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From the start Gukesh wanted to become youngest world chess champion: Coach GM Vishnu Prasanna

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Chennai, April 27 (IANS) It was in January 2019, the world’s second youngest and India’s youngest chess Grandmaster (GM) D. Gukesh then 12-years announced he would like to become the youngest world champion.

And five years later, he is one step away from his ambition.

Winning the recent Candidates Tournament held in Toronto, ahead of several higher rated players, Gukesh will be the challenger for the world title held by the reigning champion from China GM Ding Liren.

“Even as an eleven year old kid, Gukesh used to be serious while attending the chess coaching classes. While other kids used to demand the answers for chess problems, Gukesh used to ask me not to disclose the solution till he works it out,” GM Vishnu Prasanna told IANS.

After the class, the serious Gukesh will turn playful and start joking with other kids. But during the coaching sessions, Gukesh will be very serious and focused, Prasanna said.

The 34-year old Prasanna began coaching Gukesh in 2017 when he had an ELO rating of about 2,300.

“From the start, Gukesh would discuss how to become a world champion. We would discuss various board situations through different games,” Prasanna said.

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According to him, children at about that age –about 11 years- will be full of chess tricks and tactics.

“But Gukesh was more of a positional player. It was an advantage. He was able to understand a position and accordingly strategise,” Prasanna added.

The young Gukesh used to listen keenly to his coach Prasanna when he talked about complex positions.

Prasanna was very impressed with his young ward’s ability to focus, maturity being a workaholic.

“Initially he was a bit upset for not becoming the youngest GM in the world and had said he had lost one night sleep. But that is in the past. Now compartmentalizes things. His recovery after losing a game is fast,” Prasanna added.

It should be noted that Prasanna has coached several notable players like GMs Leon Mendonca, International Master (IM) V.S.Rathnavel, Woman GM V.Varshini, WIM K.Priyanka and others.

“I have known Gukesh as a very young boy. I used to take Gukesh along with my daughter Rakshitta for overseas tournaments whenever his parents were not able to accompany him. Similarly, they used to do that when we were not able to accompany Rakshitta for overseas events,” Woman International Master (WIM) Sai Meera Ravi, the wife of IM T.S.Ravi and mother of Woman GM Rakshitta Ravi, told IANS.

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“Even as a 10-year-old boy, Gukesh was very disciplined and mature. He used to get up early and finish his morning ablutions first so that there is no fight for the bathroom,” Sai Meera recalled.

“Gukesh likes to create a complicated position on the chess board which would make his opponent work more calculations and commit mistakes,” Rakshitta told IANS.

Agreeing with her Prasanna added: “Gukesh will not play sharp positions. He is good in unclear positions and will focus on his strengths.”

While Gukesh’s ELO ratings began to go up, Prasanna felt that his ward needed additional and secret weapons other than chess.

“So the focus was on meditation, yoga and breathing exercises. This gave him a lot of emotional stability,” Prasanna said.

Gukesh’s emotional stability is what is being described as him having nerves of steel.

Perhaps that is why, Gukesh was not at all perturbed with the former world chess champion Magus Carlsen’s comment ahead of the Candidates Tournament that he can’t imagine the Indian teenager winning the event. It will be a bad event for the youngster.

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In the last few months, Gukesh’s mindset change is very evident. The way he recovered from the seventh round loss in the Candidates Tournament was remarkable, Prasanna remarked.

Prasanna was confident that Gukesh will win the Candidates Tournament as he was in good shape and well rested.

“Prior to the tournament we were talking about winning the Candidates,” Prasanna said.

Even though the Polish GM Grzegorz Gajewski became Gukesh’s second, the latter continued to check out with Prasanna on certain aspects.

As for the title clash against Liren and what Gukesh should do Prasanna said: “He has to work on some of the weaknesses in his games. He has to increase his range of positions. He has to widen his repertoire while playing with white pieces as a sizable number of his wins are with black pieces.”

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be reached at v.jagannathan@ians.in)

–IANS

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'I have no intentions of getting into coaching', says Abhinav Bindra

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New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) India’s 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medalist Abhinav Bindra believes that the Indian shooting contingent have the “potential to secure multiple medals” at the Paris Olympics, scheduled to kickstart from July 26.

Speaking exclusively to IANS, he further added that the depth of talent in Indian shooting is immense. Asked if he has any plans to take over the coaching role in the near future, Bindra said “no”.

The former Indian shooter also explained about the collaboration between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Abhinav Bindra Foundation, designed to inspire physical activity and celebrate the 2024 Games.

Below are excerpts from the interview:

IANS: Paris Games are just a month away, how many medals do you think India can win in shooting? Since Tokyo was empty!

AB: Predicting the exact number of medals is challenging, but I am optimistic about our chances in Paris. Our shooters have been training rigorously, and with the right support and preparation, I believe we have the potential to secure multiple medals.

IANS: Who do you think can become the next Abhinav Bindra of shooting? Any chance of taking over the coach’s role in the Indian side?

AB: The depth of talent in Indian shooting is immense, and I am confident that we will continue to produce many champions in the years to come. As for myself, I have no intentions of getting into coaching.

IANS: Indian shooters perform well in other major tournaments, but when it comes to the Olympics, they often fall short. What do you think is the reason?

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AB: We must rally and support our athletes wholeheartedly. Shooting has won Olympic medals in the past, and there is no reason why we can’t achieve this success again in the future.

IANS: How is the collaboration between the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Reliance Foundation, and the Abhinav Bindra Foundation designed to inspire physical activity and celebrate the Paris Olympics?

AB: The collaboration between the IOC, Reliance Foundation, and the Abhinav Bindra Foundation is built around the “Let’s Move India” initiative. This program aims to inspire physical activity by engaging people of all ages in celebrating the Paris 2024 Olympics. Through a series of digital challenges and regional school initiatives, we are encouraging individuals to participate in various forms of movement, be it dance, local sports, or athletic celebrations. This partnership not only highlights the importance of physical well-being but also brings communities together in a shared celebration of our athletes heading to Paris 2024.

IANS: What role do schools play in the Olympic Values Education Programme (OVEP) as part of this collaborative effort?

AB: Schools play a pivotal role in the Olympic Values Education Programme (OVEP) as they serve as the primary platforms for engaging young minds. Through OVEP, we integrate the core values of Olympism—excellence, respect, and friendship—into the educational framework. Schools across the country participate in physical activities, educational workshops, and community events, fostering a culture of physical fitness and sportsmanship. This involvement ensures that children not only stay active but also internalize the positive values associated with the Olympic movement. Through my foundation – ABF, we work with schoolchildren to experience these values through sport, art and activities, which helps them imbibe values and 21st century life skills.

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IANS: How has the initiative positively impacted children in Odisha and Assam, and how many children have benefited from it?

AB: The initiative has had a significant positive impact on children in Odisha and Assam, enhancing their physical activity levels, promoting gender inclusivity, and improving educational outcomes. Through our collaborative efforts, we have reached and benefited over 7 million children. These children have gained access to better sports facilities, training, and educational resources, fostering a holistic development that combines physical fitness with academic growth.

IANS: In what ways does the Abhinav Bindra Foundation contribute to promoting physical well-being?

AB: The Abhinav Bindra Foundation contributes to promoting physical well-being through various initiatives focused on sports science, athlete training, and community engagement. Our high-performance training centers provide grassroots athletes with access to state-of-the-art facilities and professional coaching. Additionally, our STEAM and Sport4Her initiatives aim to develop young athletes, particularly girls, while our Sport of Life and Athlete Mental Wellness programs offer surgical assistance and mental health support, respectively. We also focus on addressing environment and climate change through the Olympic Forest Project. By integrating global best practices, we strive to create a supportive environment that nurtures physical and mental well-being.

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IANS: What is the Olympic Movement’s mission in terms of enhancing physical and mental health through sport?

AB: The Olympic Movement’s mission is to make the world a better place through sport by enhancing both physical and mental health. This mission is accomplished by promoting regular physical activity, fostering community spirit, and encouraging healthy lifestyles. The “Let’s Move” initiative exemplifies this mission by inspiring millions of people worldwide to engage in daily physical activity, which in turn improves overall well-being and creates a more active, healthier global community.

IANS: Why is it important to support Indian athletes for the Paris 2024 Olympics, and how does this collaboration aim to achieve that goal?

AB: Supporting Indian athletes for the Paris 2024 Olympics is vital to highlighting the incredible talent and dedication within our sports community on a global platform. Through initiatives like “Let’s Move India,” we aim to generate widespread support and enthusiasm, significantly boosting our athletes’ morale. The Olympic movement is gaining traction in India, and with Honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s vision of hosting the Olympics in 2036, programs like OVEP and Let’s Move India are crucial in connecting young audiences with the global community. Furthermore, our efforts to promote physical activity at the grassroots level are essential in nurturing a strong pipeline of future Olympians.

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: 'Thank God we at last beat Australia', says Naib after Afghanistan’s epic triumph

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Kingstown, June 23 (IANS) Pace all-rounder Gulbadin Naib, who took the Player-of-the-Match award in Afghanistan’s historic 21-run win over Australia in the Super Eights stage of 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup, said he was elated and relieved over his side finally beating their much-fancied opponents in international cricket.

At the Arnos Vale Stadium, Naib became the game-changer for Afghanistan though his spell of 4-20, where he bowled his four overs without any interruption. He took out Marcus Stoinis and Tim David, before getting the all-important wicket of Glenn Maxwell for 59 in the 14th over to end Australia’s hopes of winning the game.

The result means Afghanistan are still in the race to enter the semi-finals, and opens up Group 1 incredibly. The epic win also is very sweet for Afghanistan, who dealt with two heartbreaks previously while facing Australia in World Cups.

In the 2022 T20 World Cup, Afghanistan fell short of beating Australia by just one runs and in the 2023 ODI World Cup, their hopes of a win were dashed by a cramping and one-legged Maxwell making an unbeaten 200.

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“Thank god we at last beat Australia. It’s a great achievement for our cricket in Afghanistan. If you look at history of our cricket, it is not much. Last ten years, we achieved a lot of goals. This is a big achievement.

“We played very good cricket and in the first round we beat New Zealand. Then (to beat) Australia is not easy. They are a world champion team and it is a big achievement for our cricket. We can carry this to the next level. Our journey starts now. We are very lucky to have such a staff and management,” said Naib after the match.

Naib also paid gratitude to captain Rashid Khan for trusting his bowling skills again in a crucial juncture of the game. “We were waiting (for this win) for a long time. It’s a great moment not just for me but for my nation and my people.

“(It is a) big achievement for our cricket. I have no words to say but thanks to the fans for supporting our career and cricket journey. It’s a great teamwork, we worked hard for the last two months and the result is in front of you.”

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Rashid was also glad that Afghanistan got third time lucky in beating Australia in World Cups, which he described as a great feeling and hoped for their loyal fans back home to be proud of the side.

“It’s a massive win for us as a team and as a nation. In the World Cup, beating champions is a great feeling. It’s something we missed in last two years – in 2023 World Cup and also in 2022 in Australia where we lacked some runs.

“It is so much important for us home and for everyone and all over the world where Afghans are there. They were badly missing this win. I am sure they would be proud of this and would have enjoyed the game. It is just the beginning for us, big game next and we have all the chances of making the semis.”

In the batting, Afghanistan were propelled by Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran putting on an opening stand of 118 runs, before crumbling in the fag end of their innings to end up on 148/6, as Pat Cummins took another hat-trick.

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Rashid felt Afghanistan having the services of eight bowlers made things easy for them to bowl out Australia for 127 in 19.2 overs.

“The thought was although we didn’t finish as well as we would have liked to, but this is how this wicket is. The more important thing was that the opening partnership gave us the best start. That let us get to a total we had in mind.

“We all watched two games before, and on this wicket anything 130-plus we said we were capable of defending. We keep calm and have that belief. The beauty of this team is having too many allrounders gives you options. As a captain, it makes it easy,” he said

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Afghanistan's all-round display seals first ever win over Australia

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Kingstown (St Vincent), June 23 (IANS) Riding on Gulbadin Naib’s four-wicket haul after Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran’s opening stand of 118, Afghanistan stunned Australia by 21 runs in the T20 World Cup Super Eight match on Sunday (as per IST) here at Arnos Vale Ground, securing their first-ever win over the cricketing powerhouse.

Afghanistan’s win brought an end to Australia’s impressive unbeaten run at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. Now, both teams are neck-and-neck in the race to join India in the next phase of the tournament.

Australia’s skipper Mitchell Marsh won the toss and opted to field first, a decision that may well have proven fatal. Gurbaz and Zadran’s opening stand of 118 off 95 balls took Afghanistan to 148/6 in 20 overs.

In defense of 148, Gulbadin (4-20) and Naveen-ul-haq (3-20) wreaked havoc on Australia’s chase and bundled them out for 127 in 19.2 overs to seal their first-ever win over mighty Australia.

The Afghans executed their plan perfectly from the start, with the openers Gurbaaz and Zadran staying patient and precise during the Powerplay. With a mix of dots and boundaries, they avoided losing wickets. Six boundaries helped them reach 40/0 in the first six overs. By the mid-point, Afghanistan was 64 for no loss.

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On a pitch favouring spinners, Agar and Adam Zampa were attacked during the middle overs. Zampa’s expensive 13th over included two boundaries, a misfield, a close LBW shout, and a missed stumping by Matthew Wade.

Gurbaz reached his 50 in the 15th over and then Zadran did the same five balls later. Marcus Stoinis delivered Australia’s long-awaited breakthrough scalp when he removed Gurbaaz in the 16th over, breaking the deadly-looking 118-run partnership and turning the tide.

Then, Zampa took two wickets in the next over, including the crucial dismissal of Zadran, quickly leaving Afghanistan three down. The 18th over also favoured Australia, with Pat Cummins conceding just four runs and taking the wicket of Rashid Khan.

After achieving an unlikely hat-trick against Bangladesh, Cummins pulled off a second consecutive hat-trick after dismissing Karim Janat and Gulbadin in the 19th over finishing with figures of 3-28.

The Aussies dropped several catches and leaked runs, making their defense costly and leaving much work for their batting. In a fierce battle, Afghanistan posted a par score of 148/6 in 20 overs, reports ICC.

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Chasing 149, Australia suffered an early blow with Naveen dismissing opener Travis Head on the third delivery. He then did it again in his second over, removing Mitchell Marsh with a slower ball, piling pressure on Australia. Then, Glenn Maxwell came to the crease and hit two calming boundaries in the fifth over, but David Warner’s wicket gave Afghanistan the upper hand. By the end of the Powerplay, Australia was struggling at 33/3.

Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis pushed Australia to 70/3 halfway through the innings. Stoinis fell for 11 off 17 just after drinks, followed by Tim David (2 off 4) also departing cheaply. However, Maxwell’s six in the 13th over brought up his fifty off 35 balls.

Just as Afghanistan lost marginal hope, Gulbadin stepped up to the plate and tempted Maxwell into one outside the off stump, which was superbly snatched by Noor Ahmad behind point. It was all on the hat-trick hero Cummins as Wade’s dismissal left Australia at 108/7, requiring 41 runs off 29 balls.

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However, Cummins couldn’t replicate his form, missing the ball and putting Australia in a tougher position with three overs remaining and needing 36 runs.

Afghanistan’s exceptional fielding turned every opportunity into a wicket, making a crucial impact. Zampa’s dismissal marked Australia’s all-out for 127, falling 22 runs short of victory. This historic win marked Afghanistan’s first-ever triumph over Australia, a memorable moment for the team.

Brief scores: Afghanistan 148/6 in 20 overs (Rahmanullah Gurbaz 60, Ibrahim Zadran 51; Pat Cummins 3/-28) beat Australia 127 in 19.2 overs (Glenn Maxwell 59; Gulbadin Naib 4-19) by 21 runs.

-IANS

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Cummins becomes first player to claim two consecutive hat-tricks in T20 World Cup

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Kingstown (St Vincent), June 23 (IANS) Australia pacer Pat Cummins created history on Sunday (as per IST) when he became the first player to register a hat-trick in consecutive Men’s T20 World Cup matches.

The Aussie achieved the feat against Afghanistan when he had skipper Rashid Khan (17.6 over), Karim Janat (19.1 over) and Gulbadin Naib (19.2 over) dismissed with three consecutive deliveries across his two overs.

It was just the eighth time that a bowler has completed a hat-trick at a Men’s T20 World Cup and the first time a player has achieved the feat on multiple occasions, reports ICC.

Cummins is already a member of an illustrious group of seven players to have taken a hat-trick at a Men’s T20 World Cup, with Brett Lee (2007), Curtis Campher (2021), Wanindu Hasaranga (2021), Kagiso Rabada (2021), Karthik Meiyappan (2022) and Josh Little (2022) the other bowlers to have done so previously.

On Friday, he registered a hat-trick across two overs against Bangladesh on Thursday, becoming the second Australian after Brett Lee to claim a hat-trick in the T20 World Cup.

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–IANS

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Euro 2024: Tielemans, De Bruyne power Belgium to 2-0 win over Romania

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Cologne (Germany), June 23 (IANS) Youri Tielemans and skipper Kevin De Bruyne helped Belgium beat Romania 2-0 in the Euro 2024 Group E match late on Saturday night.

After Belgium’s win, all four teams in Group E sit on three points.

Belgium began in an emphatic fashion by scoring within two minutes in Cologne. In a frenetic start, the ball broke for Romelu Lukaku and when he received it back from Jeremy Doku, he teed up Tielemans to rifle low and hard past Florin Nita at 73 seconds, the third fastest goal in EURO history, tournament reports.

Romania responded straight away, Radu Dragusin climbing highest to force a fine save from Koen Casteels. Doku and Lukaku continued to combine as the latter turned but saw his shot deflected wide.

A typically driving run from De Bruyne then gave Dodi Lukebakio the chance to test Nita, the keeper saving at full stretch before batting away another Doku shot.

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Romania remained determined, finishing the half strong and pressing forward after the break. Valentin Mihaila nearly scored but missed the target. De Bruyne, increasingly influential, combined frequently with Lukaku and came close twice. Casteels saved Belgium by denying Dennis Man when he broke through.

It proved to be a huge save and the keeper then turned provider by clearing long, with De Bruyne anticipating a slight flick-on and stretching out to guide in the second. Romania continued to push but Belgium saw out the final moments to get their campaign up and running.

“After the first game, I wasn’t concerned. I don’t think we played badly per se. Obviously, we made some mistakes but we created chances, even if we couldn’t find the back of the net. We played well during the game and I think we deserved the win, so I’m happy. What’s important is that we’re creating chances and those situations,” said Belgium captain De Bruyne.

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–IANS

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