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The Gukesh homecoming - A story about destiny

by Aditya Sur Roy - 26/04/2024

17-year-old D Gukesh created history by becoming the youngest ever chess player to win the FIDE Candidates Chess Tournament! After his victory, the whole nation was elated and was eagerly waiting for Gukesh's return from Toronto. We decided to cover this magnificent event - Gukesh's homecoming on 25th April, 2 AM IST. Read the full account of a heroes welcome for Gukesh, the huge number of people who came to visit him even at such a late hour, the people who supported Gukesh throughout his journey, and everything else that transpired that day. Keep in mind the words of Paulo Coelho: "When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it."

From Chennai to Sri Lanka - how the Universe conspires for you

In case, you don’t believe that the Universe has the power to plan things in your life way bigger than you think of, you can stop reading here. 


There are moments we doubt the things happening in our lives unable to comprehend the greater picture that might be in store. A couple of weeks ago we received an invitation from the 2nd Queenstar Open 2024 to officially cover the tournament. While we were super occupied with the coverage of the FIDE Candidates 2024, we had to make sure that we keep everything arranged for our trip to Sri Lanka. The organizers were cooperative enough to provide all the necessary information, but recent changes in the Sri Lankan visa policy created a confusion. The correct way to acquire the visa was unclear and all the sites were down. Though somehow we managed to apply for the visa, we were unsure when it will be approved as the dates of travel was approaching near.

This photo should give you a good idea of the amount of work which went into covering the Candidates 2024. A total of 167 videos (much more coming soon!) are published in our dedicated YouTube playlist!

The tournament was scheduled to start from the 27th - but the organizers invited us to explore Sri Lanka if we wish, and prepone our trip. We were elated to recive this offer and the initial plan was to travel on the 24th of April, one day after the final day of the candidates. Cut to 22nd April, D Gukesh won the Candidates Tournament 2024! While we were thrilled, we had to make sure that we finish off all the work. While all this was happening, the visa was still not confirmed.

An elated Gukesh with IM Sagar Shah joining in the ChessBase India livestream after winning the Candidates Tournament 2024! | Photo: Michal Walusza

In the evening we got a confirmation from the organisers that on-arrival visas for Indian citizens is applicable and they sent us an invitation letter regarding that. I had send the same details to Supriya (Our Manager) so that she could help me book the tickets. As she is in New Zealand, it was already very late for me to inform her and I waited to get the tickets booked the next day.


Though I was excited for the trip, somewhere in my mind, something was not right. A few hours later, I received a message in our group that Gukesh will be arriving in Chennai on 25th April midnight, and it would be great if anyone from the team can go to cover the event. For a brief moment, I felt bad that it would have been great if I could go and cover this - but as we are already planning for Sri Lanka, it won’t be possible. But as I saw this message, I could understand that this might be the reason nothing was working out with the visa of Sri Lanka. You may believe it's just a coincidence, but let’s give some credit to the universe.

These were the scenes at Gukesh's fan meetup in Toronto - it was easily imaginable what would the crowd be like when he returns to India! | Photo: Sanket Nawle

I messaged Sagar that I would love to go, I would reach Chennai Airport on the 24th night, cover his home-coming and take an early morning flight to Colombo next day. I was all set with the plan when I found that the evening ticket prices from Hyd-Chennai are too expensive. I started doubting the decision when something struck my mind. Why don’t I take an early morning flight on the 24th, go to Chennai, visit Gukesh’s home, interview his mother, interview his long-time coach GM Vishnu Prasanna and also visit Gukesh’s school. While we finish all these in the day, we can comfortably cover his return and take a morning flight to Sri Lanka.


Having woke up early in the morning for the last few days and having hectic schedules, this plan was already asking for sudden excitement. But I didn’t waste any time, and messaged Sagar that I would need to discuss something with him and if we could get on a call. As Sagar was working almost 20 hours a day, he dozed off and I had a plan that was waiting for the permissions - as it was as crazy as it sounded. 


As I waiting for Sagar’s reply, I had the thoughts if the plan would even work or not. Suddenly, I received a message from Amruta asking if I was planning to go to Chennai or not and what was the plan. I quickly send a voice note to her and her excitement in the reply was enough to initiate the plan. Supriya was quick enough to arrange everything while my colleague Abhyudaya, our team’s coverage expert also was on board with the plan.

Abhyudaya had gifted Gukesh a beautiful artwork when he visited Mumbai for recording a ChessBase Video course!

At any cost, we did not wanted to miss the moment of Gukesh’s homecoming. By 24th afternoon, me and Abhyudaya were in Chennai. Amruta had spoken to Gukesh’s mother about us visiting their place so we knew when to be there. The other plans were not fixed yet. We spoke to Gukesh's long-time coach GM Vishnu Prasanna and explained that we would like to interview him. He was kind enough to make some time for us in the evening. The final part of the plan was to visit Gukesh’s school - Velammal Vidyalaya and that turned out to be most challenging part of the entire plan. There are multiple branches of the school and we were not sure which one to go - so we started with one and we came to know this was not the right one. Then we went to the other branch and the search continued. It took us almost two hours to finally find the correct branch. 

This was it - Velammal Vidyalaya, the school where Gukesh studies! | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

When we finally managed to reach there, we thought of just taking some clips and rush to Vishnu’s place as we did not want him to wait for us but little did we know that some greater things were planned for us that day. We met Velavan Velammal at the school who was Gukesh’s coach in his early days. He shared many fun facts and stories about Gukesh!

Gukesh's first coach, Mr. Velavan Velammal! | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

We found his first class room in the school and documented it. While we were about to leave, we came to know that even they are arranging a mega welcome for Gukesh. One hundred school children will gather at 1:30 am to go to the airport to welcome their champion. This was something we did not imagine and we became a part of the plan as it would be epic for us to get a chance to cover it. Once we were done with the school, it was already late so we requested Vishnu if we could reschedule the meeting after we meet Gukesh’s mother? He politely agreed.

Gukesh's classroom IV-E - the first class Gukesh ever attended in Velammal School was here! | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

We did not waste any time and made our way to Gukesh’s place, It was one of the nicest experience to meet Gukesh's mother and Grandma. Some of the nicest people you will meet! We spoke for a while and did a quick interview.

"I never thought he would lose" - Gukesh's Mother Padmaja on her son winning the Candidates | Interview: Aditya Sur Roy

Once the interview was over, we asked Dr. Padmakumari if we can take a picture with her, she mentioned that there is someone else who also wants a picture with you - and in comes Gukesh's grandma! We were surprised to know that she is a ChessBase India fan and follows everything we do. We were so happy to meet her!

A lovely photo to remember for years to come!

Such a cute photo of Baby Gukesh!

It was time for us to say goodbye and meet Vishnu at his institute - GM Vishnu's Chess Club. Vishu spoke to us about his feelings about the massive achievement of Gukesh and the reasons why he thought that Gukesh is the champion. Gukesh has always been very vocal about Vishnu’s contribution towards his success and it was very important for us to meet him. Now that we were done with all our appointments, it was time to head back to our hotels take some rest and get ready for the big event- The Homecoming of Gukesh.

Meet the Coach Who Shaped Gukesh's Historic Win! | GM Vishnu on Gukesh Winning the Candidates | Interview: Aditya Sur Roy

Taking a pause here from all that is happening. Just wanted to remind you that my visa still did not arrive and I am set to travel the next morning to a different country. I checked my emails and there was no luck yet. I went ahead to check for the flight, and somehow even that wasn’t working. I left everything and concentrated on taking some rest. Abhyudaya meanwhile did not rest and did what he does best. He took out an answer from Gukesh’s mother’s interview and made a fantastic short which went viral immediately!

Gukesh: Conqueror of the Universe 🔥| Edit: Abhyudaya Ram

We hardly got any rest while it was already time to leave for Velammal Vidyalaya. When we reached there it was 01:30am and we could see around 10-12 school staffs coordinating 100 children to board the bus. As exciting as it was looking, I was wondering if this was possible anywhere else in the world. Their enthusiasm triggered ours, and our lack of sleep or rest disappeared in a moment! We were all set to reach the airport.

Numerous students of Velammal School lined up in the bus, travelling to the Airport! | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

When we reached there, we saw almost 200 people already waiting for Gukesh at 2:30 am and the crowd just kept on growing. And finally the moment came and as the young champ came out from the door, the crowd erupted in cheer and everyone wanted a piece of the moment! Though it was complete chaos, it was also love for the youngster.

Completely surrounded by the fans! | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

In a country where even gold medalists and world champions of other sports get hardly any media attention, the game of chess getting so much attention is something nobody would have expected. There were around 1000 people at 3am in the morning cheering the 17-year-old. Though Gukesh was evidently uncomfortable with all the rushing and pushing, it was commendable to see how camly he handled it. There were a lot of emotions going through our minds but we were happy to see this is happening to chess.

This photo should give you an idea of how many people were waiting for Gukesh's arrival! | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

That wonderful moment when Gukesh met his mother! | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

Finally it was over, Gukesh headed home. It was around 4 AM, and we rushed to our hotel with the plan that somehow we have to put out the material right away. Abhyudaya collated the videos and started working on them. I checked my emails once again and there was nothing yet. I thought of getting some sleep, as I knew I had a long day planned for tomorrow. I woke up after a quick snap and Abhyudaya has almost completed the edit. I told him to publish the video immediately. It was hardly 5 AM, and he doubted if it is a good idea to post the video at such a time.

I posted some photos of Gukesh meeting his mother to test if we can actually post the video and to our surprise we were poured with likes and comments at that time of the day. We posted the video and it was all set to be a part of history. We were happy that we could pull this off but we were not aware of the amount of love we would receive for this.

Gukesh's Grand Welcome at Chennai Airport after Winning the Candidates 2024 | Video: ChessBase India

In that very moment, I thought of checking my email and what do I see? My visa has been approved with just a few hours remaining for my flight. A smile appeared on my face and my I looked up and thanked the universe. 


All of this would have not been possible if the visa came on the right time. I would have been on my way to Sri Lanka by now in that case! Don’t take this as arrogance - I am sure that someone else could have done this too, but I believe what I and Abhyudaya had done here would have been very hard for anyone else.


As I get the final call of boarding my flight to Sri Lanka, it is time for me to say goodbye.Just want to finish by saying that sometimes it is okay for things to not plan out. Sometimes it is okay to fail. You never know what’s in store.

A photo of the beautiful Laknara Grand Hotel - where the Queenstar International Open will take place! | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

This article was edited by Himank Ghosh.


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