By National Master Aryan Achuthan
Many people around the world have the misconception that grandmasters, or even just masters are incredibly smart in everything they do; however, they are perceived as introverted nerds. Personally, that has not been very surprising to me. I too have had similar perceptions of masters for quite a while. Whether it was my parents telling me that chess players were incredibly strong in math and STEM, or even just people on the internet influencing my point of view, I could never find the answer to whether grandmasters truly obtained these traits.
In November of 2022, I was playing in a Quads tournament in San Francisco, at Mechanic’s Institute. After ending the tournament tied in first place at 2/3 with 2 other players, I was getting ready to go downstairs, when I stopped in my tracks. Right in front of me, 3 GMs: Wesley So, Anish Giri, and Rameshbabu Prganadgha, standing face to face with me, were heading into the building. Speechless, and not knowing what was going on, I moved aside to let them pass. After a few deep breaths, I headed back to the playing hall to see why they were there, as Mechanic’s Institute was not known to encompass GMs, and the tournaments were generally filled with players ranging from 0-2400 USCF. Upon the inquiry of a Staff Member, the Play Magnus Group had set up a chess meet and greet for players playing in the tournament including me, to meet all 3 grandmasters. They were also awarding signed chess boards to all winners of each quad. Upon hearing those last words, I was overwhelmed with joy, having always wanted to meet a grandmaster in real life. The fact that I was also going to receive an award brought me further joy.
The moment I received this signed board is still engraved in my head, and I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity, but I also learned something very important. After having casually talked with Anish Giri, and even managing to play him in a chess game, it was shockingly too casual, as if I was just talking to some random person, except I was talking to a chess grandmaster. It could have just been his jokes or casual talk, but I realized that he was just a human like all of us. All these grandmasters work on chess full-time, dedicating their lives to chess, just like other adults who are dedicated to their work in companies. Just because they excel in chess does not make them a nerd, nonetheless introverts. They make a living, and this is their job, but they also have social lives outside of chess, whether it be family or friends, so I think it’s time that we start appreciating grandmasters, for their excellence in chess, and nothing more.