India no.2 Vidit Gujrathi makes a big announcement
2020-2022 has been quite a confusing period for Vidit Gujrathi. The current India no.2 was the captain of the Indian team that won the Online Olympiad Gold in 2020. He also reached the quarter finals of the FIDE World Cup 2021. Apart from that he reached a career high live rating of 2740. All of these seem like good achievements, don't they? Well, there were many downs as well - Vidit didn't perform up to the mark at all the events of Champions Chess Tour. Tata Steel Chess India was a debacle and he fell short in both FIDE Grand Swiss and Grand Prix. Based on all these factors Vidit has made a huge announcement, and in this article we bring it in front of you.
Please note: This article was written as an April Fool's Day Prank!
On 22nd of March 2022, Vidit Gujrathi was in a precarious situation. It was well past midnight in India, but he had an unenviable task to complete - beat Magnus Carlsen on demand at the Charity Cup 2022 which was part of the Champions Chess Tour. If Vidit won his game, he would be able to make it to the top 8 of the tournament and qualify for the knockouts. Vidit had played the Champions Chess Tour in 2021 as well, but had not been able to make it to top 8 of any event.
Vidit Gujrathi vs Magnus Carlsen
Things got really exciting at this point. Was Vidit going to beat the World Champion? This is a feat that the Nashik lad had never achieved in his chess career in any format. The fact that he was so close brought the entire crowd on the edge of their seats.
Very soon Vidit won a piece and it became clear that he was completely winning. It was now just a matter of technique for the Indian GM. Just when everyone had started rejoicing, Lasker's stoic words started to ring louder than ever, "The hardest game to win is a won game!" With very little time on the clock, Vidit took some bad decisions and the game ended in a draw.
Botching up a winning position is nothing new for a chess player. Vidit himself has lost or drawn so many better positions in his chess career. However, something seemed to have flipped that day. Vidit came to the ChessBase India livestream after his game was over and stayed back for nearly one hour five minutes. You can watch those 65 minutes of unadulterated conversation here. But to give you a gist of what Vidit felt - he was overwhelmed at having missed this opportunity. He spoke about how the good starts at Tata Steel Masters in 2022 as well as Belgrade Grand Prix had led to nothing and how he was desperate for a good result. "As a chess player I realize that process is more important than the result", says Vidit, "But there comes a point in your chess career where results are needed to keep you going." On any other day a draw against the World Champion would be a great result. But on that very day, it felt as if Vidit was on the verge of quitting chess. The people watching it LIVE were also naturally worried. If you look at the comments of the video you will find messages like - " VD don't get disheartened. You are a champ. You have proven yourself many times and it's okay to be inconsistent. The best of best have their bad days. Just keep believing in yourself because we all do. Keep shining" by Mayank Sharma, or "Vidit no matter what , we are always with you . You played really well" by Zeet Bora. You will find many such heartwarming comments there.
For all those who have played chess know that losing a game or games is something that can feel quite personal and devastating minutes after it is over. However, when you give yourself some time you are able to recover and look at things more objectively. This is exactly what everyone hoped would happen to Vidit. He had played so much chess in 2022, it was time for him to take a break. The first positive signs of recovery were seen when Vidit came on Comedians on Board (COB) GangWar commentary where he joined Samay and me. He looked to be in great spirits as he analyzed the games without an engine and was showing some brilliant lines to the viewers! But this was just a facade that the grandmaster had built. While Vidit laughed, and smiled and joked, these streams were just a means to distract himself from the larger question that was looming in front of him - the future of his chess career.
On 31st of March Vidit visited my home in Mumbai. He had a early morning flight to catch from the Mumbai airport to Chandigarh on the next day, where he had planned to spend 10 days meditating at his Guru Om Swami's Ashram. I was very happy to have Vidit at my home. A few minutes into our conversations, Vidit made the shocking announcement. "Sagar, I have a firm decision," he said, "I know this is going to come as a shock to you, but it is the truth - I am going to retire from chess." My jaw literally dropped on hearing this. I knew this was a question that Vidit had been grappling with since quite some time. But why did he make this decision so soon? Didn't he need more time to think? Sensing my trepidation, Vidit calmed me down. "Let's do an interview so that you can publish my thoughts on ChessBase India", he said. I got up and setup my monopod and fixed my mobile phone on it to shoot the interview. "Not on video. Let's do it the traditional, good old way!"
"There is no point in delaying the decision"
Sagar Shah (SS): My first question, Vidit is that why this decision all of a sudden? Didn't you just recently become the second Indian since Anand to reach the quarter-finals of a World Cup? Didn't you reach a career high LIVE rating of 2740 in Wijk Aan Zee?
Vidit Gujarathi (VG): I remember the period of around 2010, we had top players in India like Hari, Sasi, Ganguly and others. And then we had the young brigade which included me, Adhiban, Sethuraman, Lalith. We were hungry for results and I always looked at the opportunity to outplay these top players of India. Now after a decade or so, I see myself on the other end of the spectrum. There are these youngsters - Arjun, Nihal, Pragg, Gukesh, Raunak, Leon coming up and will very soon dominate Indian and world chess! I agree that my performances have shown sparks every now and then, but I have struggled to bring home the results. It's not just recently but it's something that has been happening since a long time. I crossed the Elo barrier of 2700 in 2017 and it's been over 4 years and I have been oscillating between the 2710-2730 mark. It's tiring.
SS: Can you break this down for the readers? What exactly do you mean by tiredness?
VG: Chess is a very lonely endeavour. And not just while playing, also while training. You have to sit for hours by yourself trying to find new ideas in different openings, only to realize that there is a dead-end at the end of a long variation. I have been lucky to have the support of two wonderful trainers - Vladimir Chuchelov and Alon Greenfeld. But to tell you the truth, every single training session these days also feels like a drag. I am unable to force myself to find the motivation to work like I did in the past.
SS: Don't you think taking a break will help?
VG: A break would do nothing but to delay the inevitable.
SS: What will you do if you are not a chess player?
VG: It's true that my identity is very much linked with chess and my achievements in the sport, but I feel that one should do things that motivate me from within. You yourself have interviewed the great Joel Lautier who was one of the best players in the world in the 90s, and in his late twenties, he decided to start a career in finance. He started at the bottom of the ladder and is now the CEO of RGG Capital. I am just 27 years old. In chess this is no longer a young age, but in so many other fields, this is the age at which you start your career! In the last couple of years, I have built many interesting avenues for myself. Vlogging is something that I enjoy immensely. I also love to meditate and that's the reason why I am going to Sri Badrika Ashram of Om Swami in Himachal Pradesh for 10 days. Besides this, I had started with a series called Tech Thursday on my channel. I love technology and this is something I want to explore further. Not to forget the very nice initiative of my sister - Vedika's chocolates. I am sure I can help her to scale even further. I also love to read books and in 2021 I did a video on my top 10 books, although it only has 13,000 views, I am sure it will catch up on the people in the days to come! (chuckles!) Lastly, just like you and Amruta, I too want to explore the world of reels! (laughs).
SS: Would you be able to survive financially?
VG: Chess is a sport which looks very simple on the surface. You have a chess board and pieces, a table and chair and you can play your moves! However, what people fail to realize is that it is financially quite taxing. The two major costs involved are travel and training. I have had some amazing sponsors who have helped my chess - ONGC, Bharat Forge, Persistent Systems. With their support I have been able to bring some stability in my finances. When I stop playing chess, costs related to training and travel will stop. At the same time off late, I am associated with many brands like MamaEarth, Clovia, ManMatters, Skillshare and this does help. Blacklotus is something I truly believe in and finances mean very little for me there.
The life of a chess player is very scattered. You have to be travelling every now and then to play tournaments. Hence, it becomes very difficult to spend time with your better half and build up a family. With this decision I also am looking in this direction, maybe do the gf reveal very soon! (laughs).
SS: Wow! When can we expect that?
VG: Hopefully very soon! For now, I need to go and meditate to ensure that my streak of 451 days is not broken!
With this Vidit got up and went to my room to meditate. I followed him and asked him if I could shoot his meditation routine. He agreed. You can find the video of it below:
As Vidit meditated I felt a lump in my throat. One of the best talents of Indian chess has hung up his boots, sooner than I or anyone for that matter would have expected. While everyone wondered how far Vidit would go in the chess world, he decided to call it a day. Although, he had answered all my questions, I still hoped this wasn't true. But well, Vidit knows better how to live his life and I guess we should all just respect his decision.
Update: This article is an April Fool's Day Prank. More details on it, can be read here.
Please note: To clarify this article was written as an April Fool's Day Prank! The article was written elaborately by the author to make the article more believable and to prank the viewers. (The quotes mentioned weren’t by Vidit) The readers of ChessBase India are aware that every 1st of April we do a April Fool's Day prank since many years. This years prank was about Vidit's retirement, which is not at all true! Vidit is just 27 years old and has a very bright future ahead of him. This article was just intended as a prank.