Srinath: “I much rather prefer performance goals over result goals.”

We caught up with Srinath Narayanan for an interview, who just recently crossed the 2500 rating requirement at Sharjah Masters to become a Grandmaster.

His story is mixed with glory, success and setbacks. A very talented and persistent player, and a hardworking person, he shares with us his experiences and how he conquered the challenges to become a very strong player he is today. His journey wasn’t easy, but he sets an example that with the dedicated effort and love for the game, it is possible to attain even unattainable goals.

India’s new Grandmaster: Srinath Narayanan

Rucha Pujari: Congratulations Srinath on becoming a Grandmaster! You have had five GM norms to your credit and many times came close with the rating. What went right at Sharjah Masters that helped you cross the 2500 barrier?

Srinath Narayanan: Thank you very much Rucha 🙂

I think there were a few things that I decided to do differently towards the end of 2016. Firstly, I felt that I needed a different coach, a new one who can give me a new perspective and who didn’t have prejudice about my chess. I had been interacting with GM Andrey Deviatkin for a couple of years prior to 2016, and we had talked about my game at times. I asked him to help me from around September 2016. I immediately increased around 15 points and made my 4th GM norm in the very next tournament. It took me a while to really agree with the changes he suggested, but after a disastrous IIFL tournament at the end of the year, I thought “why not? It can hardly get worse” Things became easier after that and this was one of the significant changes.

Secondly, there was a conscious decision to play in stronger tournaments. In the whole of 2015 and 2016 put together, I had faced only 11 opponents above 2600. Add 2014 and it’s just 17. However, in 2017, I’ve already faced 13 opponents above 2600 and quite a few between 2550-2600 as well. So I think it was a combination of these two factors, and I think the change of choice of tournaments in particular made a big difference.

Russian Grandmaster Andrey Deviatkin following Srinath’s game during IIFL Mumbai tournament, Dec 2016.

The living legend, Vishy Anand tweeted on your success. How good did it feel?

It was one of the best feeling! I don’t think it’ll be an exaggeration if I said that it felt better than getting the GM title itself 🙂 It also felt great that he was still following my results.

You must have had many hurdles to cross in your journey of becoming a Grandmaster. Can you describe any one difficult problem you have had to deal with, and how did you handle it?

Absolutely, there have been several hurdles that I’ve had to cross. One which comes to my mind is that for a long time I had difficulty when I came close to a goal or a milestone. For example, I’ve lost several times when I needed to make a draw to get a norm or in similar circumstances.

I overcame this by training myself to stay in the present and not dwell too much on these external goals even when I wasn’t playing. This is of course easier said than done and it took me a long time to train this.

How was your journey from a chess prodigy to a Grandmaster? Also we are interested to know how your game developed in the process.

The journey was quite difficult, like climbing a steep mountain. My career was quite smooth till around the age of 14. I had become an IM by that time and I was seeded 2nd in the World Under 14 in which I finished 7th. So I was definitely quite up there.

Around 2008, things changed quite drastically when my sponsorship was discontinued by Sun Group, a multinational company based in Russia, due to recession. As a result I didn’t have much coaching during 2009-11 and also the foreign tournaments stopped. This changed my career quite a bit, as I dropped about 100 points. This also affected my self confidence. I started working with GM Abhijit Kunte from 2011 and it helped immensely. He helped me regain my confidence and self belief, and I started to climb up again. Between 2013-16 I was again stuck in a valley, but I think this was because of being unable to play strong tournaments due to limited funds. I managed to change this approach in 2016 and now I intend to be more judicious in this regard.

With regard to my game, I think I started out as a tactical player who could play quite fast. This was due to solving a lot of tactics and playing a huge number of weekend rapid tournaments in the early stages of my career. As my career progressed, I was influenced by different coaches at different parts of my career. Like for example, after working for a few months with GM RB Ramesh, I became vastly improved in openings. At different stages, what I studied defined what my strength and weaknesses were. When I improved in one aspect, the other would be relatively weak, which would become apparent over a period of time. Then I would work on the weaker to part to bring about a balance.

Srinath became International Master at the age of 14, and achieved remarkable success from his young age.

Can you share with us some of the turning points of your career? In retrospect, were there any moments that made you feel that this game, this field is what you want to pursue?

My first turning point was probably when I won the State Under 7 in 2000. This was what gave my parents the confidence to continue to support me in Chess in the first place. A couple of years later, I became the Youngest FIDE rated player in India. At that time it was hailed as an achievement because the number of rated players in India were limited and the minimum threshold for gaining rating was 2000. Then of course the biggest achievement was winning the World Under 12 Chess Championship in Belfort.

However, honestly I don’t think it was such external things that made me choose chess. My love and passion for chess was there from the beginning, and it just felt natural that I would keep continuing playing the game. There may have been negative thoughts of a fleeting nature, but I never seriously considered doing anything else.

If you have to pick one, what is one key event that changed your professional life in a positive or negative way?

Well, in terms of positivity, I think it was winning the World Under 12 in 2005. It gave me a lot of funding, support, recognition, and made it much easier to become an IM.

In terms of negative event, it was the loss of sponsorship in 2008 due to recession.

Recently you made a witty tweet regarding cheating in Chess. On those lines, do you think the future of Chess is in danger?

Yes, absolutely. It’s probably an exaggeration to say that the future of chess is in danger, however this is a very serious menace. India has taken serious measures and is probably in the forefront in tackling this problem. For example, I see that in Indian tournaments, the mobile phone rule is strictly enforced in all the tournaments I’ve played recently and the arbiters have been vigilant.

However, I feel that there may have been some instances where people have managed to evade the net. It’s easier when a person cheats obviously and regularly, as the officials can keep vigil and nab the suspect at some moment. But, there can be more intelligent ways to cheat, like for example, cheating in only specific games, or specific moments, and these are much harder to detect. And even if a person is suspected, proving it is a whole different story.

Such instances can have a major impact on the victim. When you get outplayed like that, it can possibly shatter a person’s self confidence and cause a lasting impact, even if temporary. I think this is something that must be taken quite seriously and fought with all resources.

One effective way to make this difficult would be to have a policy where the games at the lower level (below 2700) are broadcasted with a 15/30 minute delay. This’ll eradicate one way of cheating – receiving communication via a micro device. Without being able to receive communication, a prospective cheater has to rely on methods that has greater risk of being caught. I feel that this is a very serious and necessary precaution.

What one or two things do you have in your training that are keys to your success? How would you a guide an upcoming player to improve at Chess?

I feel that it is very useful to have a good partner to work with. I find that this makes a major difference, compared to working on one’s own all the time. While it’s an extremely useful skill to be able to work for a long time on your own, usually collaborating with a  good partner makes one’s work at least twice faster and more productive.

As far as what areas to work on goes, I think this is something very subjective. Once a player has decent basics and starts playing at a standard level, they usually develop certain tendencies that becomes a constraint to progress. Therefore, I think it’s very important and essential to constantly analyze one’s own games and draw conclusions. The pattern found in the list of mistakes can give a good idea of the strengths and weakness.This gives a good indication on the areas to work on. ‘Pump up your rating’ by Axel Smith explains this process well. The late Russian IM and legendary coach Mark Dvoretzky has also written about this.

What is your next goal? How are you working in that direction?

For now, my goal is to keep progressing the way I’ve this year so far. I’ll be looking to play more of such strong tournaments, and keep working on my weaknesses and try to improve my strengths. In general, I much rather prefer performance goals over result goals.

“For now, my goal is to keep progressing the way I’ve this year so far.”

What is success, according to you?

I’ve never thought about this really, but I suppose success is a feeling of accomplishment, wherein I manage to achieve what I want.

I haven’t thought much about success, because a few years ago I came across the following lines which made a deep impact in my mind:- “”Don’t aim at success—the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.” From Man’s search for meaning by Viktor.E.Frankl and this is the philosophy I choose to adopt. A similar philosophy was also suggested in the movie 3 idiots and it is something I’ve written in detail in the paradox of work.

 

Blitzkrieg!

Any one country you have enjoyed playing in?

Russia

A book you like and you would suggest reading, to a friend.

Flow

What is the one thing that annoys you the most 😛   

Pessimism

What was the best advice you were ever given?

Enjoy the present.

Tukhaev: “You need to be prepared to take more risks in order to win swiss events”

The Indian chess circuit, in general, is widely considered to be a rating grave. Foreign players coming to India as well as the stronger Indian players are wary of the challenge that lies ahead – loads of underrated players having a keen eye for tactics in addition to their unflinching attitude. With all this is in mind, how about winning two such international opens out of a possible three on the circuit? Massive, right? That is exactly what 29-year-old Ukrainian Grandmaster Adam Tukhaev did – won international opens in Mumbai and Chennai while finishing respectably at Delhi. Post the circuit, we caught up with Adam to know more about how the events transpired. In this interview, catch him speak on his successful Indian tour, his approach to the events, some intriguing experiences, and the chess scene back home – all these in a humble yet humorous fashion.

 

Picture courtesy: iiflwmumbaichess.com


Shubham Kumthekar: Three events on the tour and two victories! Congratulations! What does it feel like?

Adam Tukhaev: Thank you! It felt so abnormal – my mind took some convincing that it really happened. Yeah, it feels good. 🙂

What are your impressions of your play during this circuit?

Well, in Mumbai (2nd IIFL Wealth International), there was nothing really special about my play. I had a mediocre event until I got it handed on a plate in the 7th round when Rajesh blundered in a drawing opposite colored bishops’ endgame, and then again in the final game when Bernadskiy missed a crucial bishop sacrifice on h5. Sure, I was there to use the chances, but it takes a lot of luck to be granted such opportunities!

The final round battle at IIFL Mumbai – Adam playing Bernadskiy (Picture courtesy: chessbase.in)


Somehow, I was quite satisfied with my efforts in Delhi (15th Delhi International). I really struggled in the first half but kept fighting, and by the last round managed to get back to the top boards. In the last round, I had some chances against Swayams, but he held on.

And in Chennai (9th Chennai Open), don’t let the result blind you! There were definitely some bumps on the road to a seemingly perfect start. Like, I came completely unprepared for the second game and had to survive some scary moments in the opening. Later, I was completely lost in Round 4 vs Saravana but found my luck in the time trouble. Irrespective of all these, that was my best tournament in terms of my play.

Adam was off to a flying start at the Chennai open, retaining the lead right till the end.


The thing I liked most about my play was the hunger for chess which helped me find some fresh ideas at the board. As is tradition, I was rather underprepared and often didn’t calculate well, but my opponents were really kind and gracious 🙂

While most GMs were struggling, you were pretty consistent. What, according to you, may have made the difference?

Indeed, I didn’t lose a single game out of almost 30 – but that wasn’t for the lack of trying! I think the closest calls were in the games vs Kurbonboeva (Delhi, Round 5), Saravana (Chennai, Round 4) and Deviatkin (Chennai, Round 9). So, first of all, I was simply fortunate. Then again, I didn’t try to push things when I just wasn’t feeling it. Sometimes, I wouldn’t mind a quick draw or play something extra solid just trying not to blunder stuff. I think I managed to find a good balance.

Considering that it was a successful tour, you may have had plenty of good games. Which are your personal favorites?

The game against Horvath (Chennai, Round7) for the nice finish (I mean the line that could’ve happened after 21.Bd3 axb3+ 22.Ba5 Qxd1+!) – and for the very rare opportunity to play against a fellow GM whose name is also Adam! Apart from that, I can’t recall anything bright enough. The last round effort in Mumbai was very important, of course, but the nerves got the better of both of us, so the game’s quality was not particularly high.

Winning an open tournament is considered to be a strikingly different challenge as compared to the traditional all-play-alls. What, in your opinion, are the quintessentials to be a good open player?

Wouldn’t hurt being a good round robin player to start with 🙂 I think that in order to have a chance to win a swiss event, you need to be prepared to take more risks. If you don’t have losing positions in an open tournament, you’re doing it wrong!

A tough position in an open event? Maybe you are doing it right! (Picture courtesy: chessbase.in)


Playing three tournaments on the trot, sometimes with two rounds a day, can get tiresome. How do you ensure staying in the best physical shape?

Back at home, I have a fitness coach. Her name is Luna, and she’s a dog! Very cute 2-year-old Saluki. My preferred cardio is just walking around. In Mumbai, I had a company for that as well, but then in Delhi, I got sick (as many other colleagues – there was something in the air!) and hadn’t fully recovered until a few days after the trip! So my strategy for Delhi and Chennai was just to preserve energy – I didn’t go anywhere except to grab something to eat.

What was your approach like during these events?

The routine was nothing special, and the preparation depended on the opponent. If I thought that the appropriate preparation would take too much time, I chose to get some rest instead. And when my opponent’s repertoire was more or less limited, I would try to cook some stuff beforehand. It didn’t always work, but sometimes it was spot on, like against Sunilduth and Swayams in Delhi.

Adam in action during his final round game against Swayams at the Delhi Open (Picture courtesy: chessbase.in)


You may have visited quite a few places in Mumbai, Delhi & Chennai during this tour. Can you share some of your interesting experiences as a tourist during this circuit? 🙂

Normally, at tournaments, I turn into a couch potato as I don’t have much time nor the company to explore the surroundings. But in Mumbai, I was lucky enough to meet Nathan Alfred, an English player now doing God’s work in Singapore (he’s a rabbi), and persuaded him to include me in some of his journeys. That’s how I got to see some famous landmarks. I liked the Elephanta island – it was nice to interact with monkeys even though one of them robbed me of a water bottle 🙂 My favorite trip was the one at Global Vipassana Pagoda after the tournament. I felt like it helped clear some negative thoughts and regain calmness.

(From L TO R) GM Adam Tukhaev, Nathan Alfred, yours truly and GM Valeriy Neverov.


Due to physical conditions, Delhi was a complete hotel – tournament hall – hotel kind of experience. Chennai was mostly like that as well.

But on the rest day caused by the jallikattu ordeal, together with a few other players, we went to the Marina Beach, which was the epicenter of protests! We had to join the crowd for a few minutes, and some guys were even taking pictures with us, trying to teach us how to say ‘jallikattu’ properly. It was fun!

It did take some time to get to the actual beach and then get back home, but it was worth it.

This is your second trip to India. What do you like about playing in India and what do you consider to be the biggest challenges?

Yes, I played Delhi and Chennai last year as well. Well, for one thing, it’s a nice getaway from the winter at home! You know, I kinda like the snow, but when it’s -30 Celsius you can’t help but think that you can die simply being outdoors for too long, and you start to question all the life decisions that led to staying where you are.

Secondly, it’s the food. At home, I mostly cook for my family, and sometimes it gets boring for everyone involved 🙂 Here, it feels like getting a break. It’s delicious, it’s spicy, and there is such variety that you can always find something new.

Then again, I love being immersed into English speaking community. Hindi scripture looks interesting, and I learned some of the letters by reading the names of metro stations, but the language seems too formidable to try and learn even if only the basics. Besides, it won’t help if you are in Chennai 🙂

Last but not the least, people are somewhat friendlier here than I’m used to. Once you learn the vital skill of crossing a busy road, you begin to feel like you are going to be alright!

As for the challenges – by far, the worst thing I’ve experienced in India was the air condition in Delhi. It’s so bad that it’s unbelievable – makes you value more the air at home, though 🙂

Of course, the local players are underrated and you can easily shed a massive amount of Elo points if you’re not careful. And even if you are. But hey, there’s got to be some catch, right?

You hail from Ukraine and are currently staying in Russia. What do you find different about chess in India as compared to Ukraine/Russia?

Chess has been very popular in the USSR, and the countries that were parts of it continue to reap the benefits of the chess culture that had emerged. Whether we’re talking about middlegame and endgame ideas, or take a look at the opening preparation, the players from Ukraine and Russia normally have some advantage on account of being connected to this culture from a very young age.

India is certainly not behind any other country in raw chess talent. The trait Indian players (I mean those below GM level) are mostly known for is, I think, the ability to defend worse positions. Add to that tactical awareness, as well as being underrated, and it’s easy to see why foreign players donate so many Elo points here. Considering the fact that chess is popular and efforts are being made to promote the game and nurture the talent, it’s not hard to predict bright future for the Indian chess team. Bronze medal at Tromso Olympiad 2014 is surely a hint of things to follow.

Let’s take a dive into the past. How did it all begin?

I was five, and my father brought me along to something like a sports center for kids. I think my first choice was some kind of wrestling. But then one day, I looked around and spotted a drawing of a chess knight on one of the doors and asked my dad what it was. And so it started.

Time and again, we hear about the importance of good coaching at the grassroots level. How is the early coaching scene in Ukraine/Russia like? Can you tell us something about some of the most influential coaches you worked with at a young age?

Yeah, Ukraine and Russia are known for their good coaches at every level. I don’t know, I think the best thing a coach can do for a kid that wants to learn chess is not to stifle the natural curiosity. So you have to introduce the important tactical ideas and strategic concepts while helping him or her explore what they like the most about the game. You certainly shouldn’t overdo openings, for one thing. At some moment, of course, you have to start looking into openings more seriously and study closely how they connect to the middlegame and endgame.

I remember fondly the lessons with my first coach, Aleksander Borshchov from Kerch. He’s a very kind and intelligent person and I felt so at home at the chess club that I was completely absorbed by the game. Sometimes we would work beyond any time limit, finishing long after everyone else went home 🙂

After a few years when I was like eight or nine, he told my parents that he had taught me all he could and that I needed to move on. My parents and I moved from Kerch to Simferopol, and I went to study with a few coaches of a relatively higher caliber, but I feel like something was lost along the way as well.

While growing up as an improving chess player, which famous chess personalities had the biggest influence on you?

Honestly, I feel like I’m not strong enough to have this conversation about influences, but as far as I remember, I’ve always been a big fan of Ivanchuk. I was privileged as to get to work with the man himself after we met on ICC one lucky winter day in 2009! The collaboration has had its moments, and we’re still in touch so I’d like to say he remains my biggest influence.

You became a Grandmaster at a young age of 19. What was the journey to the title like?

Well, it wasn’t considered a tender age even back then. Since I got to around 2450, I had been trying to score GM norms in round robin tournaments in Alushta as it was just an hour’s ride from where I lived, and eventually got the three norms in six attempts. As usual, during that period I analyzed my games, worked on openings, solved a lot of different stuff, and even read some books! I remember being particularly impressed by Chess for Zebras by Jonathan Rowson.

A modern classic: Chess for Zebras by GM Jonathan Rowson


What do you consider as the biggest achievement of your chess career so far?

In terms of performance, Kavala 2010 is the best one – 1st place and a 2775 TPR against mostly 2600+ players. But I’ve never had a more successful series of events than this time in India. Add to that getting married and you can say January 2017 was a month to remember.

How do you generally work on your chess?

Actually, I have mostly been busy with commentating for chesspro.ru as well as occasional coaching and didn’t really work on myself lately. Given time, I usually try to refurbish some opening facilities as well as to train myself to calculate better. Often, such work leads to some kind of burnout though, so the timing is really important.

What chess ambitions do you hold for the future?

I have no plans laid out further than March. I will be playing some chess in Sweden (Ed. – Adam is currently playing at Stockholm), and the ambition is just to be able to enjoy the game.


Blitzkrieg

If you had a chance to meet a celebrity of your choice, who would it be?

Hmm… Well, Barack Obama seems to have got a lot of free time on his hands, right? 🙂

A sports quote that you find the most impressive.

“Do I know what product I’m selling? No. Do I know what I’m doing today? No. But I’m here, and I’m gonna give it my best shot.”

Not a sports movie, but Zoolander helped me get through 28 games in a row. Sums up my approach in the tour pretty well 🙂

Early bird or night owl?

Nighty night owl. Morning rounds is a human invention I don’t like one bit.

Blitz, Rapid or Classical?

I think rapid is the one I am most comfortable with, even though it doesn’t necessarily translate to results.

The cuisine of your choice.

If I have to pick just one, Indian, of course 🙂 All those fantastic gravies, man!

Bharat Singh: You have to showcase your players as stars!

Bharat Singh Chauhan is a name that is synonymous with Indian chess administration. However, his contribution is not limited by boundaries. Not only is he the CEO of the All India Chess Federation (AICF), but also the Chairman of FIDE’s Technical commission, Commonwealth Chess association & Deputy President of the Asian Chess Federation!

I had a chance to meet him when he came to Bangalore. We discussed a lot of technical things, apps and stuff. Finally we got down for some Q & A about Indian Chess and where things are headed!

Bharat Singh Chauhan with yours truly Asim Pereira

Asim Pereira: (Given your involvement with FIDE & Asian Chess) Are you still actively involved with AICF & Indian Chess?
Yes yes. I am involved in policy making and long term element planning. I am involved in almost all the things.

What are India’s chess goals or what are we trying to achieve at the highest level? What is the aim for the next few years?
To be very honest with you, in AICF we feel that its ‘Chess for everyone’. Ofcourse medal in Olympiad, world champions are some goals which any federations should have. But we give more priority to chess for everyone, so that more and more people can play.

We have substantial FIDE rated players and we have overtaken France…

(interrupting) we are number one in the world!

…so at some point should we also be focusing on getting more people in the world top 100 and getting existing GMs into 2700 and that kind of thing?
As I mentioned regarding hunt for medal, this is very important actually and we should concentrate on that kind of tournaments (Editor: Closed round robin, elite events etc). Unfortunately it requires a lot of money like Tata Steel, Bilbao, Dortmund all are big budget events.

So this is my personal opinion: if someone asks me to add fifty thousand chess players or running this one-two tournaments in a year, I would prefer to add fifty thousand people. I personally feel we are doing service to the society with fifty thousand people added to Chess. So I give more importance to that.

I know its a requirement for federation and our players that you should have such tournaments as Bilbao & Tata Steel, but unfortunately we are not able to concentrate, but very soon we are going to have some category tournaments.

Bharat Singh: but very soon we are going to have some category tournaments. Click To Tweet

In fact we started few in Airport Authority but not such a large level. But now we have lot of players already in the top 20-30 and recently I saw Adhiban (Editor: Adhiban finished joint 3rd in Tata Steel Masters 2017 ahead of many higher rated elite players) is doing well and our team played so well in the Olympiad (Editor: Indian men finished 4th and women finished 5th). Their standard has gone up. So maybe we should have some tournaments like these. Maybe atleast one or two big tournaments in a year where we can bring our players to this level.

With my limited interaction with some of these IMs and players, what I have realized is one of the problem and challenge is not having good strong tournaments in India with say a cut-off of minimum 2200 or 2300 which will give strong exposure to players. Else you end up going abroad to play. Recently there was a Marienbad tournament in Czechoslovakia where 3 Indian players participated in Round Robin tournaments (Editor: Marienbad GMa & GMb).
So some kind of tournaments like these? Maybe not absolute elite, not Bilbao not Tata Steel, but some kind of round robin tournaments which can help people gain rating and norms?
Actually round robin tournaments were organized earlier and they were doing well, but we had some problems with the round robin tournaments at lower level. Grand Master round robin tournaments may be ok. But nowadays we have 5-6 Grand Master events in the country. And some norms were gained there. And our neighbouring countries also have events.
I mean there are lot of opportunities for the players to achieve norms in India also. But I told you the reason why we stopped this. We have brought Chess to such a level, we don’t want a bad name and get back to this (lower) level.

Recently I did a bit of study (Editor: Details in the post here). By Nov 2016 India really had a good user base. But per 100 players, the amount of Titled  (GM, IM..) players that we had was lowest amongst the Top 10 nations. But the observation there was that once our players are Titled, we are good at getting Grand Masters from amongst the Titled players. Which means once our guys become Titled, the guys really go on to become GMs. So our focus should have been to get people to earn more titles because maybe then that (becoming GM) would happen automatically?

Rank Fed Titled Rated Titled/Rated (TPR) %
1 Russia 2443 60893 4.01
2 USA 724 13677 5.29
3 China 147 2072 7.09
4 Ukraine 539 8803 6.12
5 India 302 59088 0.51
6 France 405 44797 0.90
7 Azerbaijan 128 2710 4.72
8 Armenia 113 1353 8.35
9 Poland 377 18529 2.03
10 Hungary 458 9619 4.76

Table1 : Top 10 nations with total Titled + Rated players and their ratio

Rank Fed GMs Titled GMs/Titled (GPT) %
1 Russia 236 2443 9.66
2 USA 90 724 12.43
3 China 39 147 26.53
4 Ukraine 87 539 16.14
5 India 44 302 14.57
6 France 49 405 12.10
7 Azerbaijan 24 128 18.75
8 Armenia 37 113 32.74
9 Poland 41 377 10.88
10 Hungary 54 458 11.79

Table1 : Top 10 nations with total GMs + Titled players and their ratio

We have lot of things to do. I don’t say we are perfect and we are very fine. There is lots to be done. I don’t want to say people in the past have done bad or good but I just want to remind you in 2005 we had only 10 Grand Masters and now we have 48 odd Grand Masters and lot of IMs. Those days, IM was a real luxury. Manuel Aaron was the only IM for a long time.

Recently I was in Budapest and Grand Master Csaba said, if they play Indian players below 18 who have gone there to play, they feel very scared. The below 18 players are very strong. And they say that Indian rating is 200 points lesser than FIDE because standards are more. That is possible because we have lot of rating tournaments since 250 odd FIDE rated tournaments or held in a year.

We are able to get money, whatever way the money comes. Lot of money is coming and going to the players through FIDE rated tournaments. Atleast we are able to provide opportunity. We send biggest delegation to Asian youth championship, where titles are given to the winners. Our major titles like CM/FM come from there. We don’t have specialized youngster-events or Title events.

Mumbai tournament has come up further for young children which is a good beginning (Editor: IIFL Wealth Mumbai tournament had a Under-13 age category section with a huge prize fund of 8 Lakhs Indian Rupees). I would say we should have atleast 5-6 more tournaments for school children or young people. That will give more titles.

I know that data for Titled players, but its also essential to have more rated players.

Yes ofcourse, there are so many tournaments which have exploded recently. So there is a lot of opportunity to get initial rating. But maybe if the IMs or 2400 guys who are stuck had some tournaments.. or say Praggnanandhaa, if he played strong round robin events instead of playing under-age category events? Lets take an example of Jeffery Xiong the World Junior Champion from US. He recently played in the Tata Steel Challengers. (Editor: Jeffery finished a credible 3rd inspite of being the youngest participant!)! If our players get that kind of exposure, that would be really amazing. So do we right now have any plans to have some kind of round robin events?

I explained there were certain issues regarding round robin tournaments. But will be definitely doing category events; for GM tournaments or elite tournaments. But I don’t see any immediate plans to have round robin rating tournaments or IM round robin tournaments.

Bharat Singh: I don't see any immediate plans to have RR rating tournaments or IM RR tournaments. Click To Tweet

There is a lot of opportunity. We encourage them. We don’t stop people going for round robin tournaments. If they get an invitation they go. But in India there were issues and some other issues were reported. I mean we cannot do policing in all the tournaments. There are more than 500 tournaments in a year. How can we do policing for all the tournaments? But we have to try our best.

I personally feel we are able to give so much money and opportunity to the players. Ofcourse playing in India, even the Indian GMs feel that the standards are very high and they find it difficult. I don’t know if you have noticed. Lot of Indian Grand Masters don’t play in Indian tournaments. But they will go and play similar kind of tournaments with similar standards and lesser prize money outside India. I don’t blame them. But the strength of the youth in our country and the strength of our young players is really very good. Everybody abroad including foreign GMs are scared of (young Indian players).

Is there a plan for a league structure, for children, middle guys, to get experience? Has this been thought of in the future?

We already had negotiations with many people. And there is already Maharashtra league which is successful (Editor: Maharashtra Chess League (MCL) completed its 4th season last year). It is happening and it is a wonderful thing to happen for Maharashtra chess. We had plans. But again we don’t want to go the Millionaire way (Editor: The highly publicized Millionaire Chess will not be organized in 2017 due to lack of sponsorship). We want to start a sustainable tournament with a sustainable plan and policy. The person who is organizing tournaments should not conduct for a year and stop. We want somebody to organize for alteast 10 years. So we are already talking (to organizers) since a year. More money for the players will attract more people to Chess.

When we used to play Chess, most of the people in the society compared it to gambling and that one should not play chess. Now, every household ladies proudly talk that their son/daughter plays Chess and if he/she got a medal. Atleast in the metros, winning medal in a chess tournament is kind of a status symbol. Many people talk about it. But we want more and more people introduced to Chess. Anand did it (popularized chess) in a big way, and lot of youngsters like Praggnanandhaa, Murali Karthikeyan, Aravindh Chithambaram, Parimarjan Negi, Aryan Chopra are contributing to develop chess. And to introduce more people to chess, we have to make it more lucrative to parents and players. More money, more respect, more professionalism will attract more people. There is no doubt about it. If you want to grow in Chess, you have to showcase your players as stars.

Bharat Singh: More money, more respect, more professionalism will attract more people (to Chess). Click To Tweet

You know when India won the world cup (Editor: he probably meant the 1983 world cup), the Cricket Board didn’t have money for the press conference. And look at what the cricket board is today (Editor: BCCI is apparently the richest cricket board in the world)! So people have to learn that you have to showcase your players as stars. You have to respect your players.

People have to learn that you have to showcase your players as stars and respect your players. Click To Tweet

Yes that is a good point, to have stars. What Magnus Carlsen has done is single handedly put Norway on the Chess map. Anish Giri for Netherlands. Caruana/Nakamura for US. So if our guys get into that league of say top 20-50, wouldn’t that automatically become a nice circle such that players get to the top and then others follow and take inspiration from it?

Anand has done a big thing. Now people are talking about Harikrishna, people know Harikrishna, people know Praggnanandhaa, Aravindh Chithambaram etc. I mean you go to the lay man, taxi man, everybody will know. Even in Europe if you go to any taxi driver, they will tell you 10 names about Indian players (Editor: Obviously not an easy claim to verify!). Many people take it as their ideal and start playing.

Q: But maybe if these youngsters had an opportunity of playing strong or testing matches? Recently Wei Yi was playing Rapport. The Chinese association invites foreign players to play 4 or 6 games against their own (Editor: And Ding Liren played Wesley So). In a way these guys are just conditioned and prepared to face a future World championship match. But our guys say Praggnanandhaa or Aravindh Chithambaram might not have got an opportunity to play such a tense match.

I think in our system, in our country everybody thinks that Govt. of India should do everything. Govt. of India cannot put one person for securing one person. One police man cannot be there with every lady (Editor: probably referring to the recent spate of crimes against women in some Indian cities). People of this country have to work together. Europe has so many tournaments. There, people take it as a social responsibility. Like Tata has taken the steel company (Editor: India’s Tata group acquired Corus in 2007), but they have an agreement to continue what the previous company was doing (Editor: We have reached out to the Tata Steel Organizers for more details on this). Whether they have sold it or not, whether they have become bankrupt, whether it is a profit making venture or not, but they have to continue the social responsibility.

You go to Spain and towns like Benasque have a lot of tournaments. I had a big discussion with them to understand how they do this. They said they have people who have to do this under social responsibility. In our country, we all kill our responsibility. We don’t think what we have to do for the society. Everybody talks about their rights. Nobody talks about their duty. If people think that only federation should do this thing, it is practically impossible.

Bharat Singh: In our country..Everybody talks about their rights. Nobody talks about their duty Click To Tweet

According to me, whoever is contributing to our federation are doing a reasonably good job, leaving their personal and professional things aside. Presently I think our federation is doing very well. The endorsement comes from the people. The appreciation comes from the performance of our players and our growth in Chess. But still, I am not saying I am satisfied. Still there is lot of work to be done. And how will it be done? If people think only AICF should do it, it is wrong. We all should do it!

Lets say if somebody wanted to help out like this. What kind of support can we expect. Say some enthusiast, has passion for organizing tournaments?

Full support. AICF has got a pretty open policy. If you want to organize a tournament, do it. But once again, we are very open, we allow everybody to organize tournaments, but there are a few things to follow. We cannot allow liquor, cigarettes in our tournament publicity, not have them as sponsors. Also the prize money for the players should be secured. You cannot announce 50 Lakhs and run away. It happened in a few places abroad also. We make state association responsible. If you (state association) are forwarding us a tournament request, then the state association is responsible for the prize money. One incident happened in Gujarat. One person ran away with 5 Lakhs prize money. He did not give the players. So Gujarat association paid for it. 5 Lakhs money was paid to the players. So we have to take care of their interests. we are very open with the rest of the things. We encourage people to come into chess and run the tournaments.

Recent National premier in UP. What went wrong there. What could have been done better? (Editor: The event ran into venue crisis, which had to be changed after round 2. Couple of players withdrew from the event)
One thing I can say is that the players were not on the wrong side. It was messed up by one of the organizer. They did not take full precaution. We have taken steps already that such thing does not happen. Its very unfortunate, but players were not wrong. I am sure about it. I went there personally for the closing and met all the players and discussed. I saw all the facilities that association has offered. They had some local issues. The inspection was done. The school were the championship was happening was perfect. The players liked it. 2 rounds were played and suddenly there were issues (with the venue.)

(Editor: This tragedy made national news. You can read about it here and here.)

Does AICF usually check the background of who is organizing the event and if its the first time.
UP chess association has already organized many events. Even National B (Challengers) was done very nicely. The school where the championship was held is a world class school with good facilities. I had also visited it personally and saw all these things. It was perfect. But suddenly this political thing happened.
I don’t blame the players. It is the organizer who should have taken care.

Similarly heard there was a problem with the Maharashtra Chess Association? What happened there and whats going on right now? (Editor: Although this did not make much news, the Maharashtra Chess Association was dissolved and an ad-hoc committee created in its place)
There were issues for a long time. There are guidelines from the sports ministry. (Editor: Per clause 3.19 of the guidelines, State level associations which are affiliated to the National Federation should have a minimum number of affiliated district-level associations (say 50% of the districts in the State).) We should have 50% affiliated districts in the association. There were anomalies and serious things happened. AICF had warned them again and again. AICF gave them a long rope for a long time. They did not do it. And in the past 6 months they started fighting each other. The President and secretary were fighting each other. President called one meeting. Secretary called another meeting. They cancelled the meetings three times. And finally the commissioner stopped both the meetings. Nobody can operate the accounts. Players cannot play tournaments. You cannot send entries. Who will send the entries? Who will give permission to the players? So AICF had no option but to make an Adhoc committee and run the affairs.

Has this affected the players?
It is in the best interest of the players. The basic mantra for development is we have to go to the grass root level. All the districts should be affiliated. Districts should have all the Talukas. But Maharashtra is such a vibrant state. They don’t have 50% districts affiliated? What a joke!? They were fighting each other, lot of issues. There is no option.
We have dissolved the body. A 5 member committee is working. They look after the day to day affairs till the time its all sorted.

It is again very unfortunate. People fighting and players getting affected. Its like a mother and father fight and the kids get affected.

Bharat Singh Chauhan with FIDE President Illyumzhinov
Bharat Singh Chauhan with FIDE President Illyumzhinov

In-depth interview with Deep

GM Deep Sengupta has been one of the most prominent players in India. In this in-depth interview Deep talks about his recent victory in Hastings, his early career, what’ll it take to get top players to play more in India and more! Scroll down!

Srinath Narayanan: How does it feel to win a tournament with such a rich heritage?

Deep Sengupta: I am really happy to win Hastings Masters for the second time (Editor: First time was in 2010-11). Just like the previous time I started with 1/2. It seems like Hastings is a lucky place for me. It was wonderful to see my name inscribed on the Golombek trophy with several ex-world champions.

Hastings championship
Deep with the prestigious ‘Golombek Trophy’

You had an unexpected defeat in round two against Bobby Cheng. What went through your mind at this moment?

To be honest there was nothing in my mind after the unexpected defeat. This time I was mentally prepared to play for fun and not bother about results.

What was your goal before the tournament?

I wasn’t really playing for any specific performance. For a change, I was simply playing for fun!

Can you tell us something about your schedule during Hastings—how many hours did you prepare and rest?

I mostly had leisure time. Chess preparation would begin after the breakfast and would go on for about 2-3 hours. In the afternoon I would have a walk before the lunch. The rounds were in the afternoon with a six-hours schedule. Hence, there would not be much to do after the games finished. My roommate was my very good friend Arghyadip Das. We walked through the town center, went to the Hastings pier. The weather for a change was excellent in Hastings this year, and we could actually venture out of the room!

Where there is clarity, everything flows
Where there is clarity, everything flows

Let’s go back in time and talk a bit about your childhood. How did you take up chess?
I learned chess at about 5 years of age. My father and uncle used to play the Indian version at home (where the king could move like a knight until checked). Seeing my interest in it, I was taught the basics. I picked it up quite fast. Soon I won the Nationals in 1995 in U-7.

However, the major stepping stone was the World U-12 Gold medal. Until then I was confused between academics or sports as a career.

Tell us something about the coaches that influenced the early part of your life, about your mentors.

I grew up in Chakradharpur, a small town of Bihar (now Jharkhand). In the early 90’s there was not even the most basic infrastructure in place. However, there was a local chess club where enthusiastic people played chess. I saw a few local tournaments when I went with my father to watch these tournaments. I suggested a few moves once in a while. It is from here that one of the club members realized my potential and I was assigned Mr.Amit Medda, a young player of about 15 years from the association. Hence the basics of chess were taught to me by him. He kept helping me for quite some time even in the later stages. After I played the first National U-8 championship in 1992 in Palghat (I think), my parents realized that there is much much more to learn in chess. Soon they started to look for some trainer who had competitive experience. I was then taught by Sri R.C.Chatterjee (International Arbiter) who taught me the first opening of my chess career – The french defense! I used to visit his home near Howrah for 5-6 days in a month. As I improved further I trained with Mr. Shantanu Lahiri (elder brother of IM Atanu Lahiri). But coming to Kolkata every month and staying for several days was quite difficult. The cost was quite expensive (in those days the word “sponsorship” was not known to people from small villages and towns). This continued for some time until it became impossible to continue further. It was important to get guidance from someone. Then, IM Neeraj Kumar Mishra took me under his tutelage for several months. Being aware of my background he taught me chess in the weekends without any fee! He himself was busy with tournaments. Therefore not much time was available. Somewhere around then I won the World U-12. This opened some new avenues for me like I got selected to attend a few GM training camps (by IM Lysenko and late GM Sorokin -RIP) organized by AICF.  Some financial support to participate in open tournaments came from Tata steel and the local traders association. These tournaments had a hefty entry fee of Rs.25000/-. In my youth days, my last trainer was Mr. Varugeese Koshy. I learned a very different aspect of chess from him (the endgame!) which otherwise I had no idea. I became an IM in 2004. Once I moved to Kolkata in 2006 I got acquainted with GM S.S.Ganguly. He has been my mentor since then. He helped me a lot to complete the GM title.

That’s interesting. Aside from the coaches, can you tell us something about the role played by your family members in your career?

The support from my family members has been overwhelming. They have undertaken extreme hardships to make me where I am today. It’s easy to imagine without any financial support how difficult it can be for someone living in the most backward area of the country. It wasn’t just my parents but also few of my relatives. My maternal uncle who works in National Library has accompanied me several times in the early days when it was not possible for either of my parents.

Deep with his older brother Pratik
Deep(right) with his elder brother Pratik(left)

You won World Youth at quite an early age, at a time when it was not common for Indians to win medals in this competition. How did this happen and what was the impact of this in your career?

The first World Youth I played was in 1998. That was the first time I faced against international competition. I finished 15th. At that time my chess knowledge was extremely shallow compared to my foreign counterparts. The next big hurdle was the European food. I simply could not adjust. I lived entirely on french fries and some dessert. Hence the games towards the end turned to be of worse quality. Then in the year 2000, I had this gut feeling that winning is not an impossible feat. My only problem was food and some guidance for the matches. However, as events unfolded I lost my food card. I did not get entry to the restaurant. A lot of my friends went with their parents and coaches. They started inviting me alternatively and offered me Indian food. At least one issue was solved. I played some nice games and with some luck, I won the title after winning the last game against my Icelandic friend Kjartansson Gudumundur. This victory was probably the turning point in my chess career. My determination was much stronger to become a grandmaster. I also got some financial support to participate in the strong open tournaments.

Deep enroute to his World Championship title! Can you guess his opponent and the grandmaster next to his opponent?
Deep, en route to his World Championship title! Can you guess his opponent and the grandmaster next to his opponent?

It took a while for you to go from 2450 to a grandmaster. How did you cope with this and get past this?

This was probably the most difficult part for me to cope. I was struggling between 2450-2490 for a long time but was unable to complete. I have missed my last GM norm several times by a whisker. I am sure many others face this similar issue, wherein you need a draw in last round and under pressure, it becomes difficult to achieve. It’s more of a self-confidence issue and extremely frustrating. My last GM norm was completed in Cannes, France 2010. It was under similar circumstances as earlier. I was playing with the White pieces against GM Christian Bauer. I needed a draw as usual. But he played an unusual line. I was quite sure that I couldn’t force a draw out of the opening. My self-confidence was in such a state that I had almost given up the game even before it had even started! Then it was Surjo da (S.S.Ganguly) who sent me some of his “old notes” to counter the sidelines and said some really motivating stuff. I had absolutely no difficulty to get a clear advantage out of the opening. My opponent offered a draw when he was a pawn down and I accepted it looking back at my poor track record for the last GM norm.

Lately, there seems to be an influx of Indian players in European opens. Everyone seems to prefer tournaments abroad, why do you think this is the case?

My personal opinion is that the European tournaments offer better playing conditions compared to India. The number of entries are much lesser and you get a chance to face stronger opponents which is extremely important to make norms. The tournament venue is probably more conducive for chess competition with no traffic sounds all around unlike in India.

What can be done to get more Indian top players play in Indian Opens?

I think there should be a restriction on the number of entries or a rating cut off of 2350 or something for the Indian top players to consider playing here. I am sure many top players will participate.

What does a normal day of your training look like?

My training usually starts at about 10 am and continues till 5-6 pm with a small break in between for lunch.

What do you do to keep yourself physically fit?

I do yoga and pranayama daily. And sometimes when I am at home for a considerable period, I jog for about an hour.

Whom do you work with most often?

I am mostly working with my close friend and practice partner Arghyadip Das. We have been training together since 2008.

Deep with his partner and close friend, Arghyadip Das
Deep with his partner and close friend, Arghyadip Das

What do you do apart from chess?

I like spending time at home playing indoor games like bridge, carrom etc. I also like to play Badminton and Table tennis whenever an opportunity arises. I am also quite fascinated by my recent trekking experiences in the Himalayas and hope to do similar ones in the near future.

Deep trek
The more you sweat in peace…..

How do you relax during tournaments?

During tournaments, I go for short walks. If I am in Europe I like walking down the town center pedestrian zones. I also like to watch T.V Series especially my favorite genre called Wuxia.

What is the first thing that occurs in your mind when you look at a position? Do you immediately start calculating or have some general mechanism?

I usually make an assessment of the position first. Then the calculation phase begins.

How has your approach towards opening preparation changed over the years, with the exponential increase of information?

The approach has changed drastically. In the initial years I just followed what others were doing. Now I am trying to find my own ideas.

What do you think about the importance of the study of classics in the formation of a player? Is there any particular book/DVD you would recommend for this?

I think classics are of prime importance to make a solid base for chess education. My great predecessors (by Kasparov) is an extremely important book for studying classics.

2016 began with a little slump for you, what lessons did you learn from that and what did you do differently in the second half?

I think there are good and bad phases. My bad phase probably started with the National premier 2015 at Thiruvarur and the shock of losing almost 60 points in back to back tournaments continued for some time. Now I have mostly recovered that was lost 🙂

Why do you think most young Indian players stabilize at a certain point, and what in your opinion can be done to overcome this?

Young Indian players start extremely well in the age group tournaments but due to the limited training facility in India and very limited exposure to the international competition they tend to stagnate after a certain time. However, I think this is changing slowly and now we have some very talented youngsters doing extremely well.

Are there any particular insights/lessons from your career that you would like to share with youngsters/upcoming players?

It’s the same thing what I was told in my younger days but I didn’t understand – to work hard as time is very limited and competition is growing exponentially.

What is your current ambition/goal in Chess?

My current goal is to take my elo rating to 2650 as early as possible.

You’re set to get married very shortly 🙂 How does it feel?

Wedding in itself is a very big event in everyone’s life. I am hoping everything turns out to be as expected and nothing unusual happens, but I am prepared for all the new challenges.

Deep with his fiance, Tania Thakur
Deep with his fiance, Tania Thakur


Blitzkrieg!

What do you regard as your biggest strength?

Patience.

If you weren’t a chess player, what would you be?

Research scholar or a Chartered Accountant.

The changes you would like to see in Indian Chess?

Closed tournaments and Indian chess league.

Greatest fear?

Losing.

A historic chess player you would like to face-off over the board?

Fischer.

Early bird or night owl?

Midway.

Your most memorable game?

Against Edouard Romain in Hastings masters 2010-11.

Thanks for the interview and wish you a happy 2017!

 

The Schachbundesliga – An Interview with Mr. Ulrich Geilmann

The Schachbundesliga is to Chess as the NBA is to Basketball or the Indian Premier League is to Cricket. Known for the regular participation of the biggest names in world chess, the Schachbundesliga has a rich history and has grown into an avidly followed league. Players right from Spassky to Caruana have, at some point or the other, graced this fabulous event, which brings together a fine mix of the elite and the rising stars of the chess world. In our bid to decipher the ‘behind-the-scenes’ story of this marquee event, we reached out to the Vice President of the Schachbundesliga – Mr. Ulrich Geilmann. Ulrich provides in-depth information on how the league came into being and its top notch execution, while also providing important pointers for nations wishing to have a world-class league of their own.

Mr. Ulrich Geilmann, the Vice President of the Schachbundesliga
Mr. Ulrich Geilmann, the Vice President of the Schachbundesliga.

 

Shubham Kumthekar: Hello Ulrich, thanks for agreeing for this interview. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers and how did you get involved with the Schachbundesliga?

Ulrich Geilmann: Hello, you’re welcome. I am pleased that the Schachbundesliga now attracts attention outside Germany as well.

My name is Ulrich Geilmann. I am 53 years old and the Vice President of probably the strongest chess league in the world – the Schachbundesliga. Together with my colleagues Markus Schäfer (President), Detlef Wickert (Treasurer) and JĂźrgen Kohlstädt (Tournament Director), I organize all matters related to the association. We do this voluntarily and understand ourselves as providers for our members.

How did the initial seasons go by? 

The Schachbundesliga is an association and was founded in 2007 as a union of the clubs then playing first league. Before that, the league was organized by the German Chess Federation (DSB).

Above all, the far-sighted idea of our founding-fathers was to manage the league beside the DSB, to become more professional and thus perhaps to improve the marketing opportunities for the first-league clubs as well. After discussions, the DSB was largely consensual and we fixed all that in a basic-contract.

The DSB is still represented in our committees and we have voting rights at the DSB. There is a joint commission also. This mainly makes sense because the business of the Schachbundesliga and DSB is intertwined with four regionally divided 2nd leagues.

Overall, this design has proven itself. We work well together, weighing the interests of all members equally.

Former World Champion Vishy Anand has long been associated with Baden Baden - unarguably the strongest team in Schachbundesliga over the years.
Former World Champion Vishy Anand has long been associated with Baden Baden – unarguably the strongest team in Schachbundesliga over the years. (Picture Courtesy: Lennart Ootes via Leuven GCT)


How has Bundesliga evolved over the years?

From the start, we have worked with our members to improve tournament standards and to be attractive to chess fans.

A big step forward was the compulsory transmission of games on an internet-platform. Here, we were certainly the pioneers in international comparison.

With the renovation of our homepage, which mainly benefits from the work of our two editors Marc Lang and Georgios Souleidis, our external presentation has certainly improved even further.

As a result, the Schachbundesliga has become professional and more interesting from year to year.

institute-venuw
The third round of Schachbundesliga 2016/17 in progress at the Frauenhofer Institute in Bremen, Germany. (Picture courtesy: Chess24 Twitter)


With so many teams and players participating, effective coordination plays a very important part. How do you manage to ensure the same?

The coordinating work of the Schachbundesliga is unthinkable without the commitment of our member-associations. They are the ones who assemble the teams and ensure quality. This means an enormous organizational and financial expenditure. That should be emphasized. Beyond the sporting competition, we all move on the same line and, believe it or not, even in the same direction!

Also, the self-administration works well because the board of the Schachbundesliga is team-orientated and cooperates without conflicts.

Bundesliga has witnessed the participation of the top-most players on a regular basis. How do you ensure that the organisation of the event remains of the highest standard?

The central element is the tournament-regulation, which defines the framework of conditions. Everything is regulated, from the quality of the chess-boards, the tables and chairs, through to the excellence of the tournament hall. Somehow, typical German!

How and when did Frauen-Bundesliga come into being? Can you tell us more about the event?

The Frauenbundesliga (woman’s league) was created under the umbrella of the DSB and is still being organized there. But some top female players play successfully in the Schachbundesliga as well.

At the end of this season, there will be a joint event in Berlin. I am really looking forward to that. In preparation, we have started to report about the Frauenbundesliga on our homepage since a couple of weeks. So, if you ask me, it’s more than likely that there will be more cooperation between the Schachbundesliga and Frauenbundesliga in future.

OSG Baden-Baden - The defending Frauenbundesliga champions.
OSG Baden-Baden – The defending Frauenbundesliga champions. (Picture Courtesy: de.chessbase.com)


What level of influence have these string of wonderful league tournaments had on the Chess scene in Germany?

Our main goal is the promotion of chess as a sport. The Schachbundesliga sees itself as a central building block. In this respect, we give an exemplary orientation and publicly effective presentation of our competitions.

That’s why, we are a role-model for the whole chess sport in Germany. An important part is fair play and playing without doping. Naturally, we also condemn all forms of manipulation, in particular the use of forbidden technical tools.

With up-to-date marketing and the use of modern media, we want to create an attractive presentation for our member-associations, in order to open up marketing opportunities as well. The aim is the promotion of a positive and radiating image of chess.

Therefore we support the DSB in its sporting, social, inclusive and educational policy aims. We therefore expressly welcome the establishment and expansion of a competent and sustainable work for youth players by our members.

Whether we are actually successful at all levels is a question that can be discussed. This applies, in particular, to all questions related to marketing. However, I also believe that we are on the right path as a whole.

While many of the top chess nations have leagues of their own, there are others, India for instance, which lack one. What are the most important pointers for such nations to get a league structure going?

Good question. The financial and organizational conditions will vary from nation to nation. Certainly, we had an advantage in the sense that the Schachbundesliga already had the basic structure in place which made our start that much easier. Also, I believe that our approaches can not be transferred without reservation. However, our structure of self-administration as well as the quality standards of our tournament-regulations are good examples (of what can be imbibed by other leagues and nations).

Which Bundesliga seasons, according to you, have been the most memorable?

I have been the team-chef for over 10 years, and I have enjoyed this very much. In doing so, the encounters with the top-players of the world made lasting impressions. Countless friendships have developed.

If you ask me regarding the outstanding sporting-results, I foremost think of the last season. After many years of domination by Baden-Baden, the SG Solingen team managed to win the championship. This made the 2015/16 event extremely interesting.

solingen
The current defending champions SG Solingen ended Baden Baden’s decade-long dominance by winning the 2015/16 season of the Bundesliga. (Picture courtesy: Guido Giotta via SG Solingen)


Going forward, what are the plans regarding Bundesliga? How do you plan to make it even better?

The Schachbundesliga is still open to new developments and wants to adapt to recent changes and needs for our members as well as the interested public. Chess has become an internet sport. We will have to take greater care of that in future. However, we should get better at marketing, because ultimately, money decides quality.

Padmini: “I don’t really want to wait till the New Year to start something good”

She came, she saw, she conquered. She won the prestigious National Women’s Premier in 2014, 2015 and as the 43rd National Women’s Premier concluded recently at Delhi, we witnessed yet another performance of Padmini Rout at her maximum!

Fierce on the board and cool off the board, she has many titles to her credit. Currently she is preparing for the Women’s World Chess Championship which will be in February 2017. We spoke to her and asked her questions which we now present to you. Read on.

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Padmini with the Champion’s trophy after winning the 43rd National Women’s Premier Chess Championship at Delhi.

Rucha Pujari: Congratulations Padmini on winning the prestigious National Women’s Premier, and now third time in a row, wow! How do you feel and what was your first reaction?

Padmini Rout: Thanks. I am very happy and I was kinda relieved after completion of the event.

Tell us how the tournament went for you. How did you approach the games and what was your strategy? How did you prepare for the games, how was it different for this round robin tournament?

I think it went smooth. I went to the games with a free head. Like all my opponents were doing, I too checked their games and made strategies against them.

After the tournament you said that you were happy with your play, especially in your game against Vijayalakshmi which was quite crucial and important for you. What happened in that game?

download

Padmini, Rout • 1-0 • Vijayalakshmi, Subbaraman

36…Nc3-a2?! Like they say “A knight in the rim is grim”.  I got some serious attack after it.

Winning the Premier is a big achievement. How much effort did it take for you to win this glorious championship? Looking back, what can you say was a turning point of your career?

Well, I don’t know how to measure effort but in succinct I am a devoted chess player. Winning the U-11 girl’s Nationals in 2005, I could say was the turning point!

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Devoted to Chess. Source: Padmini’s Facebook

How do you look at Women’s Chess in India? What do you think can be done to inspire more girls to take up Chess and consider as a career choice?

I see us as with lot of potential! I think Indian Oil did a great job in giving jobs to women players. Therefore I want to thank D V Prasad who initiated the process. So young girls who look up at us will be inspired to see that we have this financial security and we can play chess freely without any worry.

2017 is coming up! Which tournaments will you be playing around the year, and what are your goals?

My first World Cup could very well be my first tournament of next year! 🙂  I will try to play in strong open tournaments.

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Aiming High. Source: Padmini’s Facebook

How do you select the tournaments you would want to play? How far in advance do you plan?

I prefer tournaments which are well organized and attract strong players. I try to plan them at least two months in advance.

Also tempted to ask, New Year resolutions? 🙂

Well I don’t really want to wait till the New Year to start something good. So all improvements are implemented with immediate effect as and when understood.

Padmini Rout: I don’t really want to wait till the New Year to start something good Click To Tweet

When and how did you start playing Chess? What is your first Chess memory?

When I was around 8 – 9 years old, during summer vacations we would go to my native place, and there my father would take me along to his friend’s house (who had a daughter who played musical instruments) where he would endlessly play chess. After kibitzing a few games I would sit with his daughter and play music instead. Those days I preferred music over chess and now it is just the other way around.

You seem to be participating in Open tournaments since a very young age. Do you think that has helped you, over playing women-only events?

Definitely. There is more competition. I personally feel all women player should play in as many open tournaments possible in order to improve further.

What would be your words of inspiration for the upcoming players?

Enjoy the process of becoming good at your chosen field of work. Not everyone is lucky to have passion as their profession.

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Source: Padmini’s Facebook
Padmini Rout: Enjoy the process of becoming good at your chosen field of work Click To Tweet

 

Blitzkrieg!

What do you think you would be if not a chess player?

A scientist.

Three people you would like to invite for dinner.

A P J Abdul Kalam, Richard Feynman and Vivekananda.

How many players do you think you can play simultaneously in blindfold chess?

Umm never tried more than 2.

One Super Power you would like to have.

Teleportation.

You won the Premier three times in a row, and just recently Carlsen won the World Championship third time in a row! What do you think is common between you two?

Only that!!

 

Eljanov: Enjoy the process and never despair after failures

Keeping up with the rising trend of strong open events, the Isle of Man International witnessed the participation of as many as 48 Grandmasters, including such distinguished players as Caruana, Nakamura, Wesley So, Adams and Eljanov, amongst others. Apart from a slight setback in the 2nd round, GM Pavel Eljanov, current World #16 and a key member of the Ukrainian team over the years, remained in full control throughout the course of the event and deservedly clinched the title. We were fortunate enough to catch up with him after this success, with Eljanov bringing his immense experience to the fore and speaking on a wide variety of topics in this highly informative interview.

(Courtesy: Harry Gielen via chessbase.com)
(Courtesy: Harry Gielen via chessbase.com)


Shubham Kumthekar
: Hi Pavel, good to have you! Congratulations on your splendid victory at Isle of Man. What was your approach like going into the tournament?

Pavel Eljanov: I had no particular expectations. Just two weeks prior to the tournament, I had returned from the Olympiad, which is the most energy-consuming tournament around in my opinion. I did not have time to make any serious preparations – just got to recharge my batteries a bit.

(Source: chessresults.com)
(Source: chessresults.com)


At what point during the tournament did you feel that you might go on to win the event? How do you manage to keep such feelings from interfering with your play?

At the beginning of the tournament, my energy levels were not quite 100%. However, I warmed up round by round and played some good games. I also think getting closer to a tournament victory works in my favour: it boosts my motivation and concentration.

(Courtesy: Lennart ootes Facebook)
Eljanov: “Getting closer to a tournament victory boosts my motivation and concentration.” (Courtesy: Lennart Ootes Facebook)


Which was the most satisfying game of the tournament?


I liked my game against Shirov the most. I am glad that I was successful in outplaying such a great player, thanks to some sleeky manoeuvres. In particular, 13.Nb1! was a nice move, not only aesthetic but also the strongest. I was very precise in the technical stage as well.

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Eljanov scored a crucial victory over Shirov in Round 6. (Courtesy: Isle of Man Chess Facebook)


There has been a rising trend of strong Opens in the recent years. How do you compare these events to the traditional all-play-alls?


I like this trend, whereby professionals and club players – all take part in one big festival. These festivals usually consist of a main event along with some additional tournaments, wherein anyone wanting to play can participate. For me, it’s much more interesting to follow or play in such events.

Speaking of the tournament formats, what is your opinion about the existing World Championship structure?

The World Championship matches are gradually losing their dynamism and attractiveness, with chess (opening) theory going as deep as the endgame in many cases. As we can conclude from the previous two cycles, the most attractive parts have been the knock-outs and the Candidate tournaments. In these tournaments, players are forced to play more combative and resourceful chess, due to the necessity of beating more than one opponent. I think deciding a World Champion in tournaments featuring eight of the top players (like in San Luis or Mexico) is an interesting and logical solution.

New York 2016. Carlsen or Karjakin? How do you see the match panning out?

Concerning Carlsen-Karjakin, I would like to bring a wrong prognosis of course, but I don’t think it will be an attractive match from the point of view of chess content. Carlsen is clearly the better player and a big favourite on account of his good form and appropriate preparation. What I am really looking forward to is the organisers’ intention to provide virtual reality broadcast. I have already decided to buy a VR gear – I hope I won’t be spending money for nothing 🙂

Pavel: What I am really looking forward to is the WCh organisers' intention to provide virtual… Click To Tweet
The World Chess Championship match between Sergey Karjakin (L) and World Champion Carlsen (R) will be played out from Nov 11 to Nov 30.
Karjakin (L) vs Carlsen (R) – The action commences on the 11th of November!


Let’s go back in time. How did it all begin for you? What is your earliest memory associated with chess?

I grew up in a chess family. My dad was an International Master and a well known chess books publisher in the Russian language (Dvoretsky’s books, amongst others, were published by him). My mum also used to play chess, but at a more modest level (about 1800 ELO). I made my first steps in chess thanks to her. At that time, we used to learn from some chess books meant for kids. Then, we started travelling together to my early junior championships.

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Late IM Vladimir Eljanov, GM Pavel Eljanov’s father, was an Honoured Coach of Ukraine and a chess book publisher of repute. (Courtesy: fide.com)


Growing up, which authors and players influenced you the most?

In the mid-90s, when my father began publishing, I used to help him with the proofreading of Dvoretsky’s chess books. That way, I absorbed a lot of quality chess information. I still think that those books are top class and beyond comparison.

A young Eljanov at the Amsterdam Chess Tournament of 2005, where he emerged victorious. (Courtesy: Frits Agterdenbos via chessbase.com)
A young Eljanov at the Amsterdam Chess Tournament of 2005, where he emerged victorious. (Courtesy: Frits Agterdenbos via chessbase.com)


Roundabout the time you became a Grandmaster, computers had started taking over. What has been your approach to using computers? How can up and coming players use computers to improve their play?

This is probably the most important question for young players aiming to play chess at the professional level. It is an extremely deep topic and I can speak on it for hours together. In brief, I suggest that any young chess player should not overuse the chess engines and stay away from concentrating too much on the study of openings. The most important thing for a chess player is to develop his/her own algorithm of finding (good) moves. To have a good mentor and to read good chess books is, in my opinion, essential for every player.

Pavel: I suggest that any young chess player should not overuse the chess engines Click To Tweet

You are well-known in the chess fraternity for your opening expertise, having helped Gelfand more times than one, as well as Carlsen and Mariya Muzychuk. How do you go about preparing your openings?

It’s not a secret that more or less all top players work on openings constantly. Everyone tries to anticipate and be one step ahead of his/her competitors. I am no exception to this. I try and choose openings that suit my style. 

Considering the opening boom and the rapidly developing engines, what are your views about Chess 960?

I have played Chess 960 only once – in Mainz a long time ago. I think it’s funny. Also, there are a lot of positions which simply lack harmony and are bad for black right from the first move. I think there is a lot of space to tweak the chess rules (without changing the initial position) in order to increase the effectiveness and attractiveness of our game. The simplest one (but hardly the most effective) is to cancel stalemate. In any case, classical chess still excites me very much. I believe there are many years to go before our game gets emasculated. However, an inner motivation of any chess player and appropriate formats for events are very important, as I noted earlier.

What, according to you, has been the defining moment(s) of your career?

There were a few. But I would say that the turning point – from where I started to work on chess much more professionally – was the Calvia Olympiad in 2004, when I became an Olympiad champion for the first time. I got a strong boost and realised that being 21 years old, I was still in the very beginning of my path.

The victorious Ukrainian team at the Calvia Olympiad, 2004. Eljanov scored a respectable 6 points from his 8 games.
The victorious Ukrainian team at the Calvia Olympiad, 2004. Eljanov scored a respectable 6 points from his 8 games. (Courtesy: www.thechessdrum.net)


If there is one thing that you would like to tell aspiring chess players around the globe, what would it be? 🙂


To enjoy the process and to not despair after failures. In any activity, there are ups and downs.

Pavel Eljanov's message to aspiring players: enjoy the process and do not despair after failures Click To Tweet


Blitzkrieg

If not a chess player, then…
A doctor.

How does a normal day of GM Pavel Eljanov look like?
Chess, family time, some sports etc.

Movies or the Theatre
TV series – my bad, I know 🙂

Early Bird or Night Owl
Night Owl.

The most influential (non-chess) book you have read till date.
Hard to choose one. From this year’s reading, I very much liked ‘The man who mistook his wife for a hat’ by Oliver Sacks.

Captains take the Blitzkrieg!

A few days ago, we brought to you interviews with GM RB Ramesh and GM Jonathan Tisdall, both of whom captained their respective sides successfully at the recently concluded Baku Olympiad. The duo spoke on a number of topics in those interviews, ranging from the Baku Olympiad to their own journey in the chess world. Now, it’s your chance to catch them unplugged, as they answer a flurry of offbeat questions, revealing lighter sides to their respective teams in the process!

Jovial & colourful: Ramesh (India) and Tisdall (Norway)
     Two colourful personalities: Ramesh (India) and Tisdall (Norway)


About Baku

The most exciting game played by a member of your team…

ico_ramesh  1) Shankland-Sethuraman! 2) Mamedyarov- Harikrishna

(Editor: Shankland himself said: “I got totally crushed in the beginning, and I have never had such a hopelessly lost position in my life against an opponent as strong as him and walked away with a draw, much less a win.” Harikrishna beat Mamedyarov with the Black pieces to secure a crucial win which helped team India beat higher rated Azerbaijan)

ic_tisdall  Magnus’ game vs the Philippines raised my pulse the most.

(Editor: Magnus playing White found himself defending a position with a pawn down, but eventually managed to draw the game)


One game result that you would like to change…

ico_ramesh  Sethuraman – Korobov to 1-0!

(Editor: Sethuraman’s loss meant that team India lost to Ukraine 2.5-1.5 in an important round 9 match)

ic_tisdall  Aryan Tari’s loss vs Romania. Or have Hammer win in round one, and hope that changed his entire event. But when you’ve had a fantastic result, you aren’t that eager to tempt ‘fate’ or change history.

sethu-korobov-edited
Sethu-Korobov: The calm before the storm! (Source: Facebook – Gopakumar Sudhakaran)


Knowing the teams

The funniest guy…

ico_ramesh  Adhiban!

ic_tisdall Probably Aryan. He kept trying to convince us his Iranian roots made it impossible for him to concentrate against Iran, for one thing. And he was good at it. Magnus is a joker too.

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Team Norway’s funny guy #1: Aryan Tari! (Source: Wikipedia)

 

...and their funny guy #2: The World Champion himself! (Source: Tisdall's Facebook)
…and their funny guy #2: The World Champion himself! (Source: Tisdall’s Facebook)

The funniest guy in Team India!? Ramesh: Adhiban! Click To Tweet

Tisdall: Aryan kept trying to convince us his Iranian roots made it impossible for him to concentrate against Iran… Click To Tweet

Team’s workaholic…

ico_ramesh  All of them work really really hard.

ic_tisdall  I don’t think we have one. No one overdoes it. Both Norway and Magnus have a more pleasure-driven approach to learning, so we tend to have playaholics.


The philosopher…

ico_ramesh  Harikrishna

ic_tisdall  I suggest Nicolai Getz. He’s very calm and reflective.

Philosopher in Team India? Ramesh: Harikrishna Click To Tweet

Philosopher in Team Norway? Tisdall: Nicolai Getz! Very calm and reflective Click To Tweet

The biggest foodie…

ico_ramesh  Adhiban

ic_tisdall  Me. You may want a player, but I think this one is clear. I have even worked at a stove!

adhiban-thinking
Adhiban: “Hmm… Lemme see… What should I have for dinner tonight…” (Source: Facebook – Gopakumar Sudhakaran)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who do you think would fare the best in a show like Fear Factor?

ico_ramesh  Vidit

ic_tisdall  Magnus, purely on competitive grounds.

Vidit: "I knew I'd be chosen!" (Source: chess.com)
Vidit: “I knew I’d be chosen!” (Source: chess.com)


Team’s favourite pastime at Baku…

ico_ramesh  Walking together as a team and sharing the fun and pains.

ic_tisdall  Swimming pool meetings would be my guess.


(Co-authored by Shubham Kumthekar and WFM Rucha Pujari)

Tisdall: “Norway just played, there were no fancy strategies!”

For Team Norway, the recently-concluded Baku Olympiad turned out to be a beautiful tale. Spearheaded by World Champion Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegians racked up a historic 5th position, booking a World Team Championship berth for themselves in the process. The ever-colourful Jonathan Tisdall, known for his witty ways, captained this record-breaking young brigade. Post-Baku, we were fortunate enough to catch up with Jonathan, who talks about what went on behind-the-scenes, the World Teams and his love for Shogi in this intriguing interview.

 

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Norway’s captain – Jonathan Tisdall (Source: Susan Polgar Twitter – @SusanPolgar)


Shubham
Kumthekar: Hello Jonathan! It’s been a few weeks since the Baku Olympiad came to a close, where the Norwegian team racked up a historic 5th position. Being the captain of this amazing team, how good are you feeling? 🙂

Jonathan Tisdall: I’m still very pleasantly surprised! The biggest feeling now is wondering how to get ready for our unexpected prize of direct qualification for the World Team Championship.

SK: How did you guys approach the Olympiad – was there a specific strategy in place?

JT: I think that might be easy to spot – the team wanted to try playing with a minimum of rotation, to ‘top the team’ as much as possible. This was risky as Norway has had a history of fading in the final rounds.

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Young but formidable – The Norway Chess Team. (Source: chess-results.com)


SK: Following a slow start, your team turned things around beautifully in the second half. What, according to you, made the difference?

JT: Magnus warmed up, and the team introduced a few daily routines to strengthen togetherness. Also, they are physically fit, which is very important for Magnus.

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Team Peru (L) vs Team Norway (R) from Round 7. Starting with crucial victories over Turkey and Peru in Rounds 6 & 7 respectively, the Norwegian unit racked up a scintillating finish. (Source: Susan Polgar Twitter – @SusanPolgar)


SK: In the final round match against India, a victory for either of the teams would mean an outside chance of making a podium finish. What was Team Norway’s approach going into this big encounter?

JT: Magnus said jokingly (?) before the Olympiad that plan A was to try to win on every board. Norway just played. There were no fancy – neutralise their whites, focus all the efforts on board X –  type strategies. Everyone fights and tries to make the most of the chances they get.

SK: What was Magnus’ influence like on the team?

JT: Supreme. He uses a lot of energy being the team leader, and works to inspire and gather the team, advise and relax them. I think, it is one of the reasons he is yet to over-perform in a team event – he feels immense responsibility and gives away some of the energy he needs. In Baku, this was more true than ever, but it also went better than ever. Of course, he also led by being fully focused on his games – his concentration was better than ever for a team event.

Tisdall: Magnus uses a lot of energy being the team leader, and works to inspire and gather the team.. Click To Tweet

magnus-baku-lennart
Team Norway’s spearhead – World Champion Magnus Carlsen (Source: Lennart Ootes Twitter – @LennartOotes)


SK: How did you go about captaining the team? 

JT: I adopted a policy of being a safety valve. I smoothed out any distractions, problem-solved, but in the background, off-the-board matters. We have the world champion on the team, no other expertise is needed. His understanding of sporting psychology is also about as good as his chess.

If any conflict should arise, I could be an authority figure, but the bottom line was to trust the team and Magnus fully, and to let them get on with it. I was the water boy and a friendly ear, and stayed in constant touch.

SK: What, in your opinion, distinguishes effective team captains from the rest?

JT: I think there are many styles, depending on the team. Some need to be the trainer types, some inspire or set a mood, some are managers, some a combination of these. Knowing what your team needs, and when to stay the hell out of the way, are two skills I would highlight. Of course the job demands, say, of Ivan Sokolov for Iran, were completely different from mine. Having an active world champion changes the equations.

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Last-minute talks… (Source: Susan Polgar Twitter – @SusanPolgar)


SK: This impressive finish at Baku has also guaranteed Norway a spot in the World Team Championship to be held next year. How huge is it for you and the boys and how do you plan to approach it?

JT: Every time I think about it, it gets bigger. It will be a historic event for Norway. Honestly, the first stage is to secure funding. Despite the chess boom, the Norwegian Federation doesn’t have a lot of funds. The first goal is to play in the World Teams without having to scrimp on the Euro Teams later in the year. Ideally, we would be able to afford some serious preparation.

SK: Let’s backtrack. How did your chess journey begin?

JT: I learnt very young at my father’s knee, and started playing in tournaments when I was about 11. Things went forward very quickly – at first.

SK: What were the key moments in your journey towards the Grandmaster title?

JT: I had the worst competitive psychology on Earth, which is why it took so long, and why I became better known as a trainer/writer. My key moments were not giving up.

SK: Which of your tournament victories/achievements stand closest to your heart?

JT: Winning the Reykjavik Open. (Ed. – 1996)

SK: Is it true that you like and play Shogi? When and how did you get acquainted with the game?

JT: I love Shogi, but don’t really play it, no time. I learnt it at my father’s knee as well, but became very interested in Shogi when I decided to use it to regain the ‘beginner’s mind’ while I was writing ‘Improve Your Chess Now’ and wanted to remember how it felt to be inexperienced as a player.

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The initial setup of Shogi, also known as Japanese Chess. (Source: Wikipedia)


SK: Any plans of learning other variants like Xiangqi and Go? 🙂

JT: No! Go is too abstract for me, and for some reason I find Xiangqi very hard to grasp, the most elusive of the chess variants. I was just chatting to Simen Agdestein who is writing a book about these games. He fell for Go, but completely agreed with me about Xiangqi. We couldn’t understand what made it so difficult.

SK: While we are on chess variants, let’s talk about a variant within western chess, namely Chess 960. What are your views about it?

JT: I have a feeling it might become a big thing in the future. That is if no one seriously turns the computers on it as well.

GM Tisdall on Chess960: I have a feeling it might become a big thing in the future Click To Tweet

SK: With all the experience you bring to the table, what would you like to tell aspiring players aiming to make it big in today’s competitive chess environment?

JT: My experience doesn’t extend to today’s environment! But, I think the most obvious thing that doesn’t seem to be common practice these days is that endgame knowledge should be a higher educational/training priority. Time limits keep getting faster, and so you are never going to have the time needed to think properly at the end.

GM Tisdall: Endgame knowledge should be a higher educational/training priority Click To Tweet

Ramesh: “Never doubt your hard work, it will always help you when you need it the most”

It has been few weeks since the Baku Olympiad, and we caught up with the captain of the Indian Open team – Grandmaster RB Ramesh. We asked him questions on the Olympiad and the crucial moments, Indian Chess, how should a player improve, and more. A very well known personality, Ramesh needs no introduction. A simple man with high ideals, he is unarguably one of the best coaches in India. We are grateful to him for sharing his opinions and insights.

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Indian Open Team at the Baku Olympiad. From left to right: Captain RB Ramesh, Sethuraman SP, Karthikeyan Murali, Vidit Gujrathi, Adhiban B, Harikrishna P

Rucha Pujari: Great performance by Team India at the Baku Olympiad. How did the team approach the tournament, and how did it go?

Ramesh RB: Thank you very much. It was indeed a great performance from the young Indian team at Baku. Regarding the team’s approach, it was mostly about taking each match individually and trying to score as many points as possible on each board/match. All the players were in good form and very confident about their abilities. That made the job easier.

RP: How was the board order chosen? How did the team work together during the tournament and before the games?

Ramesh: We discussed few options and decided to go with the rating order this time around.  Basically we discuss what is the best possible board order to field once the pairing is known. These days, preparations are done mostly with Laptops plus personal cloud computers/servers of individual players at the top level. Each player has his own opening material and if there are some lines that need to be checked, some problem lines were new ideas need to be found then myself and the player who is not playing will try to come up with some ideas which can be used in that game. Mostly, pregame preparation is about revising vast material which the player already has and plugging the holes that may arise in few variations. In many cases, some playerswill have some new ideas or some interesting options and they share with other players. This way the players help each other to find optimum lines to be employed in that particular game.

RP: There may have been a lot of crucial moments. Can you share some of them? How did you overcome them?

Ramesh: Against Cuba, one of our player had some issues with an opening and we found some idea at the very last moment and luckily it appeared on the board and we won an important game. Though the idea was not dangerous, it was tough to handle it over the board and it worked in our favor!

At times some player feels dejected after a painful loss and is not in the mood to play the next game and there is a slight loss of confidence in one’s ability. I try to keep the players in good frame of mind and talk to the concerned player during a walk and cheer them up.  Since lot of the issue involve players, it would be better we don’t go into the specifics.

Fortunately, we didn’t have too many crisis moments. Players in general were in good form throughout, except in few cases were the last 3 rounds proved to be tougher than expected and didn’t go in our way.

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Captain Cool. Source: Ramesh’s Facebook

RP: You have contributed so much to Indian Chess. Let us go back. How did you start playing Chess and when did you decide to take up Chess as a career?

Ramesh: I started playing chess at the relatively later age of twelve years in December 1988. Anand becoming GM was the inspiration. It was initially more like a hobby but when I started winning some tournaments I started to take it more seriously. When I qualified for National A (current national premier) in 1995-96, I realized I should probably take this as my career option.

RP: How was the transformation from a player, towards becoming a trainer for you?

Ramesh: It was kind of smooth for me, the transition from player to trainer. I had worked with my wife Aarthie in 1998 and She went on to win the World under 18 Girls Championship in Spain in 1999. This gave me lot of confidence and I realized I could become a good trainer if I put in more effort. I went as coach for the Indian Junior team in 1998 for Asian Junior Championship at Iran. That was a good break for me.

Later I worked a player who went on to become a GM within a short span of one year (would prefer to keep the name confidential).

I started working with a lot of talented youngsters and most of them if not all started improving rapidly and that gave me lot of confidence in my abilities as a coach. I started to study a lot, work much harder in preparing good training material myself and tried to upgrade myself constantly so I can fulfill any requirement from the student. This is very exciting and I learnt a lot about myself, chess and about various issues that bother upcoming players and how to effectively solve them.

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The evergreen positive Ramesh

 

RP: How do you look at the current Indian and Global Chess scenario?

Ramesh: Indian chess, in general, is looking very bright and has huge potential. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Women chess in India. There are not enough talents coming up in Women chess to replace the older generation of players. Something drastic needs to be done here. Among men, we can see lot of young kids doing well and the average age of Indian men team is getting younger and the average age of Women team is getting older.

There is lot of scope for improvement in how things are run in India. I have shared my views on this in my Facebook post.

Globally, Chess is also getting younger, players are earning more at some level and the same cannot be said for all level of players. There is a mismatch there which probably is because there are too many good players and not enough money to cater to the need of everyone.

The game is becoming more technology driven. The advancements in Hardware and software play a huge role in the quality of the player’s preparation.

Lot of new avenues have opened up for those who are interested in Chess to make a living. For example, there are more websites, more authors who write books, produce DVD’s, Video lectures, online commentators, coaches, clubs, academies, organizers, etc.

Chess is going through an exciting stage were some things are going in right direction while some or not!

capture
The Facebook post mentioned above, where Ramesh shared his views on Indian Chess.
Ramesh: Indian chess, in general, is looking very bright and has huge potential Click To Tweet

RP: How long do you think it will take for India to produce another World Champion, after VishyAnand?

Ramesh: I think we are going to see in future that no single player can dominate the game for very long, as was the case in the past. Probably Carlsen will be the last of the World dominating players.

In such a scenario, we should be happy if we can produce more 2750+ players in the next 5 years and take it from there. We have a large base of young strong players and if they are properly groomed and opportunities provided, we should have at least 10 players in 2700+ in next 10 years if not more.

RP: What does it take to become a world class player? How can a player improve his game independently?

Ramesh: There is no correct answer to this question!  Tremendous amount of love for the game, self-belief, hard work, good memory, tough nerves, ability to raise after bad results, higher level of learning capacity, opportunities to play in strong tournaments regularly at every level, proper training, good hardware/software, financial muscle, support from school and parents, high level of competition among fellow players from young age etc.

These days a combination of individual work and good training is crucial to make rapid progress from young age and sustain it over a longer period. A player should be constantly assessing his/her strengths and weaknesses and make appropriate changes in the way they prepare at home and play in tournaments.

It is better to not settle down into a fixed method of preparing and remain flexible to make constant changes to how and what a player prepares at home. One should work on areas he/she is already good at and also work more on areas one is not so good at. One should also possess the skill of unlearning the bad qualities they have cultivated over the years. Problems like poor time management during the game, inefficient preparation where a player spends more time but learns less, poor concentration, not having a plan while preparing, unwillingness to acknowledge one’s weak areas and resolving them, spoiling the whole tournament after a painful or unexpected loss, worrying too much about result, too much focus on ratings going up and down, lack of interest in learning new areas, poor self-esteem, inability to handle tough situations are some of the common problems that prevent a promising player from making it big.

Parents should not have unrealistic expectations from their children without proper foundation to base their expectations on. Ability to spend money is not a criterion to expect great things from their children in Chess. Personally I have seen that many parents play a crucial role in ensuring their child does not reach their potential as a result of unrealistic expectations, looking for instant success, unwillingness to go through the grind, impatience, over emphasis on ratings, judging the child on game to game basis, not paying attention to how hard the child works, not being supportive when the child requires it, being overly critical and damaging a child’s self-esteem etc..

Many parents think, sending a child to a good coach is their magical wand and their role ends with it. A player becomes successful mostly because of his/her own effort, involvement, learning, etc.. Parents and Coaches only facilitate this process. Parents should also play the role of a good mentor as the child spends most of the time with them. A child should be taught the value of hard work, self-belief, learning, changing, experimenting, making mistakes and learning from them, overcoming losses, keep aiming higher etc..

Ramesh: Many parents think, sending a child to a good coach is their magical wand and their role ends with it Click To Tweet

RP: You have trained and shaped so many players and youngsters, who have went on to become Grand masters and International masters. What goes on in your academy Chess Gurukul? How is Chess studied differently there?

Ramesh: Thanks. We don’t focus too much on results and instead try to teach our students to focus more on the effort they put in learning and getting stronger as a player. A player should learn to think better, analyse a position better, manage time better, and trust that the effort we put will never go wasted and will be rewarded at the right time.

We try to focus in all areas of the game and cultivate an overall positive personality to the player. A player should not feel inadequate in any area of the game. We try to teach our students to enjoy competition, accept that tough moments make us tougher, be as hopeful as possible at all times especially when things are not going the way we want them to, not to play only for results but also to experiment, to try new things, to learn new things, new approaches to one’s thinking process. With each move and each game we learn something new about our self and strive to get better.

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A selfie at Chess Gurukul. Source: Ramesh’s Facebook

RP: What challenges do you face as a coach? What changes can you suggest as regard to grassroot chess coaching in India?

Ramesh: Main challenge is not being able to spend as much time individually as I would like to spend with my students. Almost every day someone is playing in some tournament or other. They are going through good times or extremely testing times on daily basis and as their coach I have to respond in appropriate manner. Less time for family or self is another issue. But these also make me a better person, force me to be on the alert all the time. I try keep myself as up to date as possible in all areas of the game.  Sometimes, a talented player will not be in a financial position to afford the coaching fees. When a child is not putting enough effort at home and stop making progress it is a toughest moment as a coach.

Currently, most of the top players in India are still active players and not spend much time in sharing their knowledge with the next generations. When that starts to happen more we will have many good coaches who can cater to the needs of all levels of players. Currently there are lot of good coaches at the lower level. But once a student reaches a certain level the coach finds himself to be inadequate.

If the players feel there is enough money to be made as a coach on a long term basis we will have more players turning into full time coaches. For this to happen, governments at State and Central level should reward good coaches financially in relation to their student’s achievements. That in itself will be a regular source of income for good coaches.

More training camps for coaches should be organized. Coaches should make effort to upgrade themselves and teach what is good for the players instead of teaching only the things that know currently. Coaching should not be done only for money but also a holistic approach helps in being a good coach.

RP: You are married to Aarthie Ramaswamy, and are the first Grand master couple of India! Can you share your story with us? How often do you play Chess at home? 🙂

Ramesh: Well, being married to a strong chess player helps a lot at home. Aarthie understands that I have to spend lot of time with my students. Sometimes I will be sad when my students are going through tough times and be in my own world. I am very emotionally involved with my students so their ups and downs affect me lot though I try not to show them to my students. As a player herself, Aarthie understands all these well and give me the space to be myself.

Aarthie is one of the main reason for whatever little I have achieved as a coach. I had to quit my job at some point in my life and She encouraged me to be what I wanted to be though the financial prospects did not look bright. She handles all the administrative work herself leaving me to focus on my students to the best of my ability. I don’t play chess at all anymore except lot of blitz with my students. At home we try to lead a normal family life and keep chess away as much as possible but that is difficult!

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Ramesh and Aarthie are first Grandmaster couple of India!

RP: What would be your message for the upcoming players?

Ramesh: Believe in yourselves, work really hard. Hard work does not mean more work but sincere work. Play chess because you like it, don’t give too much importance than required to results. Show interest in learning everything about chess, accept the good and bad things that come with it. Never doubt your hard work, it will always help you when you need it the most.Believe in yourselves, work really hard. Hard work does not mean more work but sincere work. Click To Tweet

RP: Finally, if you had the power to change one thing in this world, what will you change?

Ramesh: Myself! I will want to be a better person than what I am now, be more rewarding to the society, contribute more to my student’s progress, make my family more happy. Ramesh: I will want to be a better person than what I am now, be more rewarding to the society... Click To Tweet