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My maiden GM norm (Part 2)

by Niranjan Navalgund - 13/04/2017

You may recall how many top sportsmen suffer a string of failures. The journalists write them off, the fans think the player should quit. They said that to Sachin, they said that to Vishy. But the thing that makes them superstars is their mental approach towards their chosen sport. Niranjan Navalgund, the novelist and GM nom holder was in a similar situation. He tells you in his inimitable style, how he changed  his mental approach, and became a much stronger chess player than he ever was. Read this Q&A and change your game forever.

My maiden GM norm (Part 2)

In case, you missed it. You can read Part 1 of the article here.

In this segment, I will focus on the games of Delhi Open 2017
[Event "15th Parsvnath Delhi International Open"]
[Site "New Delhi"]
[Date "2017.01.10"]
[Round "2.10"]
[White "Movsziszian Karen"]
[Black "Navalgund Niranjan"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A12"]
[WhiteElo "2507"]
[BlackElo "2207"]
[Annotator "Niranjan"]
[PlyCount "80"]
[EventDate "2017.01.09"]
[EventCountry "IND"]
1. g3 $5 {I call this a river of many oceans as it could connect to any
opening. It is a tricky move order, trying to know the intentions of the
opponent} d5 2. Nf3 c6 3. Bg2 Bg4 4. b3 Nd7 5. Bb2 e6 6. O-O {The delay in
developing the knight from g8-f6 was connected with the possibility of playing
it to e7. But, white's early development of the bishop on b2, prevent's black
from doing so. The bishop needs to be on d6 before playing Ne7, so I had to
stick to Ng8-f6} Ngf6 7. d3 Bd6 8. c4 O-O 9. Na3 Re8 {I was just waiting to
see what white does now, was also planning Qb8 and b7-b5 as I had seen this
plan in a Kramnik's game} 10. Nc2 a5 11. a3 b5 12. cxb5 cxb5 13. a4 b4 (13...
bxa4 {the a5 pawn could become a target, so I decided to go b5-b4}) 14. Nfd4
Qb8 {to prevent h3--g4 and then f2-f4 in the long run.} 15. Nb5 Bc5 (15... Bf8
{was possible, but I liked that Bc5 prevents h3.}) 16. Qd2 (16. h3 $2 Bxh3 17.
Bxh3 Qxg3+ 18. Bg2 Ng4 $19) 16... Qb6 {preventing Rfc1} 17. h3 Bh5 18. Ncd4 e5
19. Nf5 Bg6 20. Nh4 Rac8 21. e3 (21. e4 dxe4 22. dxe4 Bf8) 21... d4 22. exd4 ({
On} 22. e4 Nh5 23. Kh2 Qf6 {was my plan}) 22... Bxd4 23. Nxd4 exd4 24. Nxg6 (
24. f4 h6 25. Nxg6 fxg6) 24... hxg6 25. Qf4 Qe6 (25... Rc3 26. Bxc3 (26. Rfd1
Rxb3 {here, the rook looks slightly misplaced} (26... Nc5 $5)) 26... bxc3 27.
Rfb1 Qb4) 26. Bxd4 Qxb3 {I started feeling good about the position and thought
I have good chances, just have to keep pressing and make accurate calculations}
27. Bb7 Rc2 28. Rfd1 Nc5 29. Bxc5 Rxc5 30. d4 g5 (30... Rf5 31. Qd2 Nd5 $15) (
30... Rc2 31. d5 Ree2 32. d6) 31. Qd2 Rc7 32. Bg2 Rc2 (32... g4 33. hxg4 Nxg4
34. Qf4) 33. Qxg5 Ree2 {Now, I am winning an additional tempo with the help of
the pawn sac} 34. Qf5 Qc3 35. d5 g6 36. Qf4 Nh5 37. Qb8+ Kg7 38. Rf1 Nxg3 39.
d6 Nxf1 40. d7 Rxf2 0-1


 The win against Movsziszian Karen gave me a good boost; I didn’t prepare much for the second game as it was a double round day.
[Event "15th Delhi International Cat: A"]
[Site "Ludlow Castle Sports Complex "]
[Date "2017.01.10"]
[Round "3.16"]
[White "Navalgund, Niranjan"]
[Black "Saptarshi, Roy"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A00"]
[WhiteElo "2207"]
[BlackElo "2418"]
[Annotator "Shah,Sagar + Niranjan"]
[PlyCount "91"]
[EventDate "2017.01.09"]
[EventRounds "10"]
[EventCountry "IND"]
{I'm going to include my comments as NN, the rest of it is annotaed by Sagar
Shah} 1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. g3 dxc4 5. Bg2 Nbd7 6. O-O Be7 7. Qc2 a6
8. a4 O-O {I played through the main line in my mind and Nbd7 looked weird. So,
I thought of using my b1 knight differently. Of course, I'm still not sure if
this is the best - NN} 9. Nbd2 c5 10. dxc5 Nxc5 11. Nxc4 Bd7 12. a5 Nd5 13. Bd2
Bb5 14. e4 Nf6 15. Nfe5 Rc8 16. Rfd1 Bxc4 17. Nxc4 Qd3 18. Qxd3 Nxd3 19. Bf1 $1
{A fine move by White.} Nc5 (19... Rxc4 20. Bxd3 $14 {is pure torture with
White having the bishop pair.}) 20. f3 (20. Nb6 $1 {was a better move.} Rcd8
21. Bb4 Nfxe4 22. f3 Rxd1 (22... Nf6 $2 23. Rxd8 Rxd8 24. Rc1 $18) 23. Rxd1 Nf6
24. Ba3 $14 (24. Rc1 Nb3 $17)) 20... Nb3 21. Rab1 Nd7 $6 (21... Nxd2 22. Rxd2
Bb4 $11) 22. Bf4 Bc5+ 23. Kg2 $6 {I played this a little too fast, should have
contemplated the difference between placing the king on g2 and h1 - NN} Bd4 24.
Bd6 Rfe8 {The rook comes to c2 with a check if I move my knight, this is the
key difference - NN} 25. e5 Rc6 26. f4 {White now has a bind on the position.}
Rec8 27. Na3 (27. Rd3 $3 {was the hidden resource. (I missed this move because
I considered Ndc5 and stopped my calculations. But, Ndc5 is met by Bxc5! Well,
I didn't consider giving up the bishop on d6 for a knight - NN)} Rxc4 28. Rxb3
$18 {The b7 pawn falls.}) 27... Bc5 28. Bxc5 Ndxc5 29. Rd6 Rxd6 30. exd6 Ne4 (
30... Nd7 $11) 31. Nc4 Rd8 32. Rd1 Nf6 33. Be2 Ne4 34. Bf3 Nec5 35. Re1 g6 36.
Re3 Rd7 $2 (36... h6 37. Bd1 Nc1 $16 38. Bc2 Na2 39. Re5 Nd7 $14 {This is
precisely the square that the rook took away with Rd7.}) 37. Bd1 $1 Nc1 38. Bc2
Na2 39. Re5 {The knight is trapped!} b5 40. axb6 Nb7 41. Ba4 Rd8 42. d7 Nb4 43.
Na5 Nd6 44. Rc5 Nd3 45. Rc7 Nxb2 46. Nc6 {A complex middlegame well handled by
Niranjan.} 1-0

Playing Hungarian GM Adam Horvath.

This was my first win against Saptarshi Roy and the win came at a kairos moment! Out of the ten games in Parsvnath, I had already played against six of my opponents previously. This event gave me an opportunity to make my scores better and I did that to some extent.

[Event "15th Parsvnath Delhi International Open"]
[Site "New Delhi"]
[Date "2017.01.14"]
[Round "8.5"]
[White "Horvath, Adam"]
[Black "Navalgund Niranjan"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C49"]
[WhiteElo "2499"]
[BlackElo "2207"]
[Annotator "Niranjan"]
[PlyCount "108"]
[EventDate "2017.01.09"]
[EventCountry "IND"]
[SourceTitle ""]
[TimeControl "5400+30"]
{While studying the games of Horvath, I realized that he is a solid player and
has a taste for sophisticated openings. I wasn't sure about the requirements
for a GM norm as I had not checked it. Games first, results later.} 1. e4 {0}
e5 {6} 2. Nf3 {0} Nc6 {4} 3. Nc3 {0} Nf6 {13} 4. Bb5 {6 I was expecting my
opponent to play the four knights system} Bb4 {7} 5. O-O {31} O-O {9} 6. d3 {6}
d6 {5} 7. Ne2 {60} Ne7 {17} 8. c3 {8} Ba5 {19} 9. Ng3 {14} Ng6 {8} 10. d4 {59}
Bb6 {23 I picked this idea from Teichmann-Suechting, the realization of d6-d5
without inserting c6. Mamyedarov had employed 10..Bb6 against Anand in 2015.
So, this encouraged me to go with the following line.} 11. Be3 {1908} (11. h3
$5 c6 12. Bd3 Re8 13. Re1 Be6 14. Be3 h6 15. Qc1 (15. Qc2 Qc7 16. a3 a5 17. c4
a4 18. Red1 exd4 19. Bxd4 Ne5 20. Be2 Bc5 21. Rd2 Nfd7 22. Rad1 Red8 23. Nh4
Bxd4 24. Rxd4 c5 25. Rxd6 Nc6 26. Nhf5 Nd4 27. Qd2 Ne5 28. Rd5 Bxd5 29. cxd5
Qb6 30. f4 Ng6 31. Bc4 Qa5 32. Qf2 b5 33. Nxd4 cxd4 34. Ba2 b4 35. Nf5 bxa3 36.
bxa3 Qc3 37. e5 Rab8 38. Rd2 Qxa3 39. Nxd4 Qc1+ 40. Kh2 Rbc8 41. d6 a3 42. Nf5
Rf8 43. d7 {1-0 (43) Anand,V (2791) -Mamedyarov,S (2756) Shamkir 2015}) 15...
Kh7 16. Bc2 Qd7 17. Kh2 Rad8 18. a4 Qc7 19. Kh1 a5 20. Ng1 Bc8 21. f4 exf4 22.
Bxf4 Kg8 23. Nf3 Nxf4 24. Qxf4 Qe7 25. Re2 Bc7 26. Rf1 Be6 27. b3 Nh7 28. Qc1
Qd7 29. Qe1 Qe7 30. Qd2 Qd7 31. Nh4 Qe7 32. Nhf5 Qg5 33. Qxg5 Nxg5 {1/2-1/2
(33) Teichmann,R-Suechting,H Prague 1908}) 11... d5 $5 $146 {259 I had checked
this} 12. Nxe5 {201} Nxe5 {73} 13. dxe5 {5} Nxe4 {21} 14. Nxe4 {793} dxe4 {46}
15. Bf4 {805} Qh4 {1339} 16. Bg3 {378} Qg5 {139} 17. Kh1 {99} (17. Qe2 Bf5 18.
Ba4 Rad8 {preventing Bc2} 19. Rad1 Bg4) (17. Qe1 e3 (17... Bf5)) 17... Bf5 {418
} 18. Qe1 {133} f6 {699 opens my rook} (18... Rad8 {was my intention, but I
felt white could play f4} 19. f4) 19. a4 $5 {349 very clever. With this move,
white supports his bishop on a4 and also threatens a4-a5 in some variations.
Suddenly, the c7 pawn feels the heat} (19. e6 Bxe6 {here, Qxe4 isn't possible
because the bishop is hanging}) 19... a5 {715} 20. Bc4+ {211} (20. e6 Bxe6 21.
Qxe4 Bd5 22. Bc4 c6 23. Rad1 Rad8 $11) 20... Kh8 {10} 21. Bd5 $1 {47 I wasn't
expecting this move} e3 {623} 22. Bxb7 {354} Rab8 {304} 23. Bc6 {321} fxe5 {82}
24. Bb5 {200} c6 {113} 25. Bc4 {59} (25. Bxc6 Bd3) (25. Be2 exf2 26. Bxf2 Bxf2
27. Qxf2 Rxb2) 25... Bg6 {241} 26. f3 {58} Rbe8 {288} 27. Rd1 {36} e4 {53} 28.
f4 {27} Qc5 {16} 29. b3 {30} (29. Qe2 Bh5) 29... Rd8 {25} 30. Bh4 {40} Rd3 {
164 I liked this move. The two brothers on e5 and e4 are very eager to seek
the credit for the win :-)} 31. Qe2 {33} Qd6 {247} 32. g4 {19} Rxf4 {79} 33.
Bg3 {41} Rxf1+ {10} 34. Rxf1 {5} Qd8 {25} 35. Bh4 {14} Qd6 {26} 36. Bg3 {51}
Qe7 {35} 37. Bh4 {46} Qe8 {2} 38. Qg2 {58} Bc7 {45} 39. Be1 {33 Here, I saw a
way to maximize the pressure and went with it.} e2 {69} 40. Qxe2 {10} Rh3 {2}
41. Kg1 {34} Rxh2 {98} 42. Qe3 {4} Bd6 {73} 43. Qd4 {68} Qe7 {13} 44. b4 {11}
e3 {48} 45. Bd3 {51} Bxd3 {50} 46. Qxd3 {4} Qe5 {11} 47. Rf5 {48} Rh1+ {21} 48.
Kg2 {3} Qh2+ {9} 49. Kf3 {4} Rxe1 {16} 50. Ke4 {15} Qh1+ {25} 51. Rf3 {4} Rd1 {
59} 52. Qa6 {7} Be7 {77} 53. Qxc6 {43} Rd8 {8} 54. Qc7 {68} e2 {23 and the e
pawn made my day, thus I secured an important win for the GM norm} 0-1


A quick interview 

Facebook Q&A

Srikar Yerrabati: What turned out to be so interesting for you to make the norm? What were your main perspectives on and off the board? 

The interesting part of the norm was that I got some positions that I had seen a few months back. I got to use some ideas that were a part of my opening preparation! I shed all the labels and perspectives during the event, but I held on to one motto :Life Goes On.


Ritu Modal: What were your fears and strengths? What kept you going?

The tournament offered me the opportunity to test my skills and execute my ideas against those players who had beaten me previously. The win against Saptarshi Roy and Shyam Nikhil were very important in aspects of my personal chess psychology. So, good results against these players kept me motivated.


Varun Raste: How did you manage to defeat Grandmasters or players who were rated 200 elo points higher than you? 

I knew that I was capable of playing good moves. I knew that I could beat them if I increased the consistency of good moves and it worked. My past helped me through the present.


Sudarshan Bhat: How did you manage to play consistently? 

Few months back, I interviewed Saravana Krishna and asked him the same question. 

Read the interview: Swiss King Saravana Krishnan

He said that he approached every game as a new game and focused on giving his best in the present moment. I employed this approach myself and it helped me to play on merit. I divided the whole event into small phases and probably—this led to consistency.


Hemanthraam Murugan: After the good start in the event, what was your aim? 

I kept myself busy with food, music, books, preparation, walking, metro, a few cups of tea. I didn’t give my mind the time and space to think about all that.


Pravin Mohite: Why did your performance slip in the last two rounds after getting the norm? 

Every failure is a feedback and data for future progress. I believe that there were several factors and one of them was fatigue. I will share the other factors once I overcome them.


Sameer Gore: What is the difference between a good player and a very good player? Is China inching ahead of India as next superpower in chess? [Ed.: China has always been ahead of India in chess, or any other sport except Cricket.]

A very good player is probably more aware of certainties when compared to a good player. China? Only time will tell.


Sanjay Sindhia: What was your mindset & goal entering into the event? How did you prepare for the event? How different was it from the tournament you played previously? 

As I expressed in the interview to CBI, I was looking for norms. At the back of my mind, I knew I had to make norms. The major changes had impacted my last few events positively, I started taking objective decisions. I have mentioned about how I prepared for the last few months prior to this event in the previous article.


I did play some good games in Mumbai; Mumbai was more like a practice ground for the event in Delhi. It helped me to filter certain tendencies and gave me an important lesson: Don’t sweat over small stuff. It’s all small stuff.


Andrew Ooi Boon Seng: Who was the person most influential for you in obtaining the norm? How did you train? What were the other activities you did outside of chess? How long did it take for the norm, starting from the time you first made it your target? 

K.Visweswaran helped me in making a lot of decisions in the preparation during the tournament. I’m grateful to him for his support.


I have a few playlists attuned to certain situations and I listen to them accordingly. For example, Hans Zimmer’s Dark Knight during my lows. ‘No time for caution’ from Interstellar, again by Hans Zimmer, before some games. Music helps me prepare well for the game.


I wrote in my journal about the possibility of a norm in 2011. It took six years for my first norm and it is a GM norm.


Shripad KV: Did you target the norm for this event? 

I didn’t target a GM norm, but yes. I was hoping to make a norm here.


Anees Ahmed: What do you like more, writing or chess? 

I like both and they help me well. For example, I have used chess concepts in writing and vice versa. They complement well.


Shubham Kaushik: You were trapped in the 2100-2200 barrier. What changes did you bring in your chess training as well as in your daily life to break that barrier?  

I have answered this in the previous article.


IM Nisha Mohota: You have been working hard for quite some time. What was it that you did differently here which you hadn't done earlier which brought the best in you? Also would like to know about your pressure level and excitement as you came closer to the norm. How you managed to keep calm and play when things got exciting - during a game and during the tournament? 

I stared being more objective, that helped in making the best of the situations.
I was enjoying my games, keeping myself busy with productive activities and the pressure felt like an uninvited guest. Jokes aside, I just kept myself glued to what is necessary and did accordingly.


My opponents inspired me to keep calm and I’m glad I did that during Delhi Open. I was also backed by luck in desperate situations and I held on to what I knew. For example, saving games against Swayams and Neverov helped the norm. I kept repeating certain affirmations and quotes in my mind to keep going forward. You can find more of that here.


Ankit: What was your mental approach before the tournament?

Keep steady under trying circumstances- Mandela! I used this approach.


Chandrashekhar Navalgund: What was your attitude before and after? (Niranjan's father)

I carried a question mark before the event and returned with a comma after the event.


Arna Sarkar: How do you relate chess with life? 

A lot has been said about chess and life. I believe they are interconnected and I continue picking lessons from life and chess as and when they are imparted to me.


Sivavamsi Krishna: You mentioned in the interview that Horvath rarely loses. What were your feelings before the game? Did you feel you could win? What were you feeling when you got a winning position? 

I was hoping to play a sound game and I did that. I wasn’t thinking about the results. I was more concerned about the process and didn’t let my thoughts float around results. It is difficult, but I found myself doing that on the day it mattered.


There are certain acts I associate with the accomplishments and sharing this video with my friends is one of them. A few months prior to the event, I had visualised the moment of sharing this scene on social media after a rise and some of my close friends knew what I meant.

The Dark Knight Rises by Christopher Nolan is a film that I have watched over and over again. It is highly recommended and do watch it if you haven’t watched it already.

Thank you, CBI, for giving me this opportunity to share parts of my GM norm story. I take this opportunity to thank my family, friends and well-wishers for contributing to my growth in their own ways. Heartfelt Gratitude to Polyhydron Foundation, Belagavi for sponsoring the entry fees of the event.


 About the author:

Niranjan Navalgund is rated 2375 and has a GM norm. He is also the author of The lively library & an unlikely romance. Chess and writing are his passions and he manages both of them well as can be quite clearly seen from his GM norm performance and the book launch by Readomania!