Chennai is labeled the Detroit of India, not because it has a high concentration of violent crime or serves as the home to countless purveyors of hip-hop, but because it is a highly populated urban area with a huge automobile output. This busy, crowded, fast paced area does not at all seem like a great spot for someone to practice a quiet, calm, deep thinking hobby, and yet it seems nothing is impossible. Rising now in the world of Chess is Chennai-born Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, nicknamed Prag; he has recently acquired the status of Grandmaster. This in itself is no easy feat, but Prag is particularly astonishing as he is only aged 12. This makes him the second youngest GM in world history, bested only by a matter of months by Ukranian Sergey Karjakin.
So how does this happen? A game that is rarely mastered, usually performed best by older players who have been playing for decades in tournament after tournament, how can a boy manage to outrank so many in so little time? Much like the mastery of anything, plenty of practice is needed, but practice alone cannot achieve such incredible results. Luckily Prag has some other advantages up his sleeve.
How It Began
In 2009 Prag’s older sister Vaishali was enrolled in a chess academy as a form of motivation by her parents, who believed she was becoming too focused on television. This proactive act of parenting led to her inevitably bringing her work home with her. This is when her little brother (who would have only been 3 at the time) got interested. He badgered his sister into teaching him the rules and soon developed a key interest in the game, which has now flourished into great achievement.
Mastery has a firm base in starting as early as possible and this is shown by Prag’s toddler teachings. The 10,000 hour rule as made famous by writer Malcolm Gladwell states, in order to become great at anything, the minimum time you must put in would be the equivalent of 20 hours a week for 10 years. This means that Prag’s practice and learning may have even trumped this rule. And yet nine years dedicated to anything will reap great results.
Around the world siblings teach one another all manner of life lessons as they grow up together. Recently though, Canadian researchers have shown that a sibling relationship is a fantastic environment for learning. Unlike learning from a parent or an elder, there are fewer boundaries imposed by status and gaps in wisdom. The study showed that as they learned the brothers and sisters learning new skills were more likely to ask questions to siblings. This not only helped them get the answers they needed with ease, but changed the way that they learned, putting pieces together in the best way for their own brains. Prag no doubt had the advantage of a great teacher too; his sister is no novice but actually a Women’s International master. This could indicate that the Praggnanandhaa family simply has chess in their blood.