Indian teen chess sensation Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa might have achieved some of his best results in the recent past, including upsetting world champion Magnus Carlsen twice, but the 16-year-old believes in keeping his feet firmly grounded.
Three months after stunning Carlsen and Levon Aronian in the Airthings Masters tournament, the Indian chess prodigy had come up with another impressive performance by finishing second at the Chessable Masters earlier this week.
In the semi-finals, he defeated world No. 9 Anish Giri of the Netherlands before going down to Chinese world number two Ding Liren to finish runner-up in the USD 150,000 event.
"I don't try to celebrate at all. It's nothing compared to what they all have achieved. It's definitely a big thing, but not like it's not something that they have all achieved," the youngster from Chennai said in a virtual media interaction.
"All the three players are tough to beat. It's not easy to beat them. They all are very strong. It's always fun to play all three of them, I really enjoy playing top players. It's fun."
His semifinal match against Giri went up to 2am and a few hours later, he had to be at his school to take his 11th-class board examination. And he returned after the examination on the same day to face the Chinese player Liren.
The teenager initially thought managing both -- studies during daytime and playing chess in the evening -- but ultimately realised it's too draining on his body.
"I didn't expect that managing both would be tougher, I wanted to play at night and study in the morning. But I realised studying also makes you tired. You just get double tired. The whole week I didn't get enough sleep, still actually tired. But it should not be a problem.
"I definitely take time to sleep. It's kind of hard to manage these things, but normal in a chess player's life." He disclosed that he started studying for his 11th class board examination only 10 days before.
"I was fully focusing on chess. I did not have much time to study earlier. I did not expect I would go to the final. So far I've written pretty okay. I think I've managed it quite well." Not thinking much on Olympiad
His focus would next be in the Chess Olympiad at his hometown here from July 28 to August 10 but Praggnanandhaa said he just wanted to take it easy.
"There will be some pressure for sure, but I'm just looking forward to playing my first Olympiad. I'm pretty sure it would be enjoyable for everyone, the spectators. There is going to be a camp for the B team. I'm looking forward to it," he said.
"There's a lot of expectations. But I'm trying to not really think about it and play my best chess." Being the hosts, India would field its largest-ever contingent of 20 players split into four teams. They will have an 11-day camp from May 7 in Chennai ahead of the prestigious event.
The camp will have both Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand to guide the Indian squad.
Praggnanandhaa will be part of the talented young Indian B squad which also has Nihal Sarin, Gukesh D, Adhiban and Raunak Sadhwani.
AICF secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan said the tournament will have a record participation till date but Russia and Belarus have not been allowed to take part.
"FIDE is the custodian of the Chess Olympiad and at the moment Russia and Belarus are not allowed (in the tournament), that's the status." He rated the young Indian B team highly and said the players are capable of winning a medal.
"Spirit is very high and I am confident that they will win the medal. But I don't want to put extra pressure on them. We expect them to do well and give their best as we don't know when it will happen in India again," he said.