In Covid instances, Leon soldiered on to get GM tag


Chennai, December 31

Goa’s 14-year-old Leon Mendonca has become India’s 67th chess Grandmaster by winning the third and final norm at a tournament in Italy. Mendonca, who achieved the feat at 14 years, 9 months and 17 days, is the second GM from the coastal state.

The player achieved his first GM norm at the Rigo Chess GM Round Robin in October while the second came at the 1st Saturday event in Budapest in November and the final one at the Vergani Cup in Italy.

At the Vergani Cup in Bassano del Grappa, he finished second with 6.5 points behind Ukraine’s Vitaliy Bernadskiy (7 points).

Mendonca and his father Lyndon were stranded in Europe in March in the wake of the coronavirus-enforced lockdown and travel restrictions.

They saw an opportunity in it and took part in several tournaments with an aim of achieving the GM title. In the nine months from March to December, Mendonca played in 16 tournaments and improved from 2452 points to 2544 points in the ELO rating.

“I am delighted to become a GM. It has come after a lot of hard work,” Mendonca said. “I can’t thank enough several people including my parents, coach Vishu Prasanna and sponsors for the success,” he added.

The Goa youngster had taken part in a camp in Chennai in 2019 when former world champions Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand trained a number of Indian players.

Chennai player G Akash, had in July, become the country’s 66th Grandmaster.

Former world champion Viswanathan Anand congratulated Mendonca. “Congrats Leon for becoming the 67th Grandmaster. An inspiration for aspiring Grandmasters. I am so proud of your commitment and focus. Just amazing how your family and yourself stayed behind in Europe during the pandemic chasing the GM title! Enjoy the achievement!” Anand tweeted.

After the second GM norm was achieved, Mendonca’s father had said, “It has been challenging to stay in Europe and for him to compete in events. Also, it has been difficult to plan for tournaments due to the uncertainty.”

Mendonca’s coach Vishnu Prasanna said, “He had crossed the rating mark and come close many times. So the title was not a surprise.” — PTI



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