Quest for a first GM norm – part two

5/9/2014 – It was an Invitational in the hallowed halls of the Marshall Chess Club in New York, with four players vying for a GM norm. One of them succeeded: fourteen-year-old Akshat Chandra scored 6½ points to achieve his goal – for which he, like other youthful players before him, receives a special prize from ChessBase. In the second part of his report Akshat has annotated two interesting games.

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.

In part one of this report I described my first-round game against GM Mark Paragua, which I was able to save. After the initial nervousness and jitters had settled I was able to outplay IM Colomban Vitoux with black, but bungled the game in time trouble and had to settle for a draw. In the third round, I overcame IM Raja Panjwani, a strong IM from Canada, which put me on 2/3. 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. In round five I defeated Matt Herman.

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.

Going for the norm

In the second half, Raja Panjwani made his intentions clear with a strong win against GM Kekelidze in round six. Meanwhile, I was able to earn a full point against IM Norowitz, while Bodek and Herman drew their game against each other.

[Event "Marshall GM RR"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.04.12"] [Round "7"] [White "Chandra, Akshat"] [Black "Norowitz, Yaacov"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B16"] [WhiteElo "2370"] [BlackElo "2426"] [Annotator "Chandra,Akshat"] [PlyCount "59"] [SourceDate "2014.04.05"] {So after the "rest week", everyone returned to business over the weekend. I was paired with IM Yaacov Norowitz, known mostly for his exemplary blitz skills.} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6+ gxf6 6. c3 Qd5 {A rare line, which in my opinon isn't that good for Black.} 7. c4 {This is probably the best way to refute Black's opening play. I immediately attack his queen and prepare to develop my pieces over the next few moves.} Qa5+ $6 { This definitely can't be good. This move eases White into natural development, and Black will have to waste another move with his queen.} (7... Qe4+ {is generally what Black's idea is, but Yaacov had already lost twice in this line earlier in the tournament, so he probably suspected I had something prepared there. Interestingly we've had this line several times in blitz, in which Yaacov usually crushes me. But that doesn't mean the line is good for Black. White just simply plays} 8. Ne2 {followed by Be3 and Nc3, kicking the knight out.} e5 9. Be3 Na6 10. a3 Qh4 11. Nc3 Bg4 12. Be2 Bxe2 13. Qxe2 Bg7 14. O-O-O O-O 15. Qf3 $18 {1-0 Spoelman,W (2461)-Hofland,L (2272)/Amsterdam 2006/CBM 113 ext (34)}) 8. Bd2 Qc7 9. Bd3 ({Delaying the "natural"} 9. Nf3 {which would allow Black to develop his Bishop with either} Bg4 ({or} 9... Bf5)) 9... Na6 ({ The knight is awkwardly placed here, but there really is nothing else to do.} 9... e6 {would basically be admitting defeat. White has various ways to build up his advantage – in my opinion the strongest seems} 10. Qf3 Nd7 11. Ne2 { followed by 0-0,Bf4 and then breaking open the center with d5.}) 10. Qf3 $1 { This move prevents e6, and again impedes Black's development of his pieces.} c5 (10... Qd7 {seemingly forces a queen trade, since after I protect my pawn with} 11. Ne2 {Black plays} ({White still has a better endgame, but after Black's dubious play, White would rather refute it with Queen's on the board. That's why, I hoped I would have managed to find the strong} 11. Be4 $1 {Clearing space for the Queen to move, in case of Qg4, and also protecting the g2 pawn.} Qxd4 {would lose by force now to} 12. Bxc6+ bxc6 13. Qxc6+ $18 {and I simply take the rook on a8, leaving me an exchange up.}) 11... Qg4) 11. d5 Nb4 (11... Qe5+ 12. Ne2 Qxb2 {is nothing to worry about, since after} 13. Rb1 (13. Bc3 { also wins.}) 13... Qxa2 (13... Qe5 14. Bf4 {The queen is trapped !}) 14. Nc3 Qa5 15. O-O {with a crushing advantage for White.}) 12. Bxb4 $2 ({I became penny-wise here, and was reluctant to part with the b2 pawn after} 12. Bb1 Qe5+ 13. Ne2 Qxb2 {But even though Black's knight is on b4, this changes nothing: White still developes a winning advantage after} 14. Bc3 Qa3 15. O-O) 12... cxb4 13. Ne2 h5 14. h3 Qe5 ({Preventing Bg4, or does it...? Black could still play} 14... Bg4 {but after} 15. Qe4 (15. hxg4 $4 hxg4 {[%csl Rf3][%cal Rh8h1, Rg4f3]}) 15... Bxe2 16. Bxe2 Qe5 17. Qc2 {followed by 0-0-0, White remains dominant.}) 15. O-O-O {I believe it's stronger to castle on the queenside, not only because it protects the b2 pawn, but it avoids any unnecessary tricks Black might have on the g-file if I were to castle short.} f5 {With the idea of Bg7, where it bears down on my king.} 16. Bc2 $1 {Threatening Ba4, disturbing the position of Black's king, and also preparing my next move. I believe White is winning for sure now.} Bd7 (16... Bg7 17. Nd4 $1 {followed by Rhe1 , and the f5 pawn falls.} (17. Ba4+ {would be inaccurate, since it would actually improve Black's king after} Kf8)) 17. Nd4 Rc8 (17... O-O-O {doesn't help also.} 18. Rhe1 Qf6 19. Bxf5 $18) 18. Rhe1 Qf6 (18... Qd6 19. Bxf5 Rxc4+ 20. Kb1 $18) (18... Bh6+ 19. Kb1 Qf4 20. d6 $18) 19. d6 {[%csl Rb7,Re7,Rf5,Rh5] [%cal Rf3b7,Rd1d7,Re1e7] The key move, after which Black is fried.} e6 20. Qxb7 Rxc4 21. Kb1 {A simple move, getting the bishop out of the pin, and preparing my next move.} Bg7 (21... Rxd4 22. Rxd4 Qxd4 23. Qb8+ Bc8 24. Qxc8#) 22. Bb3 Rc8 23. Ba4 Rd8 24. Bxd7+ (24. Qxa7 {would have been even stronger.}) 24... Rxd7 25. Qb8+ Qd8 (25... Rd8 26. d7+ Kf8 27. Qxb4+ Kg8 28. Nc6 $18) 26. Nc6 { Black loses an exchange by force now.} Qxb8 27. Nxb8 Bf8 28. Nxd7 Kxd7 29. Re2 Rh6 30. f4 {This win set the tone for the second half, and kept me on track for my GM norm.} (30. f4 Bxd6 31. Red2 $18 {[%csl Rd6]}) 1-0

Heading into the final day with two rounds, it was Panjwani and me still in the running for a GM norm, while Bodek and Herman had a shot at an IM norm. In the eighth round I was able to overcome Igor Sorkin and moved to six points – just a half-point away from my norm (meanwhile, Panjwani played valiantly but could not get past the solid Mark Paragua, and ended up losing the game).

[Event "Marshall GM RR"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.04.13"] [Round "8"] [White "Chandra, Akshat"] [Black "Sorkin, Igor"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B72"] [WhiteElo "2370"] [BlackElo "2375"] [Annotator "Chandra,Akshat"] [PlyCount "45"] [SourceDate "2014.04.05"] {Heading into this round I was on 5/7, and required 1.5/2 for a GM norm. I had the white pieces against Igor Sorkin from Israel. In my mind, this game was a must-win, since if I drew, I would have to beat GM Kekelidze as Black in the last round, a much harder task.} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 a6 {With this move, Black's position becomes a blend of the Najdorf and Dragon.} 7. f3 Nbd7 8. Qd2 h5 {A rare move, played only five times before – six times after this game :-). The aim of 8.h5 is to restrict White's standard plan of g4-h4, and to prevent Bh6, which is also another thematical idea in the Dragon.} 9. Bc4 {A standard move in such positions, putting the bishop on it's best square.} (9. O-O-O {seems premature, since after} b5 {White's light squared bishop is kind of awkward. There doesn't seem to be a natural way to develop it now.}) 9... Bg7 10. O-O-O b5 11. Bb3 Bb7 12. Rhe1 Rc8 ({I was a bit hesitant moving the rook away from the h-file, since it comes in handy many times after Black castles and White cracks open the kingside with g4 etc. But} 12... O-O {seems too dangerous anyway, since after} 13. Bh6 {White has developed a power initiative. If Black makes a "normal" move like} Rc8 {then} 14. Qg5 {finishes the game immediately!}) 13. Bg5 {I was attracted to this move, since it prepares Nd5 and kind of forces Black to find a move now - other then castles.} Rc5 $5 {Threatening Rxg5-Bh6, but other then that the rook-lift doesn't really stop Nd5, so I'm not sure what the point of this move is.} ({Once again} 13... O-O {is too risky because of} 14. Bh6) ({If } 13... Ne5 14. Nd5 {is strong.}) (13... Nc5 14. e5 $5 dxe5 15. Rxe5 {seems dangerous for Black as well.}) 14. Nd5 ({For some reason I rejected this natural and obvious move.} 14. f4 Qc8 {Sadly, this is practically forced.} ( 14... O-O {gets crushed by} 15. f5 Ne5 16. Bh6 $40) (14... Qc7 15. Nd5 Nxd5 16. exd5 $18 {followed by f5.}) 15. Nd5 {Despite my last few moves being centered around this idea, I totally missed it in this line.} e6 16. f5 $1 exd5 17. fxg6 fxg6 18. exd5+ Kf7 19. Ne6 {with a power initiative. It's only a matter of time before Black cracks here.}) 14... Nxd5 15. exd5 $2 {This shuts my bishop out on b3, but I had an interesting idea in mind. However, Black should be = with correct play here.} (15. Bxd5 $1 Qc8 16. f4 {was a much stronger way to carry out the f3-f4 plan.}) 15... Nf6 16. Qe2 {Preparing f4. The d5 pawn is taboo.} Bh6 $2 {I would go as far as to call this the decisive mistake. Black decides to permanently forgo castling, and rids himself of a key defensive piece.} (16... Bxd5 17. Bxd5 Rxd5 (17... Nxd5 18. Nb3 $18) 18. Nc6 $18) (16... Nxd5 17. Ne6 $18) (16... Qc7 {requires some thought, and I think this should be fine for Black after} 17. f4 Bxd5 18. Bxd5 Rxd5 19. Rd3 O-O $11) 17. Bxh6 Rxh6 18. f4 {There doesn't seem to be a satisfactory way to prevent the f4-f5 advance now.} Rh8 (18... Bxd5 19. Bxd5 Nxd5 (19... Rxd5 20. Nc6 $18) 20. Nb3 Nxf4 21. Qd2 Rc4 22. g3 $18) (18... Nxd5 19. f5 $18) (18... h4 {is a ridiculous suggestion given by the engine, but now White can just play} 19. f5 g5 20. Rd3 $1 {A strong idea, once again suggested by the engine. White's plan is to play g3 and open things up on the kingside. It seems very slow, but Black is in fact helpless against it !}) 19. h4 (19. f5 g5 {was why I played my 19th move, but} 20. Rd3 $16 {Once again, the engine's idea works here, but this time it's with the idea of Rd3-Re3. I didn't see this during the game however.}) 19... Nxd5 (19... Kf8 {is not enough after} 20. f5 Rg8 21. Qd2 $16 { White has so many threats here: Qf4, Qg5, Qh6, etc. Black's position is just falling apart.}) 20. f5 Rg8 {This just flat out loses.} (20... gxf5 21. Nxf5 e6 22. Ng7+ Kd7 (22... Kf8 23. Nxe6+ fxe6 24. Qxe6 {Blacks king is exposed, and he can't avoid heavy material loss/mate.}) 23. Nxe6 fxe6 24. Qxe6+ Kc7 25. Bxd5 Bxd5 26. Rxd5 Rxd5 27. Qxd5 Qxh4 {was Black's best try, but it's sitill not fun to play after} 28. Rd1 Qf6 29. Kb1 $16) 21. Ne6 $1 fxe6 22. Qxe6 Nf6 (22... Rf8 23. Qxg6+ Kd7 24. Qe6+ Kc7 25. Bxd5 Bxd5 26. Rxd5 Rf6 27. Rxc5+ dxc5 28. Qe5+ Qd6 29. Qe4 $18) (22... Rg7 23. Bxd5 Bxd5 24. Rxd5 Rxd5 25. Qxd5 $18) 23. Rxd6 {I was very suprised to have won so quickly, since there didn't seem to be that much for me after 15.exd5. I didn't really feel like I had played a great game, and that it was more of Black's bad moves which contributed to the result, but I'll take it :-) This win allowed me to draw my final game against GM Kekelidze, thus clinching me my maiden GM norm.} 1-0

In the final round I achieved a draw with GM Kekelidze which allowed me to reach 6½ points. That sealed the deal and I clinched my maiden GM norm. In the meantime, Bodek played strongly against Igor Sorkin and secured his full point needed to reach the IM norm. This was Bodek’s final IM norm. Since he had earlier crossed the rating requirement of Elo 2400, henceforth he will be referred to as IM Bodek. Even though Igor Sorkin could not achieve what he set out to do, he won another kind of norm in the game of life. He was blessed with a baby boy during the break in the tournament, and achieved his first Fatherhood Norm.

Now really – does this picture need a caption?

I was thrilled to achieve my first GM norm – in the hallowed halls of the The Marshall Chess Club! I had recently returned from an excellent tournament, the UTD Spring Open FIDE in Dallas, where I played well to start off but then lost my way after an optical blunder – I overlooked a pawn, maybe because of a reflective board ;-). My game was feeling strong, and I really wanted to avoid silly mistakes. As my friend GM Daniel Naroditsky told me after the event, “the first one is the hardest.” I hope he’s right.

Thanks to the GMs for participating and giving us an opportunity to seek norms, and most importantly thanks to The Marshall Chess Club for hosting a wonderful Round Robin tournament. I hope there will be more. Remember, the NY International, hosted by the Club, begins on June 18.

Original source: USCF web site

As with another 14-year-old we recently introduced ChessBase will be providing Akshat with our basic software: ChessBase 12, Fritz 14 and Mega Database 2014. This is a reward for his first GM norm. For every further norm he can pick three titles from our ChessBase shop – anything he wants or thinks will help him in his studies.

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. Recently, I had a significant breakthrough, earning my first grandmaster (GM) norm (see above). 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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Sunil Kumar Sunil Kumar 6/3/2014 08:03
If you're not going all the way, then why go at all." this is 100% true ,,,, good luck
royc royc 7/19/2015 06:59
Akshat Chandra, is an elite GM in the making!