The Chicago Open 2014
Stricter Rules on Players Leaving the Playing Area

Recently I learnt about a comment being floated by chess player Gopal Menon.  He is aggrieved at two incidents that occurred at the Chicago Open in May 2014 when he played me, and then another player later in the tournament.  First let’s look at what he wrote:

Gopal Menon

“After a very long and difficult week of chess I had time to do a little reflection: Despite starting well at the Chicago Open, managing to beat 2 Grandmasters in the first 2 rounds, my tournament somehow fell apart around the middle. I realize that at the end of the day that I and only I am responsible for the result that I had, however there were two incidents in particular that I felt affected my performance. During my round 4 game with IM Akshat Chandra I was accused of cheating by him and his father no more than four (!) times during the same game. The first complaint was apparently by Akshat which I put to rest, however his father kept repeatedly making the same claims that I was cheating in some way.
There is a very simple explanation for all this, as many of my colleagues know I have a bad habit of smoking. During the game I was drinking coffee as well so I ended up using the bathroom a bit more than usual as well. Followed to the bathroom by the tournament director, no electronic devices were found on my person. In fact, this was a day where I had forgotten my cell phone at home! I understand the right to complain of supposedly suspicious behavior, but to complain as many times as my opponent’s father did, especially for someone who is not playing the game, should be considered harassment. Especially on account of the lack of evidence each time a tournament director confronted me (no electronic devices, smoking within view of people etc). This harassment had a very clear effect on me as the repeated accusations had clouded my thinking and I ended up blowing a winning position, finishing with a draw. This got me thinking that claims for cheating should be made solely by the opponents or tournament participants/directors as well as there being some sort of consequences for repeated accusations which have no base (once again, harassment).
Another incident which irked me greatly was when a tournament participant who for now shall remain nameless used a cell phone wand (given to her by a member of the tournament director staff(!)) on me while I was sitting in time pressure with 2 minutes to make 10 moves in order to reach time control…[rest deleted]”

Gopal is right that I brought his unusual behavior to the Tournament Director (TD) / Arbiter’s attention.  But he is wrong on pretty much everything else.   Here’s what my father informed me and I paraphrase here.

My father – “It appears to me that Gopal completely missed out the 10 – 15 minutes of security protocol lecture from the tournament organizers. The emphasis on anti-cheating measures was the strongest at any CCA tournament thus far, and the lecture so detailed and lengthy that it delayed the round by about 15 minutes.  Gopal seems to have missed it all, which could very well be since he arrived late to the table. In the lecture, the TDs were very clear about what is acceptable and what is unusual behavior, and the importance of not having any devices on person in the restroom. They designated an official restroom and the official playing area, which was the playing hall and the narrow strip in-front of the entrance door, the official bathroom and the analysis room. The Chief TD mentioned explicitly that anyone who leaves the playing area during an ongoing game to go to the far away restroom or to hotel reception area or outside the hotel will be a person of interest for TDs and will have a greater chance of inviting a scan with the cell phone wand (detector). If a cell phone is found, the game will be forfeited (for the Open section, and other penalties for non-FIDE sections). Outside the official restroom, the organizers provided a desk to deposit any devices before entering the restroom. Gopal repeatedly left the playing hall for a number of minutes during a few moves, and his continued lengthy absence often on immediate moves was considered unusual by my son.

Akshat mentioned this unusual behavior to the TD inside the hall  saying that “My opponent (Gopal) isn’t probably doing anything wrong, but his behavior is unusual and so I thought I’ll tell you guys just to be sure.” He never said to the TD that Gopal is cheating.  But like any other player, if you see something unusual, you must say something during the game, and that’s what Akshat did.  The TD told Akshat that they will be watchful. I informed the TD outside the hall who was monitoring players leaving the playing area. He simply asked me the Table # and told me that the player must inform any of the TDs inside, which Akshat had already done. At that time Gopal was leaving the playing area and the TD knew who I was talking about.  That was the only one time I spoke to the TDs. I never spoke to them again. So when Gopal continues to say that I complained 4 times to the TD, he is simply assuming and not realizing that the TD’s interest was raised because of his activities.  As Gopal himself mentioned that he kept leaving the playing hall for various reasons. It’s clear that any subsequent interest shown in him by the TDs was because he was leaving the Playing Area repeatedly – whether going outside for a smoke or going to the far away restroom instead of the official one.  That was exactly what the organizers/Arbiter had informed the players will invite additional scrutiny and the cell phone scan. But it’s obvious that Gopal had missed all those instructions by arriving late for the game.  To me this appears like a self-inflicted problem.  Of course, Gopal must have been annoyed because during the game he bumped me hard on the way to his board while I was observing some games.

In any case, regarding blowing away a winning position, if it makes Gopal feel any better there was no such decisive advantage to blow away.  I’ve asked Akshat to post the game below.”  (End of Paraphrasing)

So that’s my father’s account. It’s important to clarify such a misunderstanding. I wish Gopal would have brought it up in the Analysis room during our post-game review. The fact that he was scanned several times had nothing to do with me or my father. Arbiters don’t take too kindly to intervention by non-players.  It was due to Gopal’s own repeated exit of the Playing Area. Hope he realizes that now.

Gopal is a very good chess player who is underrated.  Good luck to him.

Here’s the game we played:

TD at the Chicago Open outside the Official Restroom – all devices had to be deposited before entering the restroom.

 

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!

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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.

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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_8302

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.

ChessBasearticle

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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