Category Archives: Chess Musings

Presentation at RISE Program of Woodbridge School District

eing the present National High School and US Junior Chess Champion, as well as the 2013 Junior High K-9 National Chess Champion, provides one with special credentials as well as a sense of responsibility to promote chess in academic circles.

Today, March 2, 2016, I had an opportunity to present to a very special program at the Woodbridge Township School District in New Jersey. The special Transition program called Reaching Individual Student Excellence (RISE), is geared towards students who are graduating from high schools and need further transition skills to make their marks in society.  The Coordinator and Teacher, Linda Rockmaker, along with her team and other members of the school, has done a remarkable job of engaging community businesses to create on-job learning opportunities for the students in the program.

I visited the school to give a presentation on the basics of Chess, and to hopefully spark an interest. The students and teachers were very warm, and made me feel right at home. It was great to see their participation during an interactive presentation, with many of them answering questions correctly – where did chess originate; which is the strongest piece; the name of the founding father who wrote the first account of chess in the US.

After the presentation, I gave a Chess Simul.  There were about 18 students, but I had only 3 boards. But over the course of the week, Ms. Rockmaker was able to procure boards from other students and teachers, and we had about 8 boards. As you may imagine, there was quite a motley collection of boards. Besides the typical green and white vinyl boards that regular chess players are accustomed to, we had red and black board, glass board, a tiny board, almost a 3-D like figurine board, a board with red and pink pieces, and a small board with really giant pieces. Since none of the students were yet spoiled by the wooden walnut/maple boards, they didn’t mind and just dived in for some good fun.

I went around from board-to-board to see how each of the students were doing, and was extremely pleased to see all of them displaying interest, and making a sincere effort to understand how to play. Even if they didn’t quite catch it all the way, they appeared engaged throughout the entire hour. Even the school coach and a couple of teachers joined in to help.

I want to thank Ms. Linda Rockmaker for providing this opportunity, and to Mr. Darrell Brown, one of the RISE teachers, for assisting me.

Also thanks to my bro Addy for helping 😛 .

All that’s left to be done now is for me to request some chess organizations to contribute chess material to the School.

Here are a few pictures!


I’m at the far end, a bit hard to see



Playing the Simul

Playing the Simul



Finding the path between Scylla and Charybdis
When Wins turn into Draws against the 2600s

Those 2600s. Those darn, wily, 2600s 🙂 .  They’re always slipping out of my craftily woven webs, at the last possible moment.  They remind me of Scylla and Charybdis, ancient monsters in Greek mythology.  When passing through a strait, if ships drift too close to the port side, Scylla would feast on the ship and its crew.  If the ships steered off to the starboard side, they would fall prey to the massive whirlpool known as Charybdis.

The hydra-headed Scylla and the churning Charybis. Got to find that elusive path.

To put this analogy into chess context, 2600 GMs represent two dangers as well.  The first is that they can effortlessly demolish you given an opportunity.  The second is that they’re highly resistant and tenacious.  Even when we have an edge, they don’t go down.  So just like seafarers in our Greek mythology, when encountering Scylla and Charybdis, one has to find that narrow, near-elusive path through the middle that takes you to safety.  This mean perfect balance and perfect calculation.  On occasions, I’ve found the path, only to slip from a Winning position into a Draw when close to reaching the end.  Here are two encounters, with game notation.

New York International - Akshat Chandra Vs GM Sam Shankland

New York International – Akshat Chandra Vs GM Sam Shankland

In June 2013, I was paired with GM Sam Shankland in the NY International.  I had completely outplayed him the whole game, and had achieved an elementary 2 vs 1 rook endgame. Unfortunately, I managed to find the whole move which didn’t win. I played Ke5?? before realizing that g5 draws, since the pawn endgame after Re6, Rxe6, Kxe6, Kh7 is a dead draw.  Aargh!  Not again !  Just as I was close to the end, I let the 2600 GM slip away at the last second, after being in total control throughout.  Perhaps it was fatigue, but the one thing I learnt is that to beat the 2600’s you gotta play perfect throughout.  You don’t get points for playing great 99% of the game.  With all that being said, enjoy the game which has my annotation too.  More about the NY International tournament, including this game, can be learnt from my earlier report here.

Round 1 - Akshat Chandra Vs GM Sam Shankland

Round 1 – Akshat Chandra 2268 Vs GM Sam Shankland 2601

I wasn’t able to decipher my notation sheet after that, but I remember the position at the end.

Another encounter with a 2600 GM was at a tournament in Forni Di Sopra, Italy.  I was starting the tournament with a rating of 2154, and was set to play Spaniard GM Korneev Oleg (rated 2580 at the time) in the first round.  Suddenly, the pairings changed as we were about to sit down.  I was no longer playing GM Oleg.  I was playing Russian GM Pavel Tregubov (rated 2597 at the time, but we’ll just round up to 2600 🙂 .  His peak rating was 2658, so this guy was no joke 🙂 .

Akshat Chandra Vs GM  Pavlov

Akshat Chandra Vs GM Pavel Tregubov

After my usual 1.e4, Pavel played the Paulsen Sicilian.  He made an inaccuracy early on, and suddenly I developed a serious advantage after playing 12.g4 !  His pieces were all tangled up with each other, and so I kept the pressure up with 16.f5.  I could tell that Pavel was psychologically rattled, since his legs were shaking, and his face was really red.  Pavel played 16.Rxc3, a typical Sicilian exchange sacrifice, but in this position it was just plain bad.  I think he missed my 19th move,Qd5.  After swapping queens, I was so sure that I was going to win.  The thought of messing up, didn’t even cross my mind.  As the game went on, I suddenly started to become doubtful.  We had reached 40 moves, and I still hadn’t won, in what had seemed like a fairly straightforward position.  I had brought my King over to the Queenside, strutting his majesty all the way to c6.  Pavel defended tenaciously, and was able to execute the correct idea of sacrificing his bishop for my a-pawn. Despite being a rook up, his 3 pawns were too much to deal with.  After 5 1/2 hours, I had to settle for a Draw.  The result was disheartening, since it had seemed like an easy win on move 19.  I learnt then, that there’s no such thing as an easy win against a 2600.  Well at least Christmas came early for Pavel.  More can be learnt from my earlier tournament posting.


Akshat Chandra Vs GM Pavel Tregubov. A 5 1/2 hour game


Reminiscing over the “Remi”
The Day it All Started

It’s January 14, 2010.  The weather is a bitter 37 degrees Fahrenheit (3 Celsius) , with frosty winds gnawing at my face.  Wearing my Choppers beanie, I enter the venue of my first GM Open tournament as a rated player.  The 2010 edition of the annual Delhi GM Open (Parsvnath) tournament held in New Delhi, India.  It was one of the strongest tournaments in the country.  I was 10-years old and had shown up at the venue with my newly minted FIDE rating of 1548.  There was a huge crowd in-front of the bulletin board with the Starting List.  My father accompanied me to scour the tournament sheets to confirm my name and starting rank.  As my father started going down the list, I suggested it might be faster if he started from the bottom of the list and went up.  I was right.  We found my name at # 265 out of 378 players.  A looong way to go I thought!  On the next set of sheets, I found my pairing.

I was paired with International Master (IM) Boris Arkhangelsky from Russia, who was rated 2291 (FIDE) at the time.  An adrenaline rush passed through me.  Here I was with the chance to play an IM, a god-like status for me at the time.  An auspicious beginning to my chess journey, I thought.  I found my table in the cavernous auditorium, carefully laid my 2 cushions down, one on the seat to gain elevation and one at the back to keep me from sinking back, and took my seat at table #71. Jittery with excitement and anxiety, I fill out my notation sheet.  A few minutes later, Boris took his seat across the table and began filling out his sheet.  When he finished, I offered him a handshake, smiling awkwardly, in total awe.

Akshat Chandra playing IM Boris Arkhangelsky - Jan 2010

 Akshat Chandra playing his 1st game as a Rated player at a GM Open with Russian IM Boris Arkhangelsky – Jan 2010

The game begins and Boris plays 1.c4, the English Opening.  My mind began racing with so many thoughts like cars on a 6-lane highway – “Why didn’t he do 1.e4, I had a clever idea for him in mind!  He’s avoiding 1.e4!  How does he know, that I don’t know how to play against c4! Hey, that’s the move the GM did against me in a simul recently.  Did Boris consult with the GM on how to beat me! After calming down , and remembering that he doesn’t need a GM to beat a stinkin’ 1548 🙂 , I responded, as I did with the GM in the simul, by playing 1.e6.  Boris employed an unusual setup.  Something different from what the GM did, a huge relief, reassuring me that they hadn’t consulted 🙂  As the game teeters on, it arrives at a point where my heart begins to pound vociferously.  It reminded me of the animation character Jerry when he stands in a corner his heart pounding out, after a chase by Tom.  Hope creeps into me, as I realize that I was about to win Boris’ weak pawn on d5.  This is it I thought.  I was now in a position to beat the IM.  I spent the next 5 minutes on a spree of gleeful fantasies of what it would mean should I win.  I could see history being written with my name in bold.

Thump!!  The sound of Boris thumping the clock brought me back from FantasyLand, and reverted my focus to the board.  Stop thinking about the rewards, I told myself.  Just think about how you can beat this guy. Just find a way. I decided it was safe to take another pawn, and played 33.Bxb3.  I was now two pawns up, but was significantly behind on the clock.  I only had 4 minutes left to Boris’ 29 minutes.  There was a 30 second increment after each move, but that doesn’t help too much in the situation I was encountering.  After a few simplifications, I emerged with two connected passed pawns!  We call this “Paradise” in English 🙂 .  I rolled them down the board, expecting to Win any moment.  Each square forward increasing the drumbeat in my head to a crescendo.  That’s when “THE WORD” came on the 47th move. “Edemee,” Boris said politely, before he pressed his clock.

I looked at him funny, wondering what the heck did “Edemee” mean.  Was it a decoy to mess with my mind and get me further into time trouble.  Maybe it was some top secret Russian code word.  I disregarded it, and went from quizzically looking at his face to the Board, and continued with 47.b2.  My pawn was just one square away from Queening, and the win appeared inevitable.  But, let’s not forget that I’m an inexperienced 1548 who swims in illusions of grandeur during his games 🙂 .  Boris decided to sacrifice a piece to stop the two pawns, the best practical try.  Once again he says “Edemee,” after which I came to the conclusion that he was off his rocket 🙂 .

I was now a piece up, but had to be careful of his outside passed Pawn.  Today, I would win that position with ease.  But at that time, winning the position was like undertaking Atlas’ duty of bearing the weight of the sky. It seemed almost impossible.  My eyes narrowed and darted across the board, scouring every inch to make sure that I deny him the slightest counterplay.  I took his Pawn on h6, after which he played Kg2.  Two moves later, he played 55.Qa3.  The position is still easily winning for me, if I was to play 55.Bf8.  But psychologically the Qa3 move unraveled me.  With my time into seconds now, I decided that it would be respectful to take a Draw against the veteran IM, instead of pushing-on, and I offered a Draw.  Boris looked up and said “Edemee!”  So that’s what that “Edemee” was all about, I thought.  Boris had been offering a Draw to me earlier, I figured.

I nodded my head, and Boris gladly accepted my Draw offer.  I had mixed feelings after the game.  One side of me was elated at Drawing against an IM.  But another side was disappointed that I was completely winning when I took a Draw.

When I made up my mind in 2009 that I wanted to be really good at the game, we got ourselves a professional coach in early Fall (Autumn) of 2009, instead of learning by playing around with unrated or low-rated players.  But that day, January 14, 2010, was the day which got the ball rolling for me and firmed up my quest.  The dice had been thrown, and I knew that day I wanted to become a GM.  There was a fiery passion that was born.  If I can handle a veteran IM in my first game, then I was good enough to dream of being a strong GM.  That process is still ongoing 🙂

The “Edemee” story didn’t end  there.  Let’s fast forward now, to May 20, 2012.  I’m playing the Salento Open, in Gallipoli on the southern tip of Italy.  My opponent is IM Mario Lanzani, and 12 moves into our game he says, “I offer you a Remi.”  Instantly, my mind raced back in time to the day I played Boris.  I then realized that Boris had been saying “Remi” not “Edemee!”  Although to me at that time, Remi (a French word) was just as strange a word as Edemee!  I smiled at the memory, which had set my chess journey in motion and entwined my fate with chess forever.

Playing with Super GM Anish Giri !

A few days ago, I was on a chess server and I got paired with  chess prodigy GM Anish Giri.  It was Akshat Chandra vs Anish Giri.  I was electrified.  Here I was playing a 2700+ Top 20 player in the world.  We played out to a Draw, and after that I decided to strike up a conversation with him.  I was still shaking in disbelief, at the opportunity to play an elite player.  I was stunned when he wrote back.  Tingling with excitement, I carried on the conversation.  Anish is a modest and jovial person to talk to.  He told me when he was about my age, he was playing in Wijk an Zee, where a top 10 GM, Peter Leko  started talking to him!  Anish said he was thrilled and was able to relate to my excitement of talking to a 2700 + GM.  We talked for about 30 minutes – about tournaments he’d recommend for someone at my level, and about the sublime Amsterdam Waffles.  🙂  Another Dutch delicacy called ‘Hagelslag’ (chocolate sprinkles), was recommended by him.  So next time, be sure to try that out when you visit the Netherlands 🙂  Anish was also preparing for the Reykjavik Open 2013, where he is the top seed.  He was in fact in Reykjavik at the time, and his opening round was the next day.  With 2 rounds to go, Anish is on 6/8, and plays fellow Dutchman Erwin L’ami in R9.  I wish Anish  the very best.  Good luck, Anish !  And thank you for making a young chess buff’s day!

              “Flying Dutchman!” Chess Wizard Anish Giri                           

Media Mention – US Chess – A GM Win

I will like to share that my article regarding my first GM win was published in the United States Chess Federation’s (USCF) Chess Life for Kids publication!  A mention also appeared on the USCF website.

And the big thing was that Editor Glenn Petersen put me on the cover of the magazine!  For me that’s just like being on the Sports Illustrated cover.

Thanks Glenn!!  Thanks Jennifer Shahade for the online posting!

Akshat Chandra in Chess Life for Kids  –   February 2013

Hard Loss…Now What?
Recovering from a Chess Loss.

I‘m sure if one has played Chess long enough, we’ve all experienced “tough losses.”  In fact, I would venture to say that if you haven’t had a tough loss yet, then you haven’t played Chess long enough.  It happens to everyone and at all levels.

What are tough losses?  There can be many versions in Chess – losing a completely Winning position; losing a dead Drawn position; being swept off the board; missing a win when you were lost the whole game and then had an opportunity for comeback which you bungle, are some examples.  Unfortunately, I’ve experienced all four of the above examples in my relatively short tenure as a Chess player.   

One time when I lost a completely winning chess game was in an unrated club tournament.  I lost an exchange up position against a 225 ELO point lower rated opponent.  I had about 10 different ways for a win, but I went for something that looked fancy.  I didn’t do the deep calculation.  It was a horrible blunder and I resigned next move.  Aargh!  The lesson I learnt from that was to always Keep It Simple.  Simple moves most of the time are smart moves.  The chess game rewards you for your win, not how you win.  R
ecently, I lost a simple Drawn position in a chess tournament in Austria.  I was playing against the World Senior Chess Champion, GM Vladimir Okhotnik, and made a plain blunder of what was a straight-forward Draw.  It hurt because I had played strong for the entire game (you can read more about this in the September posting on Chess in Braunau, Austria).  The time when I got completely swept off my feet was again in the same chess tournament in Austria.  It was just a bad game from the very beginning.  I just couldn’t play right.  The time where I missed a win after being lost for majority of the game was in the Czech Open 2012.  In my excitement at a chance to win a poorly played game, I made an incomplete calculation and forgot to first secure the Draw before trying for the Win.  An opportunity to make amends for a weak game, but I let it slip away. 

Such games are very hard to accept.  
They linger in the back of your head, haunting you.  Yes, the chess tournament could have turned out differently if I had won; Yes, I could have been paired with an IM or GM if I had won; Yes, I could have assured myself of winning my rating category, etc.  These thoughts are psychologically draining.  But it’s hard to Move On, as any Chess player will tell even though we realize this is what needs to be done now.

Nonetheless, we have to deliberately learn to Move On.  In most cases, there is still a chess tournament to play.  We have to realize the next chess game is also worth the same point as the one where we had a ‘tough loss.’  Sitting in the room thinking about the loss doesn’t help.  We need to flush it out of our memory for the time being and not waste any more energy thinking about it.  And please don’t start analyzing the tough loss right away, if you’ve another round to play.

As you can see from instances above, I’ve been in such situations multiple times where I’d to deliberately Move On.  I will share with you what helps me.  The best thing for me is to go out for a walk (if the weather allows), and have some of my favorite food!  Something sweet like an ice cream helps or a dessert of your choice.  Don’t wait for after dinner to try your dessert.  Have it now!  If there is time, watch a funny show or a little bit of a funny movie.  Mr. Bean, Zack & Cody, Drake & Josh – whatever gets u tickled.  Anything to get your mind off the loss, or at least make it fade away for the moment.  When the next round chess pairing is out, it’s a bit easier now to Move On since we now have preparation to do that will keep us busy.  But I feel it’s important to do that mind-flush before. 

If you observe, often times when someone has a crushing loss, s/he loses the next round too – many times without a fight.  It happened with me in the National Challengers Chess 2011, which was a qualification tournament for the Indian National Chess Championship.  After a lackluster start, I found my game and was kind of unstoppable.  I had a great streak going with a Win, Draw, Win, Win against higher rated and very experienced players.  In my next match, I had a high-rated IM on the ropes.  But then I let him get away after several weak moves.  The match was a Draw, in what was an easy Win.  You can see that game on Monroi – R10 – Chandra vs V, by clicking here.  I was extremely disappointed, and since I was a ‘beginner’ in terms of how to deal with such a loss, I lost not only the next round but also 2 rounds after that without a fight – 3 rounds total.  It was a very sad moment because if I had won that game, I’m sure I would have kept up the momentum and had a good chance to qualify for the Indian National Chess Championship. 

Many times I have observed a seasoned player with a tough loss will take a quick Draw in the next round, even when the opponent is lower rated.  This is a strategic move many times.  You take a Draw to soothe the brain, not make it work very hard, and to avoid the risk of another loss.  But such an option may not always be available.  So we have to boost ourselves psychologically to perform well in the next game. 

To summarize, after a tough loss in a Chess game we need to get out and do things that can take our mind off the loss.  Eat your favorite food, watch a movie or show, don’t forget an ice cream; whatever makes you relax.  Just don’t sit and dwell on it!  The above ideas have worked for me.  You will have to find your own comforting things.  I hope just thinking about this helps you plan better when you encounter such a situation.  I wish more Chess players will write their experiences – it helps others learn.

I apologize for the lengthy post.  Hope I didn’t put you to sleep 🙂   If you have anything to say or share, please feel free to write comments.  Au revoir!

When Should We Accept Draws?

Hey!  I wasn’t feeling all too well and so I thought I’ll blog and share an interesting psychological situation with you guys.  A big dilemma that comes across a player is whether in a game s/he should accept a Draw or not.  While playing lower-rated players our ego tends to get in the way and we decline Draw offers from  lower-rated (lower FIDE rating) players.  However, when a higher-rated (higher FIDE rating) player offers a Draw we feel a temptation to accept it.  I think it’s because lingering somewhere in our subconscious mind, we  feel that the higher-rated player is better than us and a Draw is a good outcome.  Both these mentalities must be changed as it can affect the final result of the match.  

Here are two examples where these situations occurred with me.  The first example took place last month when I was playing an opponent with lower rating.  Material (pieces on board) was “even.”  However I felt that I had a Win.  In time pressure I lost that Win and desperate not to Draw since the opponent was lower-rated I blundered and lost. 

The “lower-rated psychology” changed the result dramatically and it ruined my momentum in the tournament.  The other example was when I was playing a higher rated.  He was about a year older then me and higher rated by about 200 points.  Possessing more knowledge about this particular board position then my opponent, I easily outplayed him.  He was completely bogged down and so he offered me a Draw.  I must have had that “higher-rated psychology” going through my head for I gladly accepted a Draw despite a superior position.  

I learnt my lessons from those games and now ask myself some questions to determine whether I should take a Draw or not.  If it’s a lower rated –  Question 1) Is he really gonna blunder now in an elementary Drawn position after defending well  for so long?  Question 2)  Do I have any risk of losing?  I then study the position carefully and if I deduce there’s no risk to lose I continue playing on for a couple of more moves.  With higher rated I ask myself – If the opponent was in my position would he s/he accept the Draw offer?  Most of the time the answer is ‘No.’  

However, these feelings of pride and instant gratification should not be treated flippantly.  They entice use to push on with lower-rated players, and accept a Draw with higher-rated players.  This “lower-rated and higher-rated psychology” should disappear from our heads for it can lead to imprudent decisions and seriously affect the outcome of the game and tournament thus compromising the  desired result.  Wow long sentence huh :).  In essence, We should make decisions Based On the Position, NOT THE PLAYER.  We have to deliberately train our emotions, to do our best.

Well that’s all there is on my mind today, and sorry for a bit of  lengthy musing :).  Hope I didn’t bore u guys!  Adieu for now and till the next blog!