Trekking towards the GM title: The story of how G.A. Stany reinvented himself
"Personal fitness, ability to concentrate, stubbornness, “sitzfleisch”, creativity – all these are the aspects which influence your game more than the newest deviation in the Najdorf on move 29 or a 14 move combination you couldn’t calculate."- Thomas. If you are following chess closely than you might have come across players who have crossed the required Elo rating for a long time but still don't have the IM/GM Title, just because of a missing norm or in some cases, have the required number of norms but need to cross the rating barrier. India's 58th Grandmaster G.A. Stany had a similar experience. For a long time he was couple of norms away, having completed the 2500 Elo requirement. In this article he take us through his journey of how he overcame his weaknesses and also shares with us some very important part of having success in chess which is often neglected. Thumbnail photo: V. Saravanan
This article was originally published on the Quality Chess blog and has been republished here with their kind permission
Trekking towards the GM title
by Stany GA
I personally know more than 50 players, who are going through situations where they have all the required number of norms to get a title but haven't crossed the Elo rating required and also vice versa. In fact I also belong to the same category. 2012 was the year when I entered into a relationship with the IM Title. In the beginning it was fun but I was confident that the relationship wouldn't last long and I would soon move in with GM Title within few months. It's been 6 years now and I am still stuck with my IM title (speak of the loyalty!). However recently things changed in one tournament where I made my 2nd GM norm(I think I made the first norm before Ice Age).
This was my performance in the Gujarat International Open October-2018. 7.0/7 points from the start of the tournament assured me a GM norm with 2 rounds to spare. From missing the norm by half a point to not meeting enough titled players I've been going through these situations so many times that at one point I started wondering if I'll ever breakup with my IM title. So what helped me to get the GM Norm in this fashion? What are all the things I did which helped me get to the next norm after being stuck for a long time? I am going to share it here.
While writing this article I just googled the word 'success' and this is the first quote that I got "If Plan A didn't work, the alphabet has 25 more letters so keep trying" (Hey Google, How do you know what I exactly want!?). In the last few years I always kept seeing chess specially solving tactics, studies and openings of course (not my favourite part of chess to be honest), though it was not systematic. However in the last 6 months I decided to look for other 'Alphabets' i.e. ways to reinvent my approach towards chess. I would like to classify them into 5 areas and also would like to show you how they impacted my chess in the recent tournaments.
1. Focus on Fitness
"These days many young kids are working with GMs. Everyone has access to chess material so if you want to have a competitive edge over them, focus on the physical fitness, which many chess players seem to ignore" told a 2600+ GM to me when I asked for tips about chess improvement. I was very convinced with his advice and started working on my fitness consistently for the last few months and immediately got the results. I think my last round game against an experienced GM Vadim Malakhatko from the aforementioned Gujarat GM tournament is a good example. A win in this game would help me finish in top 3, but may I remind you that It was the tenth round of a hectic tournament (2 days double rounds) and this was the 5th GM I was facing in the tournament. I genuinely believe fitness played a key part in the outcome of this game.
2. Healthy Food only!
This might sound silly or not very important but I strictly followed it during the Gujarat tournament (tried for the first time actually) and it worked. If you have been to India you would know how delicious the food is (do try the Biryani once), but the food is also spicy and many of the foodstuffs are not very healthy. So this time I paid a lot of attention to my food consumption and tried to survive mainly on fruits, vegetables and salads throughout the tournament and I was doing great. I don't know if it would have the same effect on everyone but I would highly recommend you to pay attention to this area and try experimenting with it during the tournament.
3. Finding Practice Partners
I have to give credit to my trainer IM V. Saravanan for constantly pushing me to find working partners. He is of the opinion that the level of your partner need not always be higher than you and also its important to approach the players yourself. In the last few years I managed to find 3 players whose rating range is between 2100-2500 to work regularly. When you work with others it becomes easy to analyse your games, get an outsiders perspective and in general working on chess becomes more fun.
4. Stop glancing and start completing the books
This is something which I told to myself. I have enough collection of books at home but whenever I buy them, out of excitement I go through them fast and once they enter the promised land (my book shelf of course), they will happily live there ever after. So in the last couple of months I started to go through the books one by one, I also used chess board most of the times while reading these books and I found it to be immensely useful. For example recently I finished reading Gelfand's " Positional Decision making in chess" and I was particularly inspired by his chapter on Space advantage and this is how it helped me in my game in the 4th round of tournament against a young Indian IM Raghunandan K.
5. Training Camp with Aagaard:
Consider yourself lucky if you get a chance to attend any of Jacob Aagaard's training camps, One of the best decisions I took this year was attending his Training camp in Glasgow in July. It worked as a turbo booster on my performance and within 3 months I was able to get my next norm. Not only did I get a chance to meet and interact with some super strong players, I also realised my strengths and weaknesses. I think there is a difference between reading/solving Aagaard's books and doing the same having him in front of you. For starters the books contain problems of similar themes and concepts, so if you solve a couple of problems you will be able to solve the rest of the chapters. Whereas in the camp he used to give various kind of problems without any clues. He used to tell one thing regularly, if anyone gets stuck with the problem "Just open your eyes and look, the solution is right there, don't think too much" this advice kept on repeating in my mind during every round and here is my game against GM Martyn Kravtsiv where I just did what he told and won the game.
If any of you are looking for a training camp with Jacob, try the Quality Chess Academy camp in May in Greece.
I would like to end this article by recommending one non chess book that might help you to move forward in chess. It talks about "Tiny Changes and Remarkable Results" The book is called Atomic Habits by James Clear (highly recommended) and don't forget "The best view comes after the hardest Climb" So don't give up, keep trekking towards the Title.