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The Pride of Pune: Abhimanyu Puranik

by Saishyam Srikanth - 16/06/2021

Born on the 11th of February 2000, Abhimanyu Puranik is just 21 years old. However, he boasts of a very healthy Elo of 2589. Coming from the city of Pune, Abhimanyu rose through the ranks of the promising young boy to becoming one of the best in the country. How did he manage to do that? How has he balanced his chess as well as education? And who are the people who have played a role in his sucess story? This is our profile story on one of India's brightest young talents, who is at a critical juncture of his chess career - will he remain a strong 2600+ GM or will be become a world class 2750+ player! Time will tell. For now enjoy this story of Abhimanyu Puranik. Thumbnail Image by Lennart Ootes.

Abhimanyu Puranik: The young star who’s elevating his game to the next level

When this kid was growing up, he was quite mischievous. His parents wanted him to use this energy for good and they got him enrolled at Velankar Academy. Every time he won a match, the coach there would give him a 1 Rupee coin. He used to proudly bring home this prize and that’s how his love for the sport began.


This is the tale of Grandmaster Abhimanyu Puranik and his first trysts with the sport. Today, he has an Elo rating of 2589 and is looking to break the barrier of 2600 as soon as possible. The young GM recently had a successful outing at the Bangladesh Premier League, a tournament which marked his return to Over the Board chess after a year’s break. He was the best player on Board 2 (8.0/10), and helped his team, Shahin Chess Club finish second in the event.

Throwback Photo of Abhimanyu! Can you identify the other GM in this picture?

Coaching and Idols

Makarand Velankar was Abhimanyu’s first coach and he started working with him when he was just five years old. Post this, he trained with coach Chandrashekhar Gokhale and then with his brother, Jayant Gokhale. Talking about Jayant Gokhale’s role, Abhimanyu says, “He has been my coach and mentor for many-many years, he's like a father figure to me.” Abhimanyu has also worked with GM Farrukh Amonatov, a Tajikistani player who regularly features in Indian tournaments. While Abhimanyu does have some sessions with his coaches, he spends most of his time working on his own. He notes that training with someone is very important, but it usually isn’t cheap.

One of the biggest contributors to Abhimanyu’s success has been his coach, Jayant Gokhale

With his coach, Farrukh Amonatov, who is a 2600+ GM

Who are the youngster’s idols? “While growing up, I was a big fan of Alekhine and then of course, Fischer and Tal. I think these players were my inspirations at the start but I'm seeing that every great player or World Champion has something different and (we can) learn from all of them.” The GM from Pune has two off the board interactions that he remembers very fondly. In 2015 on the side-lines of the Qatar Chess Masters he got a chance to play football with some of the best players in the world. He recollects, “It was fun and that was the first tournament where I saw the elite chess players like Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, Anish Giri etc. There were so many (of the best players) there that I can't even name all of them. We played football together and many elite players like Carlsen and Mamedyarov played with us.” While Abhimanyu enjoyed the experience, he remembers that it was also a bit humiliating for him at the time since he wasn't right up there with the best in his football skills.


The second memory is from 2018 at the Isle of Man tournament. The Indian talent remembers how GM Surya Ganguly invited him to dinner and Viswanathan Anand joined them there. Abhimanyu got a chance to interact with Anand and he remembers discussing some games with him. He describes that interaction as a ‘next level’ experience.

When the trailblazer speaks, everyone listens

Support System

Abhimanyu is currently completing the final year of his Bachelor of Commerce. Degree at Symbiosis College. The Symbiosis group has been a huge support for him since his childhood and he has only studied at their institutions. “I've been in Symbiosis the whole time (since his school days) because they have been so supportive. When I was in school, my day would end sooner than others. The regular time for school to end was around 2:10 p.m., but around 12 p.m, my parents used to pick me up and drop me to the chess class after this.” During his higher studies too, the institution has been very helpful, and they have never questioned why he needs to take leaves. His college has also been lenient with work and has given him the freedom to write his exams when he gets the time to prepare.

Abhimanyu with his parents, Sneha and Samir Puranik

Abhimanyu’s parents have been pillars of strength for him throughout his career. The GM from Pune notes, “Their support has been paramount, I think for any chess player, the support system especially in the starting years is extremely important.  For me, my parents have always been extremely motivating. I'm seeing that sometimes parents get anxious when their child is not performing for some time. (For me) it's not like that. They always say, it's okay you have many more games to play. You have a great career ahead of you. You cannot describe (their support) in words.”


He adds that chess is a hard sport and even those around the player need to show patience and perseverance. Talking about the empowering nature of the support system, “They have always been there for me, I only feel that I'm doing things for myself. So, if I play badly, I'm not disappointing someone, I'm disappointing myself. And this belief has been inculcated in me by them.” This empowering attitude that his parents have instilled has also been seen in other facets of his life. He tells me that his parents have complete trust in his judgment and have given him the freedom to decide what he wants to do after his Bachelor of Commerce course. For now, Abhimanyu plans to do a master’s degree and then he will decide if he wants to continue his education abroad or take up a job.


What has the pandemic year been like for the Indian talent? “It's been interesting. I won't say it's been as bad as people think of it to be. But chess-wise, it's been hard to find motivation at times because there aren't many tournaments. Online tournaments are fine, but I don't know if online blitz tournaments require a lot of preparation. It is a part of chess now, but I find it to be a bit different than Over the Board Chess. Actually, a big difference. So, it's been hard to find motivation.” Despite these challenges, Abhimanyu has been trying to pick up a few skills that maybe useful in the future. One of the things that he tried to learn was the Spanish language. He stopped learning after a while and says that he regrets it now. He has also been working on his fitness and his football skills.

Abhimanyu Puranik and IM Harshit Raja pose for a photo with the World Champion Magnus Carlsen at the Qatar Masters 2015

During this phase, Abhimanyu has been relaxing by watching a few shows. “I started with Narcos, which was awesome. I also watched Breaking Bad. Right now, I'm watching some serial killer documentaries. So yes, it's interesting.” One silver lining of the pandemic for Abhimanyu has been that he has gotten the chance to spend time with his friends and family. Something that he wouldn’t have had the chance to do otherwise.

Young Abhimanyu receives a prize from the man who laid the foundation of chess culture in Pune - Abhijit Kunte 

Career thus Far

One of the biggest moments of Abhimanyu’s career came at the World Junior Championship 2018. He won a silver medal and finished on a score of 8.5/11. One of his favourite games came in the last round of the tournament where he faced GM Aram Hakobyan. “I think I really liked that game overall because of the situation and the psychological aspect in the game which is not easily observable for everyone. But during the game, we both were feeling it, so it was great.” Enroute the silver medal, Abhimanyu had beaten some of the strongest players in the event like Jorden van Foreest and Alireza Firouzja. “Coming into that tournament I wasn't having any expectations as such. Of course, I wanted to do really well but I wasn't having any expectations. After the halfway point, I was having a pretty mediocre tournament. Not bad, but not so great either. Suddenly things started to go my way. Somehow, I got some confidence and I feel that the atmosphere at our hotel and at the tournament was pretty good for me. I was really motivated to work and prepare a lot for my games. I was confident always, but I mean something else was also helping me. I was just feeling really good, and was in the zone.” He ends with a cricket analogy to explain the zone: Football Jaise Dikhthi Hain ball! (The ball seems like a football).

Abhimanyu's performance at the World Juniors 2018
Final moments of Abhimanyu winning his 11th round game against Aram Hakobyan
Interview with IM Sagar Shah after winning the silver medal at the World Juniors 2018 in Turkey

With the spoils of his victory - Silver medal at the World Juniors 2018

The chess players who love football: GM Diptayan Ghosh, GM Abhimanyu Puranik and IM Harshit Raja

Another memory from his career comes from a very young age. He says, “The first time I played abroad was the World School Chess Championship in Greece. It was a big decision for my parents because I was seven years old. I played really well, and I won the tournament in the under-7 category.” This was a turning point in the young player’s career and after this, chess turned from a hobby into a much more serious pursuit. Some of his other moments of triumph include finishing 3rd at the World Youth Championships in 2010 and becoming a GM at Abu Dhabi in 2017, which was the culmination of a two-year effort.

Bangladesh Diaries: With the owner of Shahin Chess Club and fellow GM - Narayanan S L

If one looks at Abhimanyu’s rating chart, one will see a sudden spike in 2015. This was a really successful period for him when he got his IM title and earned around 100 Elo rating points over the course of a few tournaments in Spain.

Abhimanyu's rating graph!

Friends, Travel & Hobbies

Football is a big passion for Abhimanyu. He says, “During the pandemic it's been tough but generally we have a group of local, Pune chess players and we play football many times. Also, some others (join us). We play on a turf so it’s really nice. I enjoy watching and following football too.” Abhimanyu is a big Lionel Messi fan and is a supporter of FC Barcelona.

The big football fan attending a game in Spain

It is not an accident that one of his favourite places to travel to is Spain. “I really love the Spanish culture in terms of football and overall. It's laid back and nice. You can just go there, play your game, and then relax after the game. Also, the people there are really friendly.” Abhimanyu really enjoys the travel that comes along with his sport. He tells me, “I really love it. That is one of the greatest advantages of playing chess. Apart from the sport, I feel that you get to meet and learn about so many different people and cultures. You get to have many friends from different countries. It’s amazing. In which other occupation, would you have so much exposure at such an early age?”

Young Abhimanyu with late Dajikaka Gadgil, the founder of PNG jewellers and a great promoter of chess

While speaking about his friends, Abhimanyu highlights that he is never bored and always has someone to turn to, within the chess circle. He says, “(I am friends with) Harshit Raja, Soumya Swaminathan, Atharva Godbole, Abhishek Kelkar and Eesha Karavade. We have a group and always stay in touch. It's been really fun.” He is also close to GM Aryan Chopra and talks about how he feels it is important to keep progressing in the chess world, along with his friends.

A photo with the Gang! (From left to right): Saloni Sapale, Atharva Godbole, Harshit Raja, Coach Farrukh Amonatov, Abhimanyu, Eesha Karavade and Soumya Swaminathan

In addition to playing sports and watching shows, another hobby that Abhimanyu cherishes is that of collecting coins. He has a collection of coins from 60+ countries and one of his prized possessions is a coin from the era of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

Prized possessions from his collection: Coins that were used during the reign of Shivaji Maharaj

Into the Future

What are Abhimanyu’s goals? “First of all, I want to cross the psychological and rating barrier of 2600 and then maybe like as soon as possible, 2650 and so on. I don't have an end goal as such, I just want to improve like anything, and want to be in the chess elite.” Chess is such an integral part of his life that even when asked about how he relaxes during tournaments, he tells me, “You know, sometimes the most relaxing thing to do after the round is to discuss your round games with your roommate or whoever you're staying with. And it is pretty fun to analyse and understand your own games”.


Aside from chess, Abhimanyu relaxes at events by eating good food, and watching a light movie or a sitcom before he goes to sleep. This helps him get recharged and he’s then ready to take on the challenge of the next round. Chess at Abhimanyu’s level is an expensive sport, and he says, “It would be great to get more support. Chess is pretty expensive because of all the travel, coaching and other things that you need, to go further. I had sponsorship from IRB before and right now I'm under the contract scheme of Airports Authority of India and they have been really supportive.”


Through the next few years, Abhimanyu is hoping to achieve financial stability through a job while also trying to keep progressing in his chess career. When Abhimanyu plays chess, you can see his talent shining. Out of nowhere his pieces start getting active and weave beautiful traps, threats and ideas! It's something you see in the games of geniuses like Vishy Anand, Levon Aronian, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Abhimanyu has it in him to be one of the best in the world. A lot of factors have to fall in place for a 2600 rated talent to reach the level of 2750 and beyond! We hope that in the case of Abhimanyu it does! 

Success comes to the one who dreams big!

About the Author

Saishyam Srikanth is a journalism student who is currently studying in the final year of his bachelor’s programme at St. Joseph’s College, Bengaluru. He has been a sports fan from the time he can remember and one day, aspires to translate this love for sport into a career as a media professional.

Previous coverage of Abhimanyu on ChessBase India


India gets its 49th grandmaster - Abhimanyu Puranik

Abhimanyu wins silver medal at the World Juniors 2018

After 7 rounds of Sunway Sitges Abhimanyu has a performance of 2746



Abhimanyu Puranik (2524) beats GM Jorden van Foreest (2624)
Final moments of Abhimanyu Puranik winning his game against Alireza Firouzja
"I play the position, not the opponent" - Abhimanyu Puranik after beating Alireza Firouzja
Understanding the Benoni with GM Abhimanyu Puranik | Li Di vs Abhimanyu, Sunway Sitges 2019
GM Abhimanyu Puranik's half-revenge against MVL | Gibraltar Masters 2019
Nigel Short's disastrous blunder hands Abhimanyu the win at Gibraltar Masters
Abhimanyu Puranik wins SJAM junior sportsman of the year award 2017
Abhimanyu breaks the Vietnam force GM Tran Tuan Minh | IIFLW 2018-19

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