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North American Junior U20A 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

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6 Comments

  • P.Chandna

    Reply Reply September 2, 2014

    Akshat, I’d seen you at the US Masters, which was running parallel with the tournament I was playing. During the latter stages of the Masters, I’m not sure if you remember seeing a nearly identical person to yourself, spectating your games. 😛

    You’re a talent, and I hope to mirror at least a portion of your achievements. Best wishes for any problems you may have to tackle, and keep up the compelling writing!

    • Akshat

      Reply Reply September 7, 2014

      Hi Priyav,

      Glad to hear that you’ve settled in the States now. Hope you had a good tournament there in NC. Thanks, and good luck with your chess journey!

  • Rene Preotu

    Reply Reply September 3, 2014

    Hi Akshat,
    I’d like to apology for my post on Chesstalk.com. I edited it and removed the part with “and also from other US tournaments when he had no more chances for norms”. I didn’t complain about you withdrawing from NA Junior U20 and I didn’t mean to offend you in anyway. You probably know that when a “foreign” player withdraws from a Super Swiss tournament that tournament might lose the Super Swiss status (http://www.fide.com/fide/handbook.html?id=174&view=article 1.43e). This will ruin other players’ norm chances. But I assume it’s the official Arbiters and Organizers problem.
    Once again I’m sorry if my post damaged your reputation as a chess player.
    I wish you all the best in your quest to become a GM.

    Rene Preotu

    • Akshat

      Reply Reply September 7, 2014

      Mr. Preotu,
      Thanks for the apology and edit.
      I understand your Super Swiss comment. As you are aware there was no Super Swiss status required for this NA Junior FIDE official event. Also, Quebec Open was not hinging on my participation to preserve the Super Swiss status either or the organizers/arbiters would have discussed. In such situations, the player and organizers will have to confer and decide what’s best for the player and the tournament. You could see the long list of players that decided to withdraw (not pre-determined 1/2 point byes) towards the end of the US Masters 2014 in Greensboro a few days ago. Fortunately for norm seekers it still remained Super Swiss. Thanks for your kind wishes.

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply September 7, 2014

    Dear T7S,

    Hi Akshat. Although this is quite unrelated to your blog post, I would like to ask you some advice. For many years on ICC, I have only been playing standard rated games. However I decided that it would not be the best way to go forward (btw my elo rating is 2000). Instead I decided to start only playing blitz as that is what many strong players do. However nowadays on ICC, at whatever time I go nobody is available to play blitz. Only a few very low-rated players are there like 1400’s. I was wondering if there was a specific time you play to ensure that this does not occur. I live in California so the time zone is the PST(Pacific Time). It would be kind if you could respond in ICC server time. Thanks for your blog post. I hope you become a grandmaster soon!

    • Akshat

      Reply Reply September 13, 2014

      Hi Ri…,

      When I play online, it’s always some random time. I don’t really think that there is a specific time where the server has more people on. The only thing I can suggest is that perhaps you should try logging some time between 3pm-6pm EST, and see if you get better players. Hope it helps!

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