Quest for a first GM norm – part one

5/7/2014 – He discovered chess at the relatively late age of ten, and was immediately fascinated by its intricacies and subtleties. Akshat Chandra soon became a regular on the US chess circuit, gained an IM title and is now on a quest to make full GM. The first norm came at an Invitational in New York, which he has described in a wonderfully insightful article. Akshat is all of fourteen years old.

My quest for a first GM norm

By Akshat Chandra

From April 4 to April 13 the Marshall Chess Club in New York organized a GM Norm Invitational tournament. It was a nine-round, ten-player round-robin, and 6.5 points were required for a GM norm, five points for an IM norm. The participants included three GMs, four IMs and one FM. The players, by FIDE rating, were:

GM Tamaz Gelashvili (GEO) 2584   IM Columban Vitoux (FRA) 2414
GM Mark Paragua (PHI) 2495   Matthew Herman (USA) 2389
GM Mikheil Kekelidze (GEO) 2485   FM Michael Bodek (USA) 2376
IM Raja Panjwani (CAN) 2450   Igor Sorkin (ISR) 2375
IM Yaacov Norowitz (USA) 2426   IM Akshat Chandra (USA) 2370

This was my first round-robin tournament. One of the benefits of such a tournament is that you don’t have to wait till the last few minutes before the round to learn who your opponent is and prepare for the game. The drawing of lots took place on April 1st, which gave the participants time to prepare accordingly.

The tournament was opened by Stuart Chagrin, Club President, and Dr. Marcus Fenner, Club Executive Director and Organizer. International Arbiter Dr. Frank Brady was the Chief TD. It was a wonderful and historic setting with the greats of the games peering down from the framed pictures on the walls. The wooden boards and the exquisite chess pieces added to the stature of the tournament, not to mention sitting a few tables away from the one on which Fischer and Capablanca both played.

Nearly all the games were decisive in the first round with only one draw. That was the game I played with GM Mark Paragua from Philippines. Mark is a really strong and experienced GM, with a peak rating of 2621. He surprised me in the opening by playing the Caro-Kann, which put me out of my preparation instantly. So much for the last couple of days of prep. Some inaccuracies on my side allowed him to equalize pretty quickly. I started to get low on time, and tried to trade pieces and force a draw. But that almost backfired, since I got into a passive queen endgame in which I nearly lost. Nonetheless, I managed to secure a draw with a perpetual check.

[Event "Marshall GM RR"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.04.05"] [Round "1"] [White "Chandra, Akshat"] [Black "Paragua, Mark"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B17"] [WhiteElo "2370"] [BlackElo "2495"] [Annotator "Chandra,Akshat"] [PlyCount "112"] [SourceDate "2014.04.05"] {The only game where I was in real danger of losing.} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7 {A huge suprise. I was expecting only 4..Bf5.} 5. Bc4 {An old favorite of Kasparov in the 90s, but perhaps it's out of fashion nowadays for a reason ...} Ngf6 6. Ng5 e6 7. Qe2 Nb6 8. Bb3 h6 9. N5f3 c5 10. dxc5 ({I had played} 10. Bf4 {before, but I suspected he would have prepared that line, and so sidestepped it with 10.dxc5.} Nbd5 11. Be5 Qa5+ 12. Nd2 b5 13. dxc5 Bxc5 14. Ngf3 O-O 15. O-O Ba6 16. Rfd1 Rac8 17. Ne4 b4 18. Qe1 Be7 19. a3 Qb6 20. Nxf6+ Nxf6 21. axb4 Bb7 22. c3 Bxf3 23. gxf3 Qb7 24. Qe3 Ra8 25. Bd4 a5 26. Bc2 Nd5 27. Qe4 g6 28. c4 {1-0 Chandra,A (2179)-Katic,G (1989)/Paracin 2012/CBM 149 Extra}) 10... Bxc5 (10... Nbd7 {is also interesting.}) 11. Ne5 a5 {Only played twice before, but I think this move makes sense, disturbing White's lightsquared bishop's security.} 12. a4 (12. c3 a4 13. Bc2 a3 14. b3 Qc7 15. Ngf3 O-O 16. O-O Nbd5 17. Bd2 b6 {is a possible way for the game to continue. I don't think White is better at all here, and the game is probably closer to equal.}) 12... Nbd7 13. Ngf3 (13. Nxf7 {doesn't work} Kxf7 14. Qxe6+ Kg6 $19) 13... Nxe5 14. Nxe5 b6 $1 {I think Black has equalized here already. He still seemed to be in his preparation.} 15. O-O Ba6 16. Bc4 Bxc4 17. Nxc4 O-O 18. Bf4 Rc8 19. Rfd1 Nd5 20. Bg3 Qg5 21. Nd6 Bxd6 22. Bxd6 Rfd8 23. Bg3 h5 24. Rd4 ({ I didn't want to play} 24. h4 {since I wanted to use a piece rather then a pawn to prevent his idea of h5-h4. But here it seems to be better then than the text.} Qg4 25. Qxg4 hxg4 26. Rac1 {and this endgame is in fact slightly favorable for White, due to the fact that the fixed b6-a5 pawns, are the same color as White's bishop, making them an easy target. Of course, Black has several defending resources, and should be able to draw with correct play, but at least I can push here, without any risk.}) 24... Nf6 {to prevent Bh4.} 25. Bh4 $2 {After a huge think I decided to try and simplify matters and try to force a draw, underestimating Black's play.} (25. Bd6 {was the move I wanted to make, but I felt the bishop is awkward there.} h4 26. h3 Nd5 27. Bh2 Nb4 28. Rxd8+ Rxd8 29. Rd1 Rxd1+ 30. Qxd1 Nd5 31. c4 Nf4 32. Bxf4 Qxf4 {and I reach a much better queen endgame then I got in the game ..} 33. Qd8+ Kh7 34. Qxb6 Qc1+ 35. Kh2 Qxc4 36. Qxa5 Qf4+ 37. Kg1 Qc1+ 38. Kh2 Qf4+ $11 {is one possible continuation.}) 25... Qf5 26. Bxf6 Qxf6 27. Rxd8+ Rxd8 28. c3 Rd5 $1 {Of course I saw this and his next move , but ...} 29. Rd1 Qe5 30. Qf1 {A sad necessity.} (30. Qf3 {would lose to} Qe4 $1 {That's what I had missed.} (30... Rd2 {is also interesting, but it's nothing better then a draw after} 31. g3 Rxb2 32. Rd8+ Kh7 33. Qxf7 Rb1+ 34. Kg2 Qe2 35. Qg8+ Kg6 36. Qe8+ Kh7 37. Qg8+ $11)) 30... Qe4 31. Rxd5 Qxd5 32. c4 {An ugly move which permanently fixes my pawn structure and ensures all pawn endgames will lose for me. Still, what choice did I have ? I wanted to prevent Qb3.} Qd2 33. Qb1 h4 34. h3 f5 $1 { Prevents Qe4, and prepares to bring the king into action.} 35. b3 Kf7 36. Qa1 Qd3 {I think this is a bit inaccurate.} (36... g5 {would have caused more problems for me.} 37. Qe5 {doesn't work here now, because of} Qc1+ 38. Kh2 Qf4+ 39. Qxf4 gxf4 $19) 37. Qe5 $1 {The last chance to create some sort of imbalance in the position.} Qxb3 38. Qc7+ Kg6 39. Qc6 Kf6 40. Kh2 {Black is almost defenceless against my next move, but there is one way for him to keep the game going.} Qb4 $2 (40... Qb2 $1 {leads to an improved version of the game for him, since after} 41. f4 Qd4 {Now I can't take on b6 and am forced to play} 42. Qc7 {Black can now play} Kg6 {and White has no forced perpetual, and I have to keep digging for a draw.}) 41. f4 Qd2 42. Qxb6 Qxf4+ 43. Kh1 Qxc4 ( 43... Qd2 {is too dangerous to play} 44. c5 Qc1+ 45. Kh2 Qf4+ 46. Kh1 Qxa4 47. Qd8+ Kg6 48. Qd6 Qc4 49. c6 a4 50. c7 a3 51. Qd7 a2 52. Qe8+ Kf6 53. Qf8+ Ke5 54. Qxg7+ Ke4 55. Qa1 Qxc7 56. Qxa2 Qc1+ 57. Kh2 Qf4+ 58. Kh1 {this is a ridiculous line which I put in the engine, and believe it or not, Black has to play} Qh6 {to retain any advantage whatsoever now.}) 44. Qd8+ $1 {An important intermezzo} Ke5 (44... Kf7 45. Qd7+ Kg6 46. Qe8+ Kg5 (46... Kh6 47. Qh8+ Kg6 48. Qe8+) 47. Qd8+) (44... Kg6 45. Qe8+ Kh7 46. Qh5+ Kg8 47. Qe8+ Kh7 $11) 45. Qxa5+ Ke4 46. Qe1+ Kd5 47. Qa1 e5 48. a5 Qa6 49. Qd1+ Ke6 50. Qb3+ Kd6 51. Qb8+ Kd5 52. Qb3+ Kc5 53. Qc3+ Kd6 54. Qb4+ Kc6 55. Qc3+ Kd6 56. Qb4+ Kc6 {A stressful and nervewracking game, as I almost lost ! Luckily, I managed to draw, thanks to some inaccuracies from his side.} 1/2-1/2

I was extremely relieved to save my first-round game. The initial nervousness and jitters were settling down. In my next game with black against IM Colomban Vitoux, I outplayed him and achieved a winning position. But in the ensuing time trouble I bungled my advantage and had to settle for a draw. I was disappointed with the outcome, but I knew my game was in the right place, and I had to manage the time. In the third round, I overcame IM Raja Panjwani, a strong IM from Canada, which put me on 2/3. I felt I was starting to hit my stride.

But then in the next game against FM Bodek, I was again forced to settle for a draw after bungling my winning advantage, once again due to time pressure. This was extremely frustrating since I was ruining well-played games due to my shoddy time management. I rebounded from the setback, and in Round five defeated Matt Herman, known for his striking attacks and picturesque finishes. Luckily, our game was much calmer and positional.

Going into the break after five rounds, there were four players mathematically in contention for a GM norm – Raja Panjwani, Michael Bodek, Matthew Herman and I.

– Part two to follow tomorrow –

Original source: USCF web site

About the author: Akshat Chandra

I'm 14-years-old and in Grade 10. I learnt chess when my family relocated to New Delhi, India, for a few years. Since I couldn’t play my regular sports of basketball and American football, I needed a new activity, and that’s when I stumbled into chess. I got pulled into it really quickly, and was fascinated by its intricacies and subtleties. I started playing in 2009, and received a FIDE rating of 1548 in January 2010. When I competitively got involved in chess I realized that at around ten years of age I’d started very late, compared to peers in US and India. The leading players in and around my age-group had started playing chess at five or six years of age, and were hundreds of Elo points above me. Whoa!

I played tournaments across India, and also in Europe. In March 2013 my family returned to the US, after which I became a regular member on the national chess circuit. I won the 2013 North American Youth Championship U18, and the SuperNationals K-9 in 2013, one of the largest chess tournaments in the world, with over 5000 players in all sections. It's not going to be easy to reach the coveted GM title, and it requires a lot of support and training. But like others before me who have walked the difficult road, I'll continue putting in the hard work that has got me so far in less than five years, from unrated to a 2440 IM. As famous American Football quarterback Joe Namath once said: "If you're not going all the way, then why go at all." More can be learnt about me and my quest to the GM title on my blog QuestToGM.


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