Stranded in Budapest | ChessBase
So how do you deal with when you, a fourteen-year-old super-talent, are stuck in Budapest for over a year? Well, play more tournaments: Leon starred in a series of events, earned 150 Elo points, and at the age of 14 became India’s 67th GM.
A typical tournament photo: guess who is the opponent everyone fears!
Léon also met and was inspired by the famous Judit Polgar …
Just when it seemed possible to finally get back to India, there was a terrible outbreak of Covid infections at home, and it seemed wiser to stay in the fairly safe city of Budapest. Leon and his father Lyndon move into an Air-BNB, make friends with the owner of the apartment and get used to life in Hungary. I kept in touch with the two, chatting often on Skype, watching the rowdy young boy I had known from Kramnik training camps grow into a more staid young Grandmaster. Here are some of the things I have witnessed.
One was with a Hungarian businessman named Joe Kurta, the CEO of “Call a Jet” – a private jet charter company. He was looking for a chess trainer, and Lyndon and Leon responded to his ad. Joe offered them a generous hourly rate, but both did it for free.
It was a wonderfully friendly first session. In the meantime, Leon moves on to Joe’s Residence alone, for dinner and a chess lesson for his new friend.
It’s a story I have to share. It starts with Kramnik’s training in France, where the 13-year-old presented himself with a violin, on which he practiced regularly. At the time, I gave him sheet music for him and his sister at the piano Beverley, and at the second 2020 training camp in Chennai he gave us an awesome recital.
Leon was stranded in Budapest without his beloved violin. He decides to buy a second-hand violin and finds one in the house of Csilla Bogdan, daughter of a concert violinist. Her father had given her a few years before, but she had concentrated on the flute and was ready to part with the violin. She gave Leon the fairly high quality instrument at a special price – and a chess lesson for her son Kristof.
Leon and Kristof, in the Bogdan family house, Sister Alice in the background
Now comes the part I want to tell you about. Recently, I introduced Leon to Professor Vera Spillner, a very talented young woman, who is a quantum physicist and string theorist, speaks multiple languages - and plays the violin at concerts (listen to her play Schubert’s Ave Maria). She is also an avid chess enthusiast and we have done many chess activities together.
Professor Vera Spillner, participating in Covid relief activities last July
Leon and Vera hit it off when they met Zoom, and a deal was struck: Leon gives Vera a weekly chess lesson and she gives him violin lessons. They started with a Giuoco piano lesson for her, and refined the Ave Maria by Léon de Gounod. I listened for a while and found it wonderful to see how she was able to improve her stress, intonation and fingering during a Zoom session.
One of Vera’s recommendations was: go to an empty church and play there for a bit. In the vaulted area, you will see what a violin can really look like. Leon followed his advice, but not in an empty church.
This weekend was the great Christian day of Pentecost, celebrated on the 50th day of Easter Sunday. It was celebrated in St. Stephen’s Basilica, one of the largest churches in Hungary.
At this ceremony, Leon was invited to play Gounod’s Ave Maria for the congregation. His sister Beverley played Bach’s first preludium (on which the melody of French composer Gounod is layered), and this was transmitted via Lyndon’s cell phone in the basilica. And Leon played the violin for the people who took Holy Communion.
Hear the 15-year-old Indian chess grandmaster perform a classic Western piece for a Hungarian audience – something, right?