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Lucena in Lockdown #2: IM Leon Mendonca

by Avathanshu Bhat - 09/04/2020

We return with another edition of Lucena in Lockdown, the series where we look at the lives of the juniors under lockdown! Today, we will be looking at the daily life of Leon Mendonca. For those of you who aren't aware, Leon and his father are currently in Budapest and were unable to leave in time for India before the lockdown was announced! It can be very sad to be so far and away from family in this time, but read on to see how Leon spends his time, preparing chess, studying, and listening to his favourite music! Also read on for some wonderful words of wisdom from Lyndon Mendonca, on how perspectives matter a lot in the way we look at the world.

The earth is under maintenance

Avathanshu Bhat interviews IM Leon Mendonca


I think Leon really summarized the situation where he is staying well. I’ll let his words on the situation in Budapest speak for themselves here:


“The situation is not really that bad as we have some freedom. Budapest is not yet in lockdown, so I guess it has a better situation than India and USA. What I like about being here during this situation is that firstly everyone is adhering to restrictions without questions. Everyone always wears masks and carry out social distancing. From 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., no one is allowed to buy groceries as that time is reserved for older citizens, 65 and above. The story, for anyone that doesn’t know, is that I played the last round of the round robin tournament on the 17th of March and we were due to fly on the morning of the 18th. However, we were denied flying by Qatar airways because we wouldn’t make it to Doha before the restriction was in place, which was 12:00 GMT. If we had taken the flight, we would have been sent back to Budapest from the officials there. Anyways, we found an Airbnb to stay in, my dad wrote back to the embassy and we’ve been in touch with them since. They will send updates on the situation; the earliest we’re looking at is 14th April midnight. It is not that chilly here as spring has just set in, so not that cold here, which makes me comfortable and ready for my routine.

Leon never stops, come sunshine, rain, or spring! | Photo: Lyndon Mendonca

“I get up at 7:30 and I say my prayers. I also do some yoga for my physical fitness and do some meditation as well. I distribute my time between academics and chess and I’m studying as per the portion. I do my practice for chess based on what I think is a priority, and what I feel like doing. For my preparation, I use my ChessBase 15 software. I also read some chess books recently, namely Saying No to Chess Principles by Evgeny Bareev and Life and games of Mikhail Tal. My last tournament was the first Saturday GM round robin that took place here in Budapest, which was where the whole incident happened.

Interested in reading what Leon is reading? Check it out below!

On Skype with Coach GM Vishnu Prasanna analysing the live games from the Candidates; his bet was on Ding! | Photo: Lyndon Mendonca

“I haven’t really felt in the mood for many hobbies these days, so I have been biding my time doing chess. During the candidates my coach GM Vishnu Prasanna involved me and we discussed the games live which was pretty fun! I wasn’t really rooting for anyone specifically, but I thought Ding would win! I am still taking online classes regularly. Back in India we used to go to Vishnu Prasanna’s house. I miss those classes in person.


Usually we are inside the house and don’t go out as much, so I have been sticking only to my work. I didn’t carry my chess books or my violin unfortunately, so I mainly watch chess videos (sometimes of ChessBase India!) and listen to music. I wish I had got my violin, but of course I couldn’t due to the weight restriction at the airport. I like listening to the Hungarian pianist Peter Bence."

Peter Bence's most famous song - has 46 million views! You can check out his channel here.

Chess, books, and music, what a combo! | Photo: Lyndon Mendonca

“My father actually cooks for me, and he goes to get supplies for up to 10 days from the local supermarket. We do not have to worry about household chores as we are staying in an apartment in Airbnb. This would have been a great opportunity to be back in Goa for me and my father to be with my family, so it is kind of sad that we are stuck here. Back in India, I see that it is a great inconvenience for everyone to be unable to leave their houses, but from another perspective I think it’s good. Because of lower traffic the Earth gets a break from daily emissions and the air quality will get better. You could say the Earth is under maintenance. I’m just doing what I would have done anyway irrespective of the Coronavirus. So, I haven’t really felt too much of a difference.”

Chess for the mind, yoga for the soul | Photo: Lyndon Mendonca

I think that was rather well put by Leon! It can definitely feel bad when you are not with the companionship of your family during this trying time. Here is what Leon’s dad, Lyndon Mendonca, has to say about how to stay calm and level-headed in such a situation:


“Leon starts his day with his prayers and meditation. He feels it is very important, because he wants to convey his gratitude about his family and friends for all being well. I feel that everything has a reason, and so we must have been destined to get stuck here. I always look at it that way, and prefer to see the bright side in everything. Yes, it would have been great to be at home as Beverly, my daughter, has just finished her exams, so that quality time is missed out on. My wife is also very busy as she is a doctor, and is assigned to cases regarding this pandemic. Just this morning, she left for Pune to aid with tests and medical equipment and so on. It is important to keep a positive frame of mind and I am always telling Leon about all the good happening around the world. As of now, it may seem like the bad outweighs the good, but the important thing is to look past it and move on. I am still fortunate India doesn’t have it as bad as some of other countries and for that I’m thankful.”

Leon's father, Lyndon Mendonca, is always a ray of positivity, which he shares with others!

These are very true words by the two of them. Perspectives can change everything about the way you look at the world and the people around you. And the best part is, it is you who chooses the perspective. You can see everything for how beautiful it is, for the fun it provides, or the good that comes from it. Sure, it is very hard to think of the Coronavirus and not imagine a mass wipeout, but that’s exactly the trick of perspectives. You can ignore all the bad, and replace your thoughts about the future, about the past and of your memories from another time. The same applies for the game of chess. It is your choice to be remorseful over the losses or being joyous over the victories. It is the story of the pessimist and the optimist again. It’s never a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ scenario; it’s just the way you look at it. And for those people that know this, always are happier and tranquil as compared to those always filled with worry and anxiety. But hey, that’s the way I look at it, you could have another one too!

Know more about Leon:

12-year-old Leon Mendonca creates history by scoring three IM norms in 17 days!

I want to be a GM as soon as possible: Leon Luke Mendonca

"I feel I have learnt a lot in endgame play from the Kramnik Camp" - IM Leon

CBIJ #06: The inside stories about India's two most talented youngsters - Raunak and Leon

13-year-old Leon Mendonca's symphony on the chess board!
He is cute, he is 12, he is 2200+ and he is improving at great speed
Like Smyslov and Taimanov, Leon is also a chess musician!
The talented chess musician IM Leon Mendonca | Ave Maria

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