Young IM Mendonca struck in Hungary, uses time to hone his chess skills

Stranded in Hungary along with his father owing to travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, young Indian chess player Leon Mendonca is using the time to hone his skills in the game of 64-squares besides focusing on his academics.

The 14-year old International Master (with an Elo rating of 2452) went to Budapest to play a tournament there but has been stuck there since March 18 due to lockdown because of the pandemic.

“We are now safe and sound in an apartment in Budapest waiting for the lockdown to get over before returning to India,” Mendonca told PTI from the Hungarian capital.

“I wake up at 7.30 am and I say my prayers. I also do some yoga to maintain my physical fitness and do some meditation as well. I distribute my time between academics and chess.

“I practice chess based on what I think is a priority, and what I feel like doing. I also read some chess books recently- “Saying No to Chess Principles’ by Evgeny Bareev and ‘Life and Games of Mikhail Tal.”

The youngster said it was important to stay home and stay safe as the entire world fights bravely against the coronavirus, which has become a global health scare.

“It is important to remain at home and stay safe as the world battles the coronavirus. We stay at home and don’t go out much. Dad cooks for us and gets supplies for up to 10 days from the supermarket nearby. I am doing what I would have done irrespective of the coronavirus and I don’t feel much of a difference,” he said.

The Goa lad had finished playing his last round on March 17 and was due to return the next day but was denied boarding by the airline crew as India banned arrival of international flights from the European Union, United Kingdom and Turkey from March 18 to stop the spread of the virus.

“Leon finished his last round on March 17 and we were due to return on 18th morning. We were denied boarding as the Qatar Airlines crew said that they would be forced to fly us back from Doha to Budapest instead of Delhi as we would have crossed the deadline of 18th March 12:00 GMT by the time we reached India,” the young IM’s father Lyndon said.

Mendonca, though, admitted that he is missing his mother and sister, but said he is constant touch with them and wishes to unite with them soon.

Lyndon, an engineer, said it was tough to be held up in Hungary during such difficult times.

“It is tough to be held up in Hungary during a difficult time. But it important to stay positive during the coronavirus pandemic and also pray for the well-being of the world,” he said..

Mendonca played in the Aeroflot Open in Moscow which featured several other Indian players and headed to Budapest after an event in Vietnam got postponed due to coronavirus and got held up there due to travel restrictions.

The Goan player is supported among others by Microsense Networks and had participated in the camp for young Indian players conducted by the legendary Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand in Chennai late last year.