After Becoming World's Youngest Chess Grandmaster, New Jersey 12-Year-Old Is Ready for His Next Challenge

Still a kid, one might wonder if Abhimanyu Mishra’s taken seriously in the chess world. “It's happened before that people, they've underestimated me. Then they've suffered,” Abhimanyu said.

Far away from his New Jersey home, Abhimanyu Mishra became the youngest chess grandmaster in the world this summer at just 12 years and four months old. He took the prestigious title away from Sergey Karjakin, who had held it for 19 years, ever since he was 12 years and seven months old. 

“I feel on top of the world,” Abhimanyu said during an interview for Inside Edition Digital’s “On The Rise.” “Finally, all my efforts over the last many years, everything has finally paid off and yea, I was very happy. I don't think I was able to sleep that night.”

Receiving such an accolade was no easy feat, especially during the pandemic when many in-person chess matches were canceled. Abhimanyu only had a small window of 22 months to break this record, and he wasn’t able to participate in over-the-board tournaments for 14 of them. Then, one such tournament popped up in Europe, so Abhimanyu took the chance to compete for the title. He was in Hungary for several months. 

“I certainly believe that if not for the pandemic, Abhi would have definitely overtaken this record much earlier,” said his coach of six years, Grandmaster Arun Prasad Subramanian. He explained that becoming a grandmaster is one of the highest titles one can achieve in chess. There are no other official titles except World Champion, which Abhimanyu is currently working towards. 

To achieve his goals, Abhimanyu plays chess for at least eight hours a day. “In many occasions, he does nothing but chess, from morning to night,” Subramanian said. Though he does get in a few video games here and there, to say the preteen is busy would be an understatement. Last year, he completed two grades in one year so he could have time off from school to work on his game. This year, his parents enrolled him in online schooling to complete the seventh grade so he can continue practicing chess. 

Abhimanyu started playing chess when he was 2 years old. “I wanted him to develop some kind of a hobby,” said his dad Hemant Mishra. “That's how it started and it took a lot of time to get the interest developed. But after a span of another two years, he started liking the game.” 

He won his first match at age 5. By age 6, he was beating dad consistently and by the time he was 7, he was winning national titles. The trophies standing tall on his bedroom dresser mark his rise in the chess world.

Playing chess constantly never gets tiring, Abhimanyu said. “This game is so interesting. So full of possibilities, so many more things to learn that even the best person in the world loses once in a while,” he said. 

Still a kid, one might wonder if he’s taken seriously in the chess world. “It's happened before that people, they've underestimated me. Then they've suffered,” Abhimanyu said. 

But he doesn’t mind having to earn respect, because his ultimate focus is the game. He leaves each match focused on correcting any mistakes he made during the game. 

And Abhimanyu is so good, he can even play blindfolded. 

He often stares up at the ceiling and pictures the chess board in his head, just like in “The Queen’s Gambit.” His parents have shown him clips from the Netflix series.

“Abhimanyu had seen the clips where the character, Beth Harmon, looks at all the moves in her mind,” his mom Swati Sharma said. She is the only one in their family of four who doesn’t know how to play chess. Her youngest, 8-year-old Ridhima, is also a promising player. “So, that's what Abhimanyu relates to,” Swati said. “I asked him, ‘Is this what really happens?’ He said ‘yea.’” 

After becoming a World Record Holder for becoming the youngest Grandmaster, Abhimanyu now has a new challenge. 

“My next intermediate goal is Super Grandmaster, which is around [the] top 20, 25 in the world,” he said. “My final goal is to become a world champion,” and to “bring the title back to America.”

The current holder of that title? Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen, a 30-year-old from Norway.