Parimarjan Negi (B.S. ‘18)

In certain circles, Negi can be considered a celebrity. During his first week on campus, the Stanford Daily excitedly ran the article: “Q&A with the Class of 2018’s Chess Grandmaster”. According to the Daily, he became a chess grandmaster at “13 years and four months, beating Magnus Carlsen’s record by a month to become the second-youngest grandmaster ever.”

My first memory of us was when we worked on a CS106A assignment together with Trisha. Procrastinating, Trisha told me about Negi’s chess fame. I stared at him in disbelief: “Then why does it take you so long to do this assignment?”

Over the years, we became good friends. He’s one of the most generous, unassuming people that I know – one of the few people I felt like I could be real with. I used to be jealous of the attention he got from our math professors. I was killing it in their classes but never got as much as an acknowledging nod from them, while Negi could just turn in his half-assed assignments and those profs would coyly smile at him and ask: “What do you think of the match last night?”

We lived together one summer with two other chess players during which time I was occasionally dumbfounded by his lack of greatness in non-chess areas. I once caught him trying to peel an avocado by first cutting it into a hundred of little triangles, then peeling each triangle one by one. “I thought avocados were supposed to be easy,” he whined.

For a while, I wasn’t sure what Negi was up to. He has this slow, unexcited way of talking that makes it seem like he’s not interested in anything. It’s also not helpful that he sometimes just shut down his phone and locked himself in his stuffy little room. He subsisted on junk food and soylent. He gained weight.

Then I ran into him at NIPS 2017 where he was presenting his paper at a workshop. He had picked up research and apparently did well in it. He developed a penchant for this elusive (and gross) field of computer science called “systems”. “You look like somebody who would be interested in systems,” I told him. He chuckled.

I don’t know how he managed to do it but he got into CS PhD programs at both Stanford and MIT. He chose MIT for the professor and the sad weather that gives him excuse to stay indoor all the time. He came back to the Bay Area over the break for a chess tournament. “The strongest open tournament”, one of the organizers took pain to make sure that this fact is known. “Negi is only the fourth strongest player.”

He didn’t do well in the tournament, which got him down a little. “Chess sucks,” he complained [there, that’s the answer for the person who asked on Quora why Parimarjan Negi stopped playing professional chess]. But overall, MIT seems to agree with Negi. He’s working on bringing Artificial Intelligence into computer systems, using algorithms to allocate resources depending on the upcoming requirements for each application under professor Mohammad Alizadeh. “A fourth year PhD at my lab uses a neural network to decide bit-rates for future video chunks based on observations collected by client video players. It’s implemented at Facebook. My research will be a generalized version of that.”

He’s happy and social again. We had lunch, tried something, roamed around SF during the new year’s eve, and laughed at everything until our ribs hurt. He’s been working out and on diet. He lost 80 pounds within a year. At some point, he had discernible six-pack abs but now “it’s bulking season.” He even started dating.

“That’s amazing, man. How did you do it?”
“No carb and weight lifting.”
“You should write about it.”
“Uh this guy already wrote about it. I just did exactly what he did.”

That’s Negi for you. Annoyingly self-effacing. Negi is camera-shy so here’s a picture of us on New Year’s Eve.

Parimarjan Negi

Books that Negi is reading:

  • Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
  • White Noise by Don Delilo

Three people Negi would like to be featured next on StanfordIRL: