India's 67th Chess Grandmaster Leon Mendonca, who returned to Goa after spending a year and a half in Europe with his father, said on Thursday that the feeling of returning home after a long absence is indescribable.
"I am very happy to be back home," said Leon, after arriving in Goa.
He also said, “the dream of becoming a Grandmaster finally came true, but I also had to face difficulties while constantly living abroad. The pandemic also posed dangers as everything was uncertain. But I feel free now.”
At 14, Leon became India’s 67th chess Grandmaster and second GM from the coastal state behind Anurag Mhamal.
The 15-year-old achieved his first GM norm at the Rigo Chess GM Round Robin in October last year while the second came at the 1st Saturday event in Budapest in November and the final one at the Vergani Cup in Italy.
However, Mendonca and his father Lyndon were stranded in Europe in March in the wake of the coronavirus-enforced lockdown and travel restrictions.
On March 18, 2020, Leon and his father Lyndon rushed to Budapest airport to catch a flight to Delhi via Doha, but by then that air route was closed. He applied to the Indian Embassy in Budapest to return to India under the Vande Bharat mission, but both of them failed to return home as the Hungarian capital was not on the list.
16 tournamnets around Europe
Leon and his father Lyndon had to stay in Budapest for two months last year due to the Covid-19 restrictions. As the lockdown restrictions were reduced, Lyon restarted playing chess. Leon qualified for the Grandmaster title, playing 16 tournaments in various countries from March till the end of December 2020.
During this time he travelled to Hungary, Serbia, Greece, Italy, Slovakia, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Spain to compete. In the meantime, Leon and his father had to undergo many Covid-19 tests, enduring the ordeal of international travel.