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The man with a golden heart - IM Anup Deshmukh

by Sauravh Kherdekar - 11/09/2020

A man who has beaten Vishy Anand twice in his teenages, became an IM with a career high Elo of 2430, has trained numerous grandmasters without charging them any fee and remains an active chess player even till date, winning over 30 FIDE rated events in the his career. A man with such accomplishments definitely has to be someone special. Meet Anup Deshmukh, the man with a golden heart. Anup's achievements are so many that they cannot be crammed into one article, but FM Sauravh Kherdekar has made an attempt on this front. It's an article not to be missed. Get to know this gem of Indian chess better! 

Anup Deshmukh - The Superman of Indian Chess

By Sauravh Kherdekar

Anup Deshmukh in deep thought, doing what he does best - playing chess! | Photo: Angela Franco

Anup Deshmukh was born on 30th January 1967 in Nashik, Maharashtra. His family shifted to Amravati and he did his primary education at Zizamata Balakmandir in Amravati. Anup sir learned chess from his father's friends watching them play in the year 1972, when he was just five years old.


His first serious introduction to chess started when he came to Know Dr Rakhewar, who went to become his first guru in chess. Dr Rakhewar moved to the quarters where Anup used to stay. An informal club on Saturday and Sunday where most players in Amravati would come and play is how it all began for Anup. For 2 years Anup just watched others play and learned the skill by observing them. In those days the round used to be slated at 6 p.m in the evening but many players who were shopkeepers used to reach the club at 9 p.m . It was considered inappropriate to claim a walkover. So the games would start at 9 p.m and finish at 3 or 4 a.m in the morning. Young Anup would reach home early in the morning and would eventually sleep in the school! 

A young Anup Deshmukh on the right!

Young Anup Deshmukh with Standing left to right: Hemant Kashikar, Ravindra Dongre, Dr. Arvind Bhave and Late Kashinath Mangal

Anup faced a lot of tragic instances in his childhood. He lost his mother to a heart attack in year 1970, when he was just 3 years old. His father also lost his job in 1975 and thus his childhood days were very hard both personally and financially. It's said that the things that happen in your life often mould the chess player that you are. Anup used the chess board to pour out all the creativity that existed within him. Eventually as he grew up, he became one of the most imaginative attackers in Indian chess circles. He never really studied opening theory in his life. I realized after many of my personal encounters with him, that it was always better to be materially down with him and be active in the game rather than be greedy and win some material and face the music! I have seen many games of young players who come to the board prepared in the opening get a theoretically winning position against Anup, call their friends over the board to admire their brilliance and in the end are outfoxed and completely shocked by their loss!

Opening is just one phase of the game for Anup! In order to win against him, you have to beat him in the middlegame and endgame as well! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Anup was in the same age group as Vishy Anand in his early days. Two years separated them. Anup managed to get better of the prodigious talent twice as he beat him at the National Sub-junior in Hyderabad and in National Juniors in Dharwad in the year 82-83. He won the National Under 25 in Anakapalle in 1989 and in Salem in 1990. During his National Under 25 win at Anakapalle his family disallowed him to take part in the tournament. With the help of some friends he could gather some money to play in the tournament. But it was only enough to eat 2 idlis every morning for 9 days. He still went on to become the National Champion.

Two of the finest players of Maharashtra chess - IM Sharad Tilak and IM Anup Deshmukh

Anup qualified to be a part of the Indian chess team by finishing 5th at National A at Muzzafarpur in 1998. He represented India in the Elista Olyampiad in 1999 where the team finished 33rd. He also played the youth Olympiad for India in Brazil in 1991. He became an IM in 1999 and reached a career high rating of 2430.

Anup Deshmukh with his good friend and strong player Pankaj Joshi

Anup with Dilip Pagey in Hong Kong 1995

Anup Deshmukh with Surya Ganguly, Bharat Singh Chauhan and Dibyendu Barua

When it comes to longevity, very few can compete with him. He has won over 30 All India Open titles in his career. The winning hasn't stopped even after crossing the age of 50 years! Anup joined LIC in 1991 and won the All India LIC chess event more than ten times. He has been a regular member of the LIC team. He still wants to become a grandmaster and plays chess with the same passion as a 15 year old. He retired from LIC as an Administrative officer in 2019.

My aim is to be world's oldest GM - Anup Deshmukh

Anup is a great fighter in life. He struggled with financial difficulties and due to his huge heart he always gave away his time and money for others. His contribution as a coach is immense in Indian chess. He is someone who is loved and respected by players, parents and organisers of the country. He did not charge any fees from many of his students and several stars of Indian chess learned the tricks of the trade from him. He taught values and manners to his students apart from the regular chess lessons. He drove away fear of failure from their mind and taught them important psychological aspects of life. Among his students are GM Vidit Gujrathi, GM Abhijeet Gupta, GM Swapnil Dhopade, GM Raunak Sadhwani, IM Hemant Sharma, IM Rahul Sangma, IM Sameer Kathmale, IM Prantik Roy and others. Among women players he has coached WIM Divya Deshmukh, WIM Mrudul Dehankar, IM Nisha and Swati Mohota, IM Eesha Karavade and many others. He also coached blind chess player Darshan Kshirsagar. There are hundreds of other players, who have received free coaching from him. Apart from this, he has conducted many free coaching camps in different cities of India over the years.

An inspiration to the young generation of India! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

He believed in physical fitness. He used to run at the track and field in Nagpur for hours and was told by the coaches there to run elsewhere, as young runners could not match him. He participated in the All India LIC Track and field championship and finished third. He is also a very good Table tennis player and played at the All India Table Tennis Veterans Championships in  Srinagar 201 and was due to play at the World Veterans in New Zealand. He learned swimming at the age of 35 and he could walk on his hands for a long distance. I remember an incident when Anup returned from playing Parasvanath open in Delhi and joined us for a tournament in Mumbai. Many players were infected with jaundice and Anup was also one of them. He played the Mumbai tournament just drinking juice and finished in top 5. On returning to Nagpur his Bilirubin level was 35! Usually people go in coma at the level of 36.

Anup Deshmukh in Panchmarhi in 1995!

Fitness and immense will power has been the key to Anup Deshmukh's success

He is a very spiritual person and would often walk from Nagpur to Ramtek on Ramnavmi which is around 52 Kms. He would start in the evening sometimes alone and reach there early in the morning. Anup has undertaken journies like Jalgaon to Indore as well on foot, which he managed to complete in a few days!

With the future of Indian chess - Nihal Sarin

Anup Deshmukh was appointed as the coach of Indian team for the World Juniors to be held in Turkey in 2008. A year before that Harika after leading at the World juniors lost last two rounds and missed the gold. This time Anup made sure that there were no such glitches. He would stand in the tournament hall for the entire duration of the round and motivate the players who would finish their games. He would get up 4 a.m. in the morning and jog with Parimarjan Negi, stand for 5 to 6 hours in the tournament hall and encourage players, analyse games in the evening and then play blitz until 2 a.m. in the night with players, slept for two hours and was up again for the jog at 4 a.m! The result? India won two medals in the open section with Abhijeet Gupta winning the gold and Parimarjan Negi taking home the silver. Harika won the gold in girls. I must mention that no coach or country has achieved this record until now. He was also the coach of the Indian Youth team for Asian Youth held at China in 2010. India won a whopping 25 medals including 3 gold medals and topped the overall medals category.

Anup Deshmukh with Abhijeet Gupta, D. Harika, Parimarjan at the World Juniors 2008| Photo: The Hindu

The coaching camps for Asian Youth 2010, where India managed to pick up 25 medals!

Anup as a person has a heart of Gold. He has helped many persons financially and otherwise also. When he came to know that Mr. Abdul Jabbar, a former National-A player from Nagpur was in debt and very bad financial condition, he came up with a unique idea of conducting an All India open for the benefit of Mr Abdul Jabbar in 1998 in Nagpur. He raised 5 lakhs from entry fees and through donations from chess players and others. There was an overwhelming response to the idea and many other good things started to happen then. It was also the first time that 3 laptops were also gifted in the event with the help of Mayor of Nagpur. Shri Deonath Maharaj of Nath Sampraday was Anup's Guru. Seeing the difficulties his Guru faced while travelling, Anup gave his i10 car to him on the day of Gurupoornima in 2015.

Receiving the highest sporting honour of Maharashtra, the Shiv Chhatrapati award in 2018 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Anup could have achieved much more as a player and financially as a coach. He always believed in doing the right thing and being polite with anyone he met. Rahul Dravid was appointed a coach at NCA Bangalore because he is the right person to guide young kids and teach them the values of game and life. I feel the AICF should look into coaches like Anup Deshmukh for guiding youngsters in chess. What Anup has achieved as a player, coach and a person, makes him deservedly the Superman of Indian chess.

No great thing ever happens without the support of the family. A big thanks to wife Meenal and daughter Aditi for supporting Anup in his chess career!

Testimonial from students:

GM Vidit Gujrathi

Anup sir has played a big role in my life. I remember when I was 10 years old, I had gone to Nagpur and trained with him. Those were some extremely valuable chess lessons. His passion for the game was immense. He would be completely immersed in the game while teaching me. This naturally made a big impact on me as a chess player. He helped me win the under-11 national title. I remember that it was not just me, but also many players from my generation who benefited from his training and went on to become strong players - GM Abhijeet Gupta and GM Swapnil Dhopade to name a couple of them. Anup sir would not charge fees and also take care of the expenses of the students who would come to his place. He is such a benevolent man. No words can do justice to what he has contributed towards the chess fraternity. I am immensely grateful.


GM Abhijeet Gupta

I remember I was 11-12 years old and playing at the Bikaner Commonwealth Championship. My father met Anup Deshmukh and asked him if he could train me. Anup sir came to my home and trained me and he did not charge me a single penny! What a gesture! And it was not just a one time thing. I remember that I would stop at his place and train with him many times before going to the tournament. The period between when I was 12 to 15 is when Anup sir made a deep impact on me as a chess player. Even until this date my relationship with him is as special as it was a couple of decades ago! I still cannot believe that he never charged me any fees and instead would take me out for shopping in Nagpur and buy clothes and gifts for me. The first building blocks of my attacking active style of play was built up by him. When I won the World Juniors 2008, I was accompanied by my trainer Vishal Sareen. However, Anup sir's presence at the coach of the Indian team was a reassuring factor for me. I remember that before the event we had some AICF camps where I worked with him and it helped me as a player. There were times when my train would pass through Nagpur when I was en-route to a tournament and Anup sir would come to the railway station with food. I thank him for everything that he has done for me and I owe him a lot in my life!


GM Swapnil Dhopade:

I clearly remember my first interaction with Anup sir. My parents had asked Anup sir to give some time so I could get some guidance from sir. He graciously accepted our request and invited us in his home. I was a complete beginner and was very excited for this meeting. When I went to his home I saw Anup sir sitting with a book in his hand and a chess set in front of him. Around him were some of the talented youngsters of Maharashtra. All of them were analyzing a game with sir explaining them the ideas behind every move in his trademark style. I was really inspired by that interaction with him and at the end he also gave me a latest Informator and he told me to study all the games in this book. I followed his instructions and saw a jump in my playing level. Our bond grew with time and I also got a chance to travel with him to tournaments outside India, for example Malaysia and Dubai. I did not just learn chess from him but he is also my spiritual guide. Anup sir is a very spiritual person and he always tried to impart some spiritual values in his students so that they would also succeed in life in general. His passion for chess is amazing! But even more is his love for service. He has trained many talented young kids without charging any fees. I believe this intention to help players improve their game without anything in return is what distinguishes him from many other chess players.


GM Raunak Sadhwani:

Anup sir helped me to get a deeper understanding of chess in my earlier days. He always motivated and encouraged me. When I was playing IIFL junior and there when I drew a clearly winning game and I was feeling very low- He told me just give your best in your remaining rounds and you will be the champion and his words were so true. He has great hopes from me and I hope I can fulfill and make him proud soon one day. He taught me chess without any fees. Grateful for everything he did for me and will always remember.


IM Nisha Mohota

I was always hungry for knowledge in my childhood and enjoyed the company of my seniors who were friendly and who had amazing stories to share from the pages of their life. Anup Bhaiya has had some wonderful life experiences and his story telling ability is great. I never missed a chance to interact with him. Amravati was a common factor between us. My baba (father's elder brother) is from Amravati and Anup Bhaiya has also spent some of his childhood days in the same place. So, he would always consider me as his sister. He would tell me, "Arey tu to apne Amravati ki hai" (You are from my very own Amravati!) Later I joined LIC and we were in the same company. LIC annual meet is where I would see him every year and we had our session of stories, his games, and more. I enjoyed his Tal like attacking games which would be so wild that I would never understand the evaluation. I would just enjoy his fearless style. Watching his games were a treat for the eyes. I became the national champion in 2005 and was determined to take my game to the next level. I asked Anup Bhaiya if I could come to his place in Nagpur and work with him for a few days. He readily agreed and in February 2006, I went to his home and worked for 16 days! He would stress to me the importance of physical fitness by waking me up early every morning and going to the track and field to exercise. He brainwashed me during the 16 days by telling me what a great player I was. We saw a lot of classics together and at the end of the training when I insisted that he should take money for the training, he said, "You are like my sister! How can I take money from you!" I am very grateful to Anup Bhaiya for building my confidence and giving every minute of those 16 days to me. I would also like to thank Meenal Bhabhi and their daughter Aditi, who treated me with great care. They never complained even though Anup Bhaiya would spend all his time on chess training with me. Anup Bhaiya is an amazing human being. He has helped a lot of people selflessly. It's very rare to find such a pure soul.


WIM Divya Deshmukh

IM Anup Deshmukh Sir helped me to give good foundation and overall understanding of chess in my early chess career. He guided me in the year 2012 along with Rahul Joshi Sir. He used to motivate me a lot and would always used to tell me to aim higher. I am really indebted and grateful to him for his and Deshmukh Madam's support and encouragement.

Some memorable games from Anup Deshmukh's chess career:

Previous coverage of Anup Deshmukh on ChessBase India

Anup Deshmukh analyzes his win over Vishy Anand
Anup Deshmukh on receiving the Shiv Chatrapati award
Anup Deshmukh vs R.B. Ramesh analyzed by Anup
Swapnil Dhopade vs Anup Deshmukh
Anup Deshmukh's win against GM Burmakin, why Anand was special and parental pressure can be good!

It's not so easy to stop Evergreen Anup Deshmukh

Anup Deshmukh wins Khasdar Chashak Nagpur District 2018

About the author

Sauravh Kherdekar is a FIDE Master from Maharashtra. He is a strong chess player with a career high Elo of 2346 and is a well-known chess trainer. He has been a student of Anup Deshmukh and over the years has followed his work in the world of chess.