Author Archives: Akshat

North American Junior U20
A Missed Opportunity!

Sometimes you unexpectedly come across low-hanging fruit.  But that doesn’t mean you are still able to pluck and eat it.  This is the story of such a time.

On July 26 I wrapped up the Czech Open, the last tournament on my month-long Europe tour and was all set to return back home! The tournament didn’t go very well for me as I drew several lower rated players, and was unable to get anything going.  After the last round, my Dad and I went through a grueling 4-hour journey in order to get from Pardubice to the airport in Prague. We finally arrived there at around midnight, completely exhausted, and tried to catch some sleep before our early morning flight home after a stopover. We arrived home on the evening of July 28. It felt great to be home and see my mom and brother, after a long fatiguing trip! There wouldn’t be much time for rest however, as I was due to play the North American Junior, for which I had to travel in three days. The winner of the tournament would receive the IM Title, which was of no relevance to me since I already had one, but more importantly a GM norm as well! This tournament was never on our calendar, and we planned to get a week’s rest or so before heading out for The Washington International tournament in Rockville. We learnt about the NA Junior while still on the road in Europe, and felt like this was a splendid opportunity to makeup for the narrow miss in Paracin.

Getting some rest and overcoming the jetlag was the least of my problems; things were about to get a lot worse. The next day I started feeling enervated and on Tue, I felt extremely ill with a sore body, fever and a constant retching sensation. The Doctor told me it was the Flu, and nothing could be done about it as it takes a week to get over. Her advice – take rest, drink fluids, for you can’t hold down food, and manage the intense body pain with medication for a week. The doctor was not in favor of me going so far to play another tournament. The medication wasn’t really helping. In the early morning hours on Wed – 30th before we were to start, I fainted while attempting to stand up.  Fortunately, I didn’t hit my head on the floor directly but fell towards the wall and then tumbled sideways and hit the floor. I’ve always wondered how people can just faint; aren’t they aware of what’s happening? Well I can tell you first hand, No! I felt a black wave of nausea overcome me, and my head became really light just as I passed out.  My Dad repeatedly kept telling me that we didn’t have to go if I wasn’t feeling up to it. After all I could barely even get up from bed, let alone sit-up and play a game of chess 🙂 . It was only sheer will and determination to play the game and try for a Norm, that got me out of bed that day.

The drive to Kitchener, Canada was going to be 10 hours long. That’s plenty of time for some rest and relaxation, right? Unfortunately, wrong 🙁 . I had to deal with retching sensations the entire trip. We also encountered a vicious storm when we entered Canada, accompanied by blinding sheets of rain! When we finally made it to the hotel room, I simply collapsed and my condition was worse. The hotel reception and the tournament organizer told us about some health care centers, in case of an emergency. So here I was on the brink of the tournament, which was to start the next morning, and still as sick as a dog. The next few days I just survived on fluids, pain killers and very little food.

In the morning, I felt a bit better and my fever was coming down to normal. I still felt extremely nauseous however, and just walking to the playing hall made me feel like passing out. Carrying a retching bag , I showed up at my table . The pairings came, but I had no strength to get up and look. I just waited for the opponent to show up.

I started off well and was extremely happy that I was able to win my first 4 games, despite being completely devitalized. The game quality wasn’t the highest from my side in the games that I was Black, but it was good enough to comfortably get the Win, which was all that mattered. After winning my 4th game, I faced Edward Song in Round 5.  It was a quick Draw, something that was frustrating, especially since I was White.  I was determined to play longer and stronger in the next round against Tanraj Sohal, who was having a breakout tournament with Wins over some higher rated players.  I made use of my double-white, and outplayed Tanraj, ending the day with 5.5/6. Things were looking good! After the game, for the first time I stepped out from the Hotel since we came, to walk around a few blocks. I was starting to feel better, and was regaining my strength.

The next morning I faced Andrew Tang as Black. The game went wrong for me right from the start, when I mashed two variations resulting in what I believe is a lost position.

I fought back tooth and nail, surviving a +10 (!) position for Tang, but in the end I missed two fairly straightforward instances where I could easily overcome the advantage I handed out. Tang played accurately enough to hold on to the advantage presented to him, and eventually Win. He was already playing strongly prior to this round, and after this round I felt he deserved to come first.

I was stunned that I lost to a lower rated, something I hadn’t done in a really long time. That one loss was enough to lose control of the tournament.  In the penultimate round, I Drew with Canadian IM Richard Wang. At that point, I no longer had a shot at 1st and the coveted GM norm. To play the final round and achieve 2nd or 3rd would get me Titles/Norms that I already possessed. To me, it just made sense to step aside and let others who could benefit from such title awards duel it out in the last round. My Dad also agreed but more importantly for him from my health perspective was the benefit of not going through the strain of another round.

As I look back and see the Norms & Titles awarded to other players, I feel it was the right decision. Of course, the regret of letting things slip through my hand lingers. In any case, with the Arbiters/Directors ready to post the pairing and leave for the night, we had to make a quick decision.

The ride back was once again a very long one.  We did have time to stop at the majestic Niagara Falls, and that made for a good change after the events of the previous days. I would like to thank the organizers Patrick McDonald and Hal Bond for organizing a highly professional and perfect FIDE tournament, and the Arbiters team for their help and understanding during the tournament.

I want to keep covering my misses as well for other players to realize that ‘Downs’ also come with the ‘Ups,’ and we still got to pick ourselves up and keep moving on!


Rene Preotu, FIDE Arbiter and Chess Parent

Recently, my attention was drawn to a comment by Rene Preotu on a Canadian chess message board, characterizing me as someone who withdraws from tournaments when Norm chances don’t exist.

J. Wang “But did IM Akshat Chandra withdraw from the tournament?”
R. Preotu “He did the same thing last year at Quebec Open and also from other US tournaments when he had no more chances for norms.”

Well, Mr. Preotu is clearly mistaken and unfortunately highly irresponsible in his comments. As a FIDE Arbiter, he should be more professional and refrain from making controversial remarks about Chess Players on message boards, particularly when he is so wrong.

I withdrew from the Quebec Open because I had a throat infection, perhaps because of the chemical fumes that we had to breathe for days as the first floor gym was being cleaned, while we were staying a few floors above in the dorms; not to mention the intense Summer heat and no air conditioning. Mr. Preotu could have easily verified the reasons with his Arbiter colleagues at the tournament since he was present there. Instead he made his own assumptions. He could have easily searched and found my posting from 2013 on the Quebec Open which also discusses my condition. In addition, being a FIDE Arbiter he of all people should know that my IM norm chances did not exist after ~Round 5.  So by his logic, I should not have played from R6 onwards. Why wait till R9 to withdraw?

Searching for Facts is hard work. It’s easier to shoot off some irresponsible and erroneous comments and washing your hands off it. Mr. Preotu’s mischaracterization was read by several others on the message board. Eventually it became a factoid when others accepted and started building on it, and I’m left now to correct the printed record in the public domain. In addition, since Mr. Preotu seems to be following my tournament record closely, I’d be glad if he can post in the comments section the list of US tournaments that I’ve withdrawn from after my Norm chances were gone.

Separately, Mr. Preotu’s comment also raises another issue. Withdrawing from tournaments is a very personal and difficult decision. Players do it for they feel it’s right for them. It’s their decision. Besides the official Arbiters and Organizers, it’s no one else’s business. You’re not sponsoring or paying for the player’s travel, hotel, and tournament expenses; nor are you aware of their health or state of mind, etc. So with a limited view of the situation, why complain? Perhaps if you sponsor the player, then one can understand the questioning.

Having said that, I generally don’t like withdrawals that occur once pairings are already posted and round is to begin shortly. Of course exceptions are there, but if players wait till last minute to withdraw after pairings are already posted, that is detrimental to the interests of the other players.

People may have different views on this subject, and I’m sure they’ll post them in the Comments section.


Right before I leave, I want to leave you guys with two puzzles from my R3 game, against the talented Canadian FM Jason Cao. In the first one, White to play and win an exchange!

In the 2nd puzzle, find White’s quickest way to victory!

Until next time!

T7S – The Seventh Samurai

North American Junior 2014, The Walper Hotel, Kitchener, Canada

North American Junior 2014, The Walper Hotel, Kitchener, Canada

IMG_8285 IMG_8286 IMG_8292 IMG_8294 IMG_8301


IMG_8310 IMG_8314 IMG_8343

The Seventh Samurai

I came across a post written by a fellow chess enthusiast, Dana Mackenzie, on his blog, He really wrote an awesome article profiling me, and I want to express my gratitude to him.

Thanks Dana !

The first lines are:

“Not long ago I wrote here jokingly about the fact that the U.S. has “too many” young players getting IM and GM norms. I hope everyone realizes I wasn’t serious… This is a true golden era of American chess.  Today I was browsing the list of the top 100 juniors in the world, and I came across a name I hadn’t seen before:

81. Chandra, Akshat (USA) 2442

There are seven Americans on the list, and all of the others are very familiar to me. Ray Robson at #10/11. Daniel Naroditsky, chess author and last year’s U.S. Junior champion, at #21. Kayden Troff, the current U.S. Junior champion, at #39. Darwin Yang at #47. Samuel Sevian at #63. And even Jeffrey Xiong at #86 is someone I knew about. But who is Akshat Chandra?….  “

To read the full post, click here !

He refers to me as the “Seventh Samurai,” a reference to the famous 1954 movie “Seven Samurai.” I must say I like that title a lot, and will now definitely go by that nickname in the future 🙂

Peace out – The Seventh Samurai.

Tied 1st at the Paracin International Open
Missed GM Norm by a Whisker!

Checking in from Europe to give a little update.

I tied first with 7.5/9 at the Paracin International Open in Central Serbia! 2700 GM Richard Rapport took first on better tiebreak. I missed my GM norm by a whisker, as my average opponent rating was a few points less then what was required. But nonetheless, it was definitely a memorable tournament! I needed to play an opponent rated 2470/+ in the last round, and a draw would be required for a norm. Unfortunately, I got paired with a 2443, which wrecked the norm chance. Oh well, at least my game’s in the right place, and I had a 2650 performance :D.

Here’s a link to the official report that appeared on Chessdom. Below’s my game with the 2700 GM ,and World Junior #2 Richard Rapport.


Moments before the Final Round

Moments before the Final Round

Tied 1st at the Paracin International Open, Serbia

Akshat Chandra – Tied 1st at the Paracin International Open, Serbia

At the 18th century Holy Trinity Church - a famous landmark monument on the banks of River Crnica in Paracin

At the 18th century Holy Trinity Church – a famous landmark monument on the banks of River Crnica in Paracin – Akshat Chandra

My last round win over GM Abramovic.




9-year old storms through GMs!

I thought I’ll share an article I just published on ChessBase.  It was about a 9-year old beating a couple of GM’s. I don’t know the young phenom, but such a feat is extremely rare and highly impressive at his age. That’s why I thought I’ll provide some coverage on it and highlight his accomplishment to a broader and appreciative chess community. Hopefully the exposure he’s getting on a premier chess new site like Chessbase will assist him in getting even more recognition in his country and the support he may need, and very well deserves. The entire article can be viewed here.  The first few lines are reposted below. If you have comments on the article, please post them on Chessbase and share your like/dislike preference.



A few weeks ago I was randomly surfing some chess results, and stumbled on to a tournament played in Uzbekistan. I went through the results of the first round to see if there were any major upsets, and as I was about to move on, something caught my eye. I noticed that a very high-rated GM (exactly 2600) Andrei Zhigalko lost his first round to a 2057 FIDE rated player. This is of course a huge upset.  But what makes it even more incredible is that the 2057 was a 9 year old! That’s right, a 9 year old took down a 2600. This was no fluke or a flippant move by the opponent turning into a major blunder. This was a gritty, square-by-square grind-down in which the 9 year old FM Nodirbek Abdusattorov from Uzbekistan prevailed.

9-year old FM Nodirbek Abdusattorov

9-year old FM Nodirbek Abdusattorov


Like Mike!

Sorry my dear readers, it’s been a crazy month and a half in which I played 4 norm tournaments, striking gold in one of them! But that’s not the subject I wish to discuss right now. After a long period of dormancy, I’m back to updating the blog with some new posts.

Ever heard the expression “Like Mike?”

Maybe you’ve seen the movie. The ‘Mike’ in context refers to the greatest basketball player ever, Michael Jordan. Well there’s another Mike here in the chess world whom I’d like to bring to your attention, and his name is Michael Regan.

Who’s that you might ask?

Well, in my opinion he is one of the finest chess tournament organizers here in America!

Mike is the Treasurer of the Maryland Chess Association.  Even more important, he is the chief organizer of the major tournaments in the state of MD, and truly the force that has brought forward top-class tournaments here on the East coast. The most notable of Mike’s tournaments is the Washington International – a full fledged 9-round Norm tournament that will be again hosted in August this year. For more information, click here.

Mike also hosts a series of 5-round tournaments – a couple of them being the Baltimore Open and the Potomac Open. What I love so much about his tournaments is that regardless of your chess level, you are still treated as a professional! I try to play some of his 5 round tournaments from time to time, and I get to play on elegant wooden DGT boards in each round! That’s right. DGT boards for the top 8 tables, just for a small 5 round tourney! Even after the DGT tables run out, many of the remaining tables are provided with wooden boards.

I’ve been playing on the US Chess circuit for over a year now, and can confidently say that Mike’s tournaments are always a pleasure to play, thanks to the conditions he provides.

He also keeps official FIDE time controls (90+30 sec inc, add 30 mins after 40 moves) in his tournaments, instead of the “delay” format that is used in several American tournaments. That’s how the world plays. In addition, the clocks are already provided for each board. Helpfully, the pairings are texted out each round as soon as they’re ready. This is truly a big aid and so parents/players don’t have to hang around pairing boards. When it comes to winning a prize in the 5 round tourneys, you are not given one based on your ranking, but on your points. 3.5 is the minimum for a prize. The upside – the player knows exactly what they have to do in any given round if they are playing to secure a minimum prize. Each time I’ve stayed at the tournament hotel, the in-room WiFi is part of the package and breakfast is included for some morning rounds. This is a good deal with the hotel on behalf of players as a group.

So this concludes my brief post, which was just a shout-out to an awesome organizer here in the US. I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time, for I wanted to share how very much I’ve enjoyed playing in Mike’s tournaments. As Chess players, we need to show our support for organizers that work very hard to give us a good environment to play. It’s great for us and great for Chess. 

I hope you will be able to play at these tournaments as well, particularly the Washington International in August! I’m sure you’ll also ‘Like Mike!’

Akshat Chandra and Mike ReganPotomac Open 2013

Akshat Chandra and Mike Regan
Potomac Open 2013

Akshat Chandra and GM XXXXX - Washington International 2013

Akshat Chandra and GM Yuniesky Quseda Perez- Washington International 2013

Akshat Chandra at Washington International

Akshat Chandra at Washington International 2013


Achieving the 1st GM Norm!

The Marshall Chess Club organized a GM Norm Invitational tournament from April 04 to April 13. It was a 9 round, 10-player Round-robin, with 6.5 points required for a GM norm and 5 points for an IM norm. The participants included 3 GMs, 4 IMs and 1 FM. The players, by FIDE rating, were:

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

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

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

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

A highlight of the first round was FM Michael Bodek’s upset win over GM Kekelidze.

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

But then in the next game against FM Bodek, I was again forced to settle for a draw after bungling my winning advantage, once again due to time pressure. This was extremely frustrating, since I was ruining well-played games due to my shoddy time management. I rebounded from the setback, and in Round 5 defeated Matt Herman, known for his striking attacks, and picturesque finishes. Luckily, our game was much calmer and positional 🙂

Going into the break after five rounds, there were 4 players mathematically in contention for a GM norm – Raja Panjwani, Michael Bodek, Matthew Herman and I.

In the second-half, Raja Panjwani made his intentions well-known with a strong win against GM Kekelidze in Round 6. Meanwhile, I was able to earn a full point against IM Norowitz, while Bodek and Herman drew their game against each other. Heading into the final day with two rounds, it was Panjwani and me still in the running for a GM norm, while Bodek and Herman had a shot at an IM norm. In the 8th round I was able to overcome Igor Sorkin and moved to 6 points – just a ½ point away. Meanwhile, Panjwani played valiantly but could not get past the solid Mark Paragua, and ended up losing the game.

In the final round I made a draw with GM Kekelidze which allowed me to reach 6 ½ points. That sealed the deal and I clinched my maiden GM norm in the hallowed halls of the The Marshall Chess Club!

In the meantime, Bodek played strongly against Igor Sorkin and secured his full point needed to reach the IM norm. This was Bodek’s final IM norm. Since he had earlier crossed the rating requirement of ELO 2400, henceforth he will be referred to as IM Bodek 🙂 Final standings are available here.

Even though Igor Sorkin could not achieve what he set out to do, he won another kind of Norm in the game of life. He was blessed with a baby boy during the break in the tournament, and achieved his first Fatherhood Norm.

I was thrilled to achieve my 1st GM norm and played strongly throughout the tournament. I had recently returned from an excellent tournament, the UTD Spring Open FIDE in Dallas, where I played strongly to start off but then lost my way after an optical blunder (overlooked a pawn, maybe because of a reflective board 😉 ). My game was feeling strong, and I really wanted to avoid silly mistakes heading into the Marshalls GM Invitational. As my friend GM Daniel Naroditsky told me after the event, “the first one is the hardest.” I hope he’s right 🙂

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


Opening Ceremoney - Club President, Stuart Chagrin

Opening Ceremoney – Club President, Stuart Chagrin

IM Akshat Chandra and GM Mark Paragua

IM Akshat Chandra and GM Mark Paragua

IM Akshat Chandra and FM Michael Bodek
IM Akshat Chandra and FM Michael Bodek


There can only be One.
The US Championship 2014

The US Men’s and Women Championship is by far the most prestigious and honorable tournament in the United States. What makes it even more enticing is that it is held at the storied St. Louis Chess Club, where everything appears just perfect. This year’s men’s event is a Round Robin, unlike last year’s which fielded 24 players, with the players average rating of a hefty ~2610. The tournament is spearheaded by the rating favorite and four times champion, GM Gata Kamsky, with a 2713 (!) FIDE. Some of my friends (the friendship is one-way at least 🙂 ) that I’ll be rooting for are GMs Robson, Naroditsky, Akobian and Lenderman.

Three rounds have occurred, and Lenderman is in sole lead with an incredible 2.5/3, while Robson and Gareev follow closely behind with 2/3. Remarkably, there have been only four decisive games (two are a courtesy of GM Lenderman 🙂 ) with the other 14 ending in draws. Now that nobody can score a perfect 11-0 in both the Men’s and Women’s Section, the bonus $64,000 Fischer prize is unattainable for this year’s event, and Bobby Fischer doesn’t have to worry this year. He truly was peerless and remains so.  Btw, in case some of you might not understand Bobby Fischer’s reference, he is the only person to have scored a perfect 11-0 at a US Championship.  He accomplished his feat in 1964, and it has remained one of the best individual performances ever at a US championship.  The award is to commemorate Fischer’s achievement and it’s my belief the amount was worked out at $1,000 per square for a total of $64,000.  Or I believe it commemorates the year ’64 when Fischer won the round.

Here’s an interesting battle Ray played against GM Erenburg in the first round:

GM Ray Robson, off to great start with 2/3. (All photos courtesy of

For some reason, the PGN on the official site for the R1 games is really the R2 games. So I can’t just copy paste it into ChessBase, and have to manually put the moves in. After expending my efforts analyzing the Robson-Erenburg game, I’m kinda lazy now to put in Lenderman’s long win against Friedel. So when they fix that, I’ll update this article with his games as well . Here’s Lenderman’s R3 win against Ramirez:

UPDATE: Lenderman’s R1 win against Friedel:


GM Lenderman off to a splendid start as well with 2.5/3

Unfortunately, Naroditsky lost today to Gareev in a game I felt that Danya defended valiantly, but his position was just too hard in the end. Don’t worry Daniel, just rebound with the White pieces in the next game and put to use the training I’ve given you. By training, I mean losing 10-0 to him in our blitz sessions 🙂 . Anyways, about the game with Gareev today, just “Fuggedaboutit!”

Reigning US Junior Champ,GM Naroditsky

Varuzhan “Var” has made a steady start with 1.5/3, and is definitely right in the mix of things. He drew with the veteran and experienced GM Alexander Onischuk, another strong player who can’t be overlooked. Wait, this is the US Championship, NOBODY can be overlooked, especially not a 2650+ GM like Onischuk 😛

The solid and ultra-precise, GM Akobian

The one who cannot be over looked, GM Onischuk 🙂

In the Women’s Section, GM Krush is in the lead along with IM Zatonskih, both with 2.5/3. A nice surprise in their section has been Ashrita Eswaran who is on an outstanding 2/3, considering she’s only 13 years old.

5 time US Women’s Champ, GM Irina Krush, tied for the lead with 2.5/3

4 time US Champ, also tied in the lead with 2.5/3, IM Anna Zatonskih

The commentary duo was a bit different then usual today, with GM Ben Finegold filling in for WGM Jen Shahade. Ben’s a great and funny guy, just read his blog postings, I guarantee you will laugh at least once 🙂 . GM Yasser Seirawan was outstanding as usual, and GM Maurice Ashley had some nice insights too.

Looking forward to the action tomorrow, and may we see some exciting fighting chess in the coming rounds! Who will triumph and etch their names into the history books forever? After all, there can only be One.

2014 champs2014 champs2014 champs2014 champs2014 champs2014 champs

PS (Am I the only who who just noticed St Loui’s “Arch” above the King and Queen? :))

Once a King Always a King
Mental Strength and Grit – Carlsen wins Gashimov Memorial 2014

Has it really been 2 months since my last blog post ?!?!  Wow, time flies.  Doesn’t it?

The first thing I want to say is that the Chess World lost a gem of a player and person in GM Vugar Gashimov, who passed away in January 2014.  Vugar, you’ll forever remain in our hearts.  His sudden passing brings to mind one of his quotes, “HAPPINESS – IS TO BE NEAR YOUR BELOVED ONES. MISFORTUNE – IS TO LOSE THESE PEOPLE.”

The Gentle King - Vugar Gashimov 1986-2014

Vugar Gashimov 1986-2014
(photo : Chessbase)

In memory and honor of this wonderful being, the Gashimov Memorial tournament was born, and held over a span of 10 days in Shamkir, Azerbajain, with the last round just finishing yesterday.  As expected, Carlsen won, adding yet another feather to his cap.  He’s got so many feathers now, that he can strut around like a peacock 😀 .  Can anyone remember the last time Carlsen DIDN’T win a major high-level tournament?  That’s pure dominance right there.

The Drawing of the Lots took place on the 19th, with .. you guessed it, Carlsen “winning” the 1st lot (Heck, this guy comes 1st even in the Drawing of Lots as well 🙂 ), granting him a double-white for the first 2 rounds.  This made things a lot easier for his first two opponents, since they now knew the best start they could hope for was 1/2 🙂

Carlsen raced out to a 2/2 start, maximizing his double-white benefit, beating Mamedyarov and Nakamura in the process.  It seems like his games with Nakamura have become a bit of a grudge match, as the two players have engaged in a little verbal jousting (My fellow Pink Panther fans, you know what I mean by this:) ) with each other.  Talk is Talk.  But Carlsen Walks the Walk, since his score against Nakamura is now 10-0 in classical games (not counting Draws).  Advantange: Carlsen 😀 .  Below is an annotation I did of Magnus’ first round game, a striking win against Mamedyarov:

Carlsen’s 2nd round game against Nakamura saw a position similar to that of Carlsen – Kamsky, Sinquefield Cup 2013, in which after some maneuvering of the pieces, Carlsen was able to trade into a slightly better endgame which he converted.  No suprise there 🙂

Things were looking great for him at this stage.  After an exciting draw against Karjakin, which was an “Almost-won, Almost-Lost” for both players, Carlsen faced Caruana with Black once again.  It started out as a Berlin, which of course bored everyone to death 🙂 .  But things began to pick up on the 20th move.  Caruana was enjoying a nice space advantage, and some inaccuracies from Carlsen further added to Caruana’s bonus.  A tactical error by Magnus on the 24th move, sealed the deal, and from there on Caruana slowly but surely converted his material and positional advantage.

This must have been a hard blow for Carlsen.  After playing great chess for 3 rounds, he lost in a rather one-sided battle.  But no matter, he had the White pieces now, and was Angry. His 5th round against Radjabov started out as a Kings Indian, with Carlsen choosing a line rarely seen at the top level.  Radjabov lashed out with 19.f5, a typical Kings Indian move, undeterred by the fact that his King was somewhat exposed on h7.  An erroneous capture in the center with 22.Nxe4 by Magnus, saw him lose an exchange by force.  He definitely had some compensation, but Radjabov was able to induce some weaknesses, after which Carlsen’s positional crumbled and he was forced to resign.  Yes, Resign!

My God, what was this ! Two losses in a row from Magnus ?!  The last time he lost twice in a row was in 2010 – 4 years ago, and the year I started chess as a FIDE rated player!  To put it in comparison, the last time I lost two in a row was 6 1/2 months ago.  That’s not so bad on its own, but when you look at the last time Magnus lost 2 in a  row … 🙂 .  I could relate what Magnus was going through.  So sent him a tweet with my tips on what to do after tough losses I did.  Yoda aside, it’s clear that he read it since he unleashed the Kraken, rampaging through the field in the 2nd half to score 4/5 , coming 1st by a clear point with 6.5/9.  Here’s his final round win against Caruana:

So what was it that led to such a spectacular turn around ?

Mental Strength and Determination.  Magnus writes “The rest day with the exciting football cup was just what I needed.  Our team of international players, with help from two Azeri players in the final, won on penalty shoot out.  I’m feeling more energetic, and although my play isn’t perfect, the results have been terrific after the rest day.”  So for him, it was watching his favorite soccer team that relaxed him and helped him to forget the agony of the previous 2 rounds.  Whatever your thing is that helps you relax and put aside painful losses, it’s important to do that immediately.  It builds Mental Strength, and the Will to keep fighting.  That’s what makes a Champion!

Funding a Quest!

Chess is one of the sports that is hard to find sponsors for. The game lacks the awareness and treatment that more popular sports receive, such as basketball, soccer, and tennis, even though the effort is no less to achieve mastery. In the US, government grants are not part of the culture. Young and strong emerging players in countries like Russia, India, and China have an advantage, since chess is state supported as well as there is relatively much more corporate sponsorship.  This translates into critical benefits of more training and tournament experience.

Players in United States don’t have such an option.  So where do the young players go to fund their Quest to become outstanding chess players.  

Well, we don’t give up. We lean on our parents. We lean on our well-wishers. We knock on doors, and try to persuade people who can relate to a hard Quest to support it. That’s how we do it. One square at a time.

I’ve demonstrated a strong pace of progress in the last 4 1/2 years, and I intend to work very hard to get to the end. As I embark on the final leg of this Quest, for the first time I’m trying to raise donor funds to help me catapult to the GM title and beyond. With your help I’ll get there even faster. Thanks for your support!


I leave you with a quote from Hugarian chess wizard and super GM Peter Leko:

“…even super talented people, like Carlsen, Karjakin, and Nakamura, wouldn’t be where they are now without [sponsorship] help. Only a mixture of super talent and help will bring a very good result, won’t it?”

If someone wishes to discuss about sponsorship opportunities or provide suggestions, please write to me at Akshat (at) QuestToGM (dotcom).

Tying for First at The US Amateur Team East 2014

The US Amateur Team East is held every year in Parsippany, NJ.  It’s the most well-attended annual team tournament in the country with ~1200 players showing up in 278 teams this year, and by far dwarfing other similar regional tournaments across the country!  Here’s an excerpt taken from a related USCF article regarding the main rule: “The four-player teams (some come with alternates as well) must average below 2200 and play in board-order.”  USCF coverage of the event can be viewed here and here.


The Cake Came out Early 🙂 .  The Tournament coincided with the 75th anniversary celebration of USCF, and everyone was treated to a sumptuous cake and coffee. Happy B’day USCF!

Our team average was  2197, and I believe we were third seed beginning the tournament. Not bad for four school kids! It was the first time I was playing this tournament.  I was Board 1 for our team called “What does the GM say?  CheckCheckCheckmate!” (I know it’s lame, but it wasn’t my idea 🙂 ).  On the Superbowl weekend, when I decided to play, I was thinking of something like “The Lords of the Kings!” 🙂 (if it hadn’t been used in the past).  There were some pretty cool team names, and the one which was quite topical and voted best was “NSA is Perpetually Checking.”

Our team captain was Grant Xu playing on Board 2.  He was the mastermind behind the compiling of a high average rating.  On Board 3 was Siddharth Arun, and on Board 4 was Jason Tang.  So this was our team of School children from Grades 10, 11, 9 and 6, respectively. I knew Grant, but had never met my other teammates.  All three of them were from MA, while I was a local NJ player.  I was a late addition to the team – a roster change.  Less than two weeks before the tournament Grant approached me through this blog for a fill-in, since the original Board 1 could no longer play.

Akshat Chandra and Grant Xu

Akshat Chandra and Grant Xu

In the first round we played the Bad News Bishops, and won 3-1.  I played Ed Kopiecki (2000 FIDE), a regular attendee at New York’s Marshall Chess Club Tournaments.  He had gained my attention the previous weekend when he yelled out to a friend “I beat Bonin!” (one of the more senior players at the Marshall Chess Club) in the middle of a round 🙂 .  I won my game fairly quickly,  but what transpired at the end was hilarious!  After I played Qxc4, which effectively sealed the game since Ed was a Rook down, he just sat there without moving.  About 15 minutes later when Ed’s Board 4 resigned and was walking past him, Ed began an amusing convo with his friend while it was still his Move.  Here is the transcript 🙂

Kopiecki: ” Where are you going?!”

Board 4 Friend: “I’m going out to lunch.”

Kopeicki: Stands up and says “Oh, well wait for me, I wanna come with you! Let me just resign.”

Board 4 Friend: “Did you resign yet ?”

Kopiecki: Begins scouring notation sheet, and then looks up and says, “No.  Let me Resign.” He then looks at me and says, “I resign!”

All the team members stopped playing and were just following this conversation.  I couldn’t help laughing along with the other players, and was half-expecting Ed to say “Rematch at Marshall’s!”

R1 - Ed Kopiecki and Akshat Chandra on Board 1

R1 : Ed Kopiecki and Akshat Chandra on Board 1

Here’s the game:

We played Hamilton Chess Club in the next round.  I was playing White against FM Boris Privman (2197 FIDE).  The game was extremely long and enervating, and lasted for 6 hours into the night.  But in the end I prevailed.  It wasn’t the best game from my side at all, as I could have ended the game much earlier.  Our Board 3 and Board 4 Won as well, while our Board 2 Drew.  So we won the match 3.5-0.5.

R2 : Akshat Chandra and Boris Privman

R2 : Akshat Chandra and Boris Privman

In the 3rd round we played a team from Florida, Kingside Crushers, and I faced their Board 1, Jeffery Haskel (2224 FIDE).  He employed an extremely sharp line with 5.g3, which led to a rich and complex middlegame.  However, a hasty central advance by him in the early middlegame tipped the scale to my side irrevocably.  My c8 Bishop, which was shut-in most of the game, was the hero in the end 🙂

R3 : Akshat Chandra and Jeffrey Haskel

R3 : Akshat Chandra and Jeffrey Haskel

So halfway into the tournament, we were tied for the lead with 3-0.  I liked the way I had played my 3rd round , but still wasn’t satisfied with my overall play.  In the 4th round, we played the team Nobody 🙂 , and I was White against Robert M Perez, a talented junior on Board 1.

R4 : Akshat Chandra and Robert Perez

R4 : Akshat Chandra and Robert Perez

I made an inaccuracy early on, and was slightly worse after 20 moves.  Being worse as White after 20 moves is hardly ideal.  But Chess is not all about attacking and winning; you have to be good at defending worse positions as well.  I was able to do just that, and was expecting Robert to go for a Drawn rook endgame, when he suddenly took a daring risk trying to Win.  When the smoke cleared and we reached 40 moves, the first time control, I emerged with what was a probably winning Queen Endgame.  Nonetheless, I decided to Draw since that would end the match in our favor 2.5, irrespective of the outcome for the remaining game on Board 2.  Final score was 2.5 to 1.5.

Making such mistakes early on was not acceptable.  I needed to rectify that immediately, considering that I was going to play a stronger player on the final day.  

In Round 5, we were paired against Chess Kings & Queens 1 (GM Magesh’s Chess Academy). They’d the same 2197 team rating average as us.  On Board 1 I was playing  none other than GM Magesh Panchanathan (2557 FIDE).  In an exchange g3 Gruenfeld, GM Magesh decided to sharpen things up by playing 10.e4 !?.  So I was up a Pawn a few moves later, but my pieces weren’t that developed.  Some inaccuracies from Magesh’s side allowed me to consolidate, and I started to play for a Win.  But a really boneheaded 22nd move vaporized all the promising possibilities, and it was I who was now fighting for a Draw.  The critical line was 22.Bxb5, Bxa8, Rxa8, after which I thought my c2 Knight would be trapped; but it manages to wiggle out in all lines.  So in a span of 3 moves, I went from being a Pawn up and playing for a Win, to being a Pawn down and fighting for a Draw – Dang 🙂 .

R5 : GM Magesh Panchanathan and Akshat Chandra

R5 : GM Magesh Panchanathan and Akshat Chandra

Magesh was down to only 2 minutes however, and we were still 14 moves away from the time control.  He played very accurately despite the time pressure, up until his 40th move.  At that point he played 40.Be2 allowing me to equalize immediately. Things were looking like an easy Draw now, when suddenly I blundered with 53.Ra5 ??. Ke5 kept things in balance, since after g4 I have Ra4 !, which is what I missed.  I was now losing by force, and was getting ready to resign, since I expected Magesh to play 60.Rb8.  But Magesh made the reflex 60.Rh6 ??, and after Rxb5!, I’m able to draw due to a stalemate trick if he takes on h5 !  We played a 2 vs 1 for some moves, which is an easy Draw, but I was down to my final minute.  On move 80, when I was down to only 26 seconds, the classy GM Magesh offered me a Draw, displaying great sportsmanship for what was technically a Drawn game.  That’s a real chess player right there.  You rock Magesh!  Like two gladiators, we fought to the end trying our best to Win, but eventually agreed to a Draw after ~6 1/2 hours.  The final team score was 3 to 1, in our favor.

Now going into the final round, there were only 2 teams at a full 5-0.  It was us, What does the GM Say?…, and last year’s winner Princeton A.  Due to my long game earlier, I had about 10 minutes to eat, relax and get ready for this crucial and decisive round.  I was to face Princeton University’s Board 1 Michael Lee (2388 FIDE), and I had a double-black.  Princeton A had a team average of about 2197, so we were evenly matched.  Michael chose an extremely strange opening line, deviating from his usual 1.c4.  After the center closed up, we began our flank operations with Michael advancing on the Kingside, while I tried opening things up on the Queenside.  An erroneous recapture by him on move 21, gave me an advantage which I didn’t relinquish for the rest of the game.  I missed ways to Win quicker which was disheartening since they weren’t so difficult.  But I still played accurately without giving the Princeton University star any chance to make amends.  I was still pretty happy to have gone 5/6  on Board 1 in the tournament against good opposition, despite making quite a few mistakes.

R6 : Michael Lee and Akshat Chandra

R6 : Michael Lee and Akshat Chandra

But winning my game was not enough,  On Board 2, Grant Xu beat the other experienced Princeton player Andrew Ng.  Unfortunately for us, winning on top 2 boards didn’t Win us the tournament.  This time our bottom two boards lost to Princeton University A.  So the match score was 2-2, a tie.  Princeton A and us, What does the GM say?, had tied for 1st place at 5.5/6 points each in the US Amateur Championship East – 2014.  We were joined by a veteran team On the Rohde Again, which had won their last round.  So this was a 3-way tie for first place.

On tie break, which added points from all matches, Princeton University A was awarded the title, and we were given the 2nd rank.  That was sad, since I felt that our team had a tougher path to tying for 1st as we beat Princeton’s strong top two Boards while they beat our lower two boards.  I would have preferred a US Championship or US Chess League style tie-break – a Blitz match, possibly starting at Board 1 or Board 4, and moving on to next player, till the final winner is left.  Ah well, such is life 🙂 .  We took comfort that last year Champions Princeton University couldn’t beat us and that we’d almost turned the tables. I congratulate Princeton A on their win, and their historic back-to-back achievement.  Maybe we get to play for the National title, in case Princeton A is unable show up 🙂 .  Perhaps one day I’ll go play alongside these smart players at their historic University since they’re not far from home.

Overall it was a fun experience, and I’m glad that we tied for 1st, and came 2nd on tiebreak, in what was an extremely strong team tournament. On all boards, our team members came through when it counted most.

Great job Grant, Sid and Jason!

I’d like to thank and appreciate the effort of the organizers to flawlessly host a tournament of this magnitude.

Who Dat tied for first?  What does the GM say,  That’s Who! 😉

Flanked by Twin Towers!  Siddharth Arun, Akshat Chandra, Grant Xu, after the final round. (Jason Tang had already left)

Flanked by Twin Towers!
Siddharth Arun, Akshat Chandra, Grant Xu, after the final round (Jason Tang had already left)