Over the past month, as R Praggnanandhaa has charted his way to national spotlight, thanks to making it to the final of the FIDE World Cup, his mother, Nagalakshmi, has become a celebrity too. Visuals of her standing quietly next to him watching on as he blazed his way to the final have gone viral.
Even though Nagalakshmi has said she doesn’t follow the sport of chequered squares, Pragg says she has an intuitive understanding of how he is playing, simply by looking at him during games.
“My mother can tell if I have a good position or a bad one on the board just by looking at my face or body language,” Praggnanandhaa told journalists during a freewheeling interaction on Monday ahead of the start of the Tata Steel Chess India tournament. “Having her at my events has been a very huge support for me. And for my sister as well. She not only takes care of everything for me during tournaments, but also is a source of emotional support. I just have to prepare for games and play chess. I really cannot express in words how important she is. At Baku during the World Cup, the only thing I had to do was prepare and play chess. If I had gone alone, I would have to do many other things. It’s very hard to manage by yourself at such a long tournament. Without my family, I wouldn’t be here.”
Nagalakshmi is said to carry cooking paraphernalia along with her to foreign countries so Praggnanandhaa can always have a home-cooked meal.
“Before a game I prefer eating Indian food. Preferably home cooked food. So she cooks for me before games. It has been working out well for me. That’s been my routine all throughout my journey,” he said.
On the meeting with Modi
“The PM made me feel very comfortable. He made me feel like it was my home. He was asking me about my training and my tournament. He asked my parents and my dad’s job. I really enjoyed interacting with him. He’s also given me some suggestions to work on.”
On his discussions with Magnus Carlsen
“Every time I get a chance to interact with him, I try to learn as much as possible. I discuss chess positions with him just to see, how he thinks. How his mind works. What are his first thoughts. That’s always a curiosity for me because he has been dominating chess for the last 10 years. Is he doing something different or is he doing the same thing that we are, but better. I’ve always had these questions about him. So whenever I meet him, I try to learn these things. Even after my games at the World Cup, I was trying to discus this with him.”