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Bhopal 2017 Round 5+6: What separates a GM from an IM?

by Sagar Shah - 25/12/2017

What is it that separates a GM from an IM? This is a question that we hear quite often. On the surface both IMs and GMs are strong players and it is not so easy to differentiate between them. However, when you go deeper you realize that grandmasters have certain qualities which are clearly superior. At the Bhopal International 2017 four GMs were pitted against four IMs and it was a complete massacre. The scoreline was 3.5-0.5 in the favour of GMs. After six rounds we have five players leading with 5.5/6. Detailed report by IM Sagar Shah with pictures by Amruta Mokal and Niklesh Jain. 

People always wonder what is the difference in playing strength between a grandmaster and an International Master. Both are strong players, right? Of course, IM title is achieved at 2400 and GM at 2500. But for an amateur both the titles seem pretty difficult to achieve. So the logical question is what separates an IM from a GM. Well, the pairing of the 5th round of Bhopal International 2017 would tell you the exact tale. On the first four boards of the tournament four IMs were pitted against four grandmasters. This is how the pairings looked:

Bo.No. NameTypFEDRtgPts.ResultPts.NameTypFEDRtg No.
IMWohl Aleksandar H.AUS237040 - 14GMGareyev TimurUSA2606
GMRozum IvanRUS259541 - 04IMRavi Teja S.IND2378
GMDavid AlbertoITA257141 - 04IMRathnakaran K.IND2307
IMSangma RahulIND23114½ - ½4GMAtalik SuatTUR2545

Aleksander Wohl vs Timur Gareyev:

Alexander Wohl is an experienced Australian IM, while Timur Gareyev is a 2600+ US grandmaster | Photo: Niklesh Jain

The grandmaster dominated the game right from the start. Wohl had one opportunity out of the opening to get a good position, but once he missed it, it all went downhill.

Black has just moved his knight to h5. What would you play?

Wohl made the automatic developing move Be3, when after Qf6 he was just worse. But if he had followed the well known adage, "Play on the flank must be met with a break in the centre," he would have found d4! After this White has solved all his opening issues and the knight on h5 suddenly starts looking misplaced. Also the knight on b3 becomes useful. So all in all this would have been a pretty strong move.


Wohl missed this opportunity and in the rest of the game it was simply Gareyev all the way. You must see how he maneuvers his pieces in very fine style to outplay his experienced opponent.

Ivan Rozum vs Ravi Teja

The battle between Ivan Rozum and Ravi Teja was a very interesting one. Mainly because Ravi Teja is a youngster who is also ambitious and trying to achieve his GM title. | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Ivan Rozum won the game. If you look at the battle carefully, you will realize that Black made some small errors out of the opening, misplacing his pieces slightly. However, he fought back. But in the middlegame, somehow the grandmaster had a better understanding of what was more important. Although Black had this wonderful centre, it was white's h-pawn that created a huge damage by ripping apart the kingside. Perhaps, this is another thing that GMs excel in. In extremely complicated positions where a lot of things are happening, they just know what are the thing they should be playing for.

David Alberto vs K. Rathnakaran

IM Rathnakaran is in great form recently winning the Penang Open as well as playing well at the Johor Open in Malaysia. GM David Alberto is an experienced GM from Italy. It was a match to look forward to. | Photo: Niklesh Jain

I have a feeling that Alberto studied the games of Ratnakaran quite carefully. At least he got to know his style pretty well. In that way, he was able to play dry positions which are not really the Kerala player's forte. He was not able to weave his tactical magic and Alberto scored a pretty easy win.

The game between Rahul Sangma and Suat Atalik ended in a draw | Photo: Niklesh Jain

What separates a GM from an IM?

Athough the above sample was pretty small, it was quite impressive to see the GMs beating their IM opponents with a score of 3.5-0.5. So what is it that separates a GM from an IM?


1. Feel of the critical moment of the game.

Grandmasters can feel it much better that now is the most important moment in the game. If Aleksander Wohl would have realized that playing d4 was important and that Be3 would simply be met with Qf6 with a better position for Black, he would have been more careful.


2. Better opening knowledge

Grandmasters in general have a good opening knowledge. Not just of a particular opening, but in general they know the trends and they can steer the game into positions which might be unknown for their opponents. Now this knowledge doesn't come overnight. It is the result of consistent work done over a long period of time. You have to keep yourself constantly updated.


3. Psychology and opponent's style

Even International Masters try to understand their opponent's style, but GMs are more successful in steering the games to the kind of positions that are the most uncomfortable for the opponent. The success ratio is high because they have superior knowledge and skills.


4. Less tactical errors.

Now this might seem obvious, because if you make less tactical mistakes you are bound to win, but GMs in general blunder less than an IM.


Personally I think the titles GM and IM are very well formulated by FIDE. An IM is a strong player, but he does lack something in his game. A GM could also lack something, but more often than not they are well rounded, and their strong points are much better developed than an IM. For example if you take an IM and GM whose core strength is tactical play, then the GM will be much better at tactics than the IM. There are always exceptions to the rule, so the above points must be taken with a pinch of salt.

Results of round 5:

Bo.No. NameTypFEDRtgPts.ResultPts.NameTypFEDRtg No.
114IMWohl Aleksandar H.AUS237040 - 14GMGareyev TimurUSA26061
22GMRozum IvanRUS259541 - 04IMRavi Teja S.IND237813
34GMDavid AlbertoITA257141 - 04IMRathnakaran K.IND230725
424IMSangma RahulIND23114½ - ½4GMAtalik SuatTUR25455
534Masango SpencerZIM22530 - 1GMNguyen Duc HoaVIE25047
68IMYeoh Li TianMAS24801 - 0Ajay Krishna SIND228131
710IMKhusenkhojaev MuhammadTJK24511 - 0Saurabh AnandU15IND224136
812IMGirish A. KoushikIND24121 - 0Kumar GauravIND223137
916FMErigaisi ArjunU15IND23591 - 0Kulkarni VinayakIND223038
1042Senthil Maran KIND22081 - 0Kunal M.IND235217

Round six was supposed to be the most interesting one because the top seed was pitted against the second seed and the fourth seed was up against the fifth. A lot of blood was expected to be spilled in this round, but both the games ended in tame draws. 

Timur Gareyev played the Trompowsky, but wasn't really able to make much progress against Ivan Rozum | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Alberto David would be fine with a draw with the black pieces against Suat Atalik | Photo: Amruta Mokal

It seemed as if Rahul Sangma was clearly better against IM Yeoh Li Tian, but the game ended in a draw | Photo: Amruta Mokal

IM elect Arjun Tiwari played a very rare and complex line with white against Aleksander Wohl, but it turned out that his opponent, who is a well known coach, had looked at that line with one of his students just a few days ago! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Nguyen Duc Hoa won both the International Opens in India when he came to Mumbai and Bhubaneshwar in mid-2017. Over here he is on 5.0/6. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

One of the leaders of the tournament Ivan Rozum - 5.5/6 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

One of India's finest talents Gukesh has made a strong comeback after a loss in the second round and is now on 5.0/6 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Aditya Mittal could not keep up his momentum and slumped to a defeat against Muhammad Khusenkhojaev | Photo: Amruta Mokal

In good spirits before the game - IM Ravi Teja | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Results of Round 6:

Bo.No. NameTypFEDRtgPts.ResultPts.NameTypFEDRtg No.
11GMGareyev TimurUSA26065½ - ½5GMRozum IvanRUS25952
25GMAtalik SuatTUR2545½ - ½5GMDavid AlbertoITA25714
37GMNguyen Duc HoaVIE2504½ - ½FMErigaisi ArjunU15IND235916
424IMSangma RahulIND2311½ - ½IMYeoh Li TianMAS24808
528CMAditya MittalU11IND22880 - 1IMKhusenkhojaev MuhammadTJK245110
642Senthil Maran KIND22080 - 1IMGirish A. KoushikIND241212
73GMTukhaev AdamUKR25754½ - ½4FMShailesh DravidIND230627
833Ram S. KrishnanIND225540 - 14GMTran Tuan MinhVIE25446
99GMHimanshu SharmaIND246941 - 04IMDeshmukh AnupIND228330
1011IMNitin S.IND244140 - 14Patil PratikIND219944

Ranking after round 6:

Rk.SNo NamesexFEDRtgIClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4  TB5 
GMDavid AlbertoITA2571Italy5,50,022,025,022,505,0
GMRozum IvanRUS2595Russia5,50,022,025,022,255,0
GMGareyev TimurUSA2606USA5,50,021,524,021,255,0
IMKhusenkhojaev MuhammadTJK2451Tajikistan5,50,020,023,021,005,0
IMGirish A. KoushikIND2412Karnataka5,50,019,522,520,755,0
GMNguyen Duc HoaVIE2504Vietnam5,00,021,524,520,254,0
IMRathnakaran K.IND2307Kerala5,00,021,024,018,505,0
GMAtalik SuatTUR2545Turkey5,00,021,023,518,254,0
IMSangma RahulIND2311Delhi5,00,020,523,518,504,0
IMWohl Aleksandar H.AUS2370Australia5,00,020,523,518,005,0

The view from the tournament hall is exquisite with the sun setting down! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

That's Ruy Lopez! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Why is there a crowd that has gathered over here? | Photo: Amruta Mokal

It was because we interviewed the oldest man in the tournament - 85-year-old R. Satyamurthy | Photo: Amruta Mokal
An interesting chat with 85-year-old R. Satyamurthy where he talks about how chess has helped him lead a good life.

Chess can be boring at times! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Thanks to the efforts of Vikas Sahu and Sunil Soni, the games in the second hall are progressing smoothly! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Beautiful trophies were unveiled before the start of the sixth round | Photo: Amruta Mokal
A short video of trophies being unveiled

Pairing of Round 7

Bo.No. NameTypFEDRtgPts.ResultPts.NameTypFEDRtg No.
14GMDavid AlbertoITA2571GMGareyev TimurUSA26061
22GMRozum IvanRUS2595IMKhusenkhojaev MuhammadTJK245110
312IMGirish A. KoushikIND24125GMNguyen Duc HoaVIE25047
416FMErigaisi ArjunU15IND235955GMAtalik SuatTUR25455
56GMTran Tuan MinhVIE254455Moksh Amit DoshiU15IND233719
68IMYeoh Li TianMAS248055IMRathnakaran K.IND230725
720IMDhulipalla Bala Chandra PrasadIND233455GMHimanshu SharmaIND24699
814IMWohl Aleksandar H.AUS237055IMSangma RahulIND231124
944Patil PratikIND219955CMGukesh DU11IND236215
1048CMKushagra MohanU13IND2174GMTukhaev AdamUKR25753

A parent's Q & A session was held at 5 p.m. on 24th of December 2017. I tried my best to answer some of the most important questions on the minds of the parents of chess players. In between the lecture, Timur Gareyev visited the hall. He had just finished his game. We called him on the stage and asked him about how he had developed his memory and blindfold capabilities. His reply was extremely detailed and you can learn a lot from it: 

Timur Gareyev - the blindfold king, speaks about how to become a better blindfold player!

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