumari shared her feelings about Gukesh's success, the secret behind her son's calm demeanor, and how she motivates him. She also revealed the story behind Gukesh's name and offered a heartfelt message to all mothers who dream of their children achieving great success like Gukesh.


Read on to discover the insights of the mother who has created the youngest World Chess Championship Challenger ever:

Interview with Padma Kumari, Gukesh's mother

The reaction of Gukesh's parents after he became a GM in 2019

Aditya Sur Roy (AR): Congratulations on this massive achievement. Can you tell us what were the thoughts that were going into your head when it was 4:30 a.m. and Gukesh was still not calling after his final round at the FIDE Candidates 2024?

Padma Kumari (PK): For every tournament, after the final round is over and if the result is positive, I get a call from Gukesh’s father. So, I was waiting for his call till 5 a.m. But I thought maybe it was a draw, that's why he didn't call me. I was sure that he would not lose! I thought maybe there would be a tie-break and after that, he will call me. After around 5:45 to 6:00, his father called me. The moment the phone rang, I knew that there is some good news. I got a little emotional. We talked for a few seconds and his father told me that Gukesh was in the conference so he would call me after that. Finally, after 2-3 hours, we talked for a bit.


AR: You must have received so many messages from friends and family. What were your emotions when you realized that all these years of hard work had paid off?

PK: I am extremely happy that all the hard work Gukesh and his father have put in has finally paid off! This journey was about 10 years long! He started in 2014 and now it's 2024. So, I am extremely excited and overwhelmed with happiness.

Gukesh's mother in 2018 when her son was just an IM

AR: Your motivational words and heartfelt messages must be very important for Gukesh. So, did you talk to him during the tournament?

PK: Yes. Before he goes to the round, we talk for around 2 minutes. After the game, when he is relaxed, he calls me once. We have a conversation for a few minutes.

Gukesh with his parents at the Microsense Kramnik Gelfand Training Camp in Chennai

AR: Were you closely following the Tournament? It was a neck-to-neck event. Every round was important. But Gukesh’s seventh round game with Alireza was very heartbreaking. Did you say anything motivational to him after that game?

PK: Definitely! Whenever he is upset about anything, he comes to me for emotional support. Our small conversations makes him feel confident. When it was a rest day, we talked for around 10-15 minutes. I told him that it was okay. The tournament was not over yet. There are seven more rounds. You have seven rounds to recover. Now, don't repeat the mistake in the important rounds. I told him to think that whatever happens, it happens for the good. He should be calm, composed, and confident.  

Round 7: Gukesh loses to Alireza due to time pressure

AR: There are many more mothers like you who are waiting for their son to become the next Gukesh and the next Superstar of India. But it's not always that everybody can achieve what Gukesh has achieved today. What would you like to say? How should they go ahead with this?

PK: What I can say is, we didn't force him to do anything. We allowed him to take up his passion. We did whatever we could do. For us, one thing was sure - that Gukesh is not going to waste time. He is working hard and he is showing results. We realized it right from the time he started. After some years, he was showing good results. When you know that your child is making progress, he is not wasting his time, he is dedicated, allow him to pursue his passion. Always support the kids and whatever they are interested in. When you allow them to do it, they shine brightly.

Gukesh's parents speak about their journey at the WACA celebrations in Bangalore in 2024

AR: We have seen Gukesh very closely when he scored eight out of eight at the Olympiad. Then he went on to win the gold medal. And now he is the Challenger. Since that period, we have seen the same humble, down-to Earth and polite Gukesh. Could you please tell us where does he get this from?

PK: It’s just his nature. Also, we used to tell him from his childhood that be like Viswanathan Anand sir. He is a legend! But see how humble he is. Whatever heights you achieve, always keep in mind that it should never get into your head. Always be humble. That will take you to different levels.

Zen G! | Photo: FIDE

AR: What is the story behind Gukesh’s name? What is the meaning of it?

PK: Gukesh’s meaning is the conqueror of the universe. At that time, we didn't think about all those things. But according to astrology, his name should start with G or Gu in Tamil. So, we browsed through so many names and we thought this name was different, unique and it had a good meaning too. So, we decided to name him Gukesh. It was his father's choice.

The meaning of Gukesh's name

AR: Thank you so much for giving us this time and lots of congratulations!

PK: Thanks a lot! I would also congratulate and thank ChessBase India. Without you guys, nobody would have known who Gukesh was 8-10 years ago. It is ChessBase India who brought him to light. So, we are always thankful to you!

Mother's Love!

Gukesh fever at the Chennai airport
Gukesh's grand welcome at the Chennai airport

It is often believed that behind every young child who believes in themselves is a parent who believes in them first. Gukesh's parents constantly believed in him. With their constant support and encouragement, Gukesh will surely conquer the world. Now, as Gukesh prepares to challenge for the World Championship title, we hope that his journey will serve as an inspiration for all young chess players. Maybe this will inspire them too to conquer the world and become World Champion one day!

The Gukesh documentary | From facing Hikaru Nakamura to meeting his mother

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