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Swayams Mishra - India's 62nd GM, accomplished trainer and an IT Engineer

by Sagar Shah - 06/05/2019

Born in 1992, 26-year-old Swayams Mishra has become India's latest GM on 5th of May 2019 when he achieved his final GM norm at the Polonia Wroclaw GM norm tournament. Swayam's story is one of grit and persistence. After achieving two of his GM norms in 2014 and 2015, he had to wait for nearly three and a half years to get the final GM norm. In that period, Swayams not only evolved as a chess player but also as a human being. He became an IT engineer from KIIT university, he became a FIDE trainer and has helped several of his students to unlock their true potential. This is a story of a boy who had no sponsors to support him in his journey, but with the help of his family, friends and well wishers claimed the highest title in chess. An exclusive interview with India's 62nd GM Swayams Mishra.

On 4th of May, Swayams Mishra won his penultimate round at the Polonia Wroclaw GM round robin tournament against Antoni Kozak and achieved his final GM norm with one round to spare. Not wanting to break his tournament rhythm, Swayams postponed his GM title celebrations until the tournament was done and dusted. He went to the final round, made a quick draw against the Indian youngster Pranav Anand, and won the tournament. First on the agenda was to speak to family and close friends. Next was to answer all the questions of the journalists who had been waiting to speak to him for over 12 hours. He then meticulously thanked everyone who had wished him on social media. That's how India's 62nd GM Swayams Mishra functions. He knows his priorities and he is meticulous about things. It doesn't come as a surprise that at just 26 years old, he has attained the GM title, is a FIDE trainer and also an IT engineer. No one in Indian chess can boast of such accomplishments. An in-depth interview. 

Interview with GM Swayams Mishra

Sagar Shah (SS): A big congratulations on becoming India's 62nd GM. You have been waiting for this title since quite some years now. Yet when you became one, instead of celebrating, posting on social media, you were focusing on your last round of the Polonia Wroclaw GM. Why is that?

Swayams Mishra (SM): Thanks a lot Sagar. The tournament was not over yet. I had to play the last round. After it, I have the time to do whatever I want, so why hurry! I had waited for the final GM norm for 3.5 years, so it was not a very big thing as mentally. I knew, I was already playing at the GM level.

Swayams not only got his final GM norm at the Polonia Wroclaw tournament, he also won the event with 7.0/9, one and a half point ahead of the nearest competitors

I would like to thank Mr.Artur Czyz and Rafał Siwik - the organiser and arbiter of the Polonia Wroclaw Master Cup Closed tournament. It was wonderfully organised despite the last moment change in the venue. The hall was nice, with all DGT boards and with coffee and tea available at all times.

 

SS: Do you feel a big burden off your shoulders now that you have become a GM?

SM: I do feel relieved and happy now. However, I never felt a burden. I have missed my last norm quite closely in the recent years, so I knew if I am getting so close, there can't be a lack of skill and that it's just a matter of time.

 

SS: You made your first GM norm at the KIIT Open in 2014 and I remember that in your second GM norm, you beat the legendary GM Jan Timman to get your norm at Isle of Man 2015. You were in good flow at that time. What took you so long to achieve this third GM norm? And how did you keep your patience?

SM: I have learnt a lot of things in these years and no one can take away the experiences that I gained while I missed my norms. Back then I was focusing only on chess techniques and results. Recently I started working on some non-chess aspects too like pattern recognition and psychological aspects etc. I didn't have to 'try' to keep patience during the 3.5 years as it's about the journey and the process. Chess is definitely important, but life in itself is a much greater aspect. With a little encouragement, I just kept going and refused to quit.

 

SS: How did you begin playing chess, who were your trainers, and how did you interest in the sport grow?

SM: I learnt chess at age of 6 years. My father brought a chessboard and my sister and me started playing. She played at national level in her age-group and was highly talented. She finished in top 15 at the nationals within one year of playing chess. Later she decided to pursue her career in medicine. At that age I was very sharp and couldn't sit in one place for more then 5 minutes.

Young Swayams with his sister and grandfather

I have had several trainers, coaches and mentors throughout my carreer. I would first like to appologize if I miss out any of their names as its not intentional. Rajendra Prasad Sahoo, Satyaranjan Pattnaik, Rajendra Kumar Sahu, Subash Chandra Sahoo, Manoj Kumar Panigrahi were my coaches who laid the basics. There were few other senior players from Odisha like Chaitanya Rout, Narayan Swain, Debasis Chakrabarty, Vivek Tibarewal who have contributed towards my success. IM Sekhar Chandra Sahu, IM Neeraj Kumar Mishra were instrumental in moulding me in the right path when I was improving. I started working on my own until I achieved my two GM norms.

 

Then I realized the importance of a trainer. GM Michael Roiz, GM Bartosz Socko, GM Jacob Aagaard have helped me a lot to improve my game. I would like to really thank IM Satyapragyan Swayangsu, GM Farrukh Amonatov for being there as a mentor through difficult stages of both chess and life. Finally GM Sundararajan Kidambi, who was intstrumental in changing some important aspects which helped me play better and to achieve my final GM norm a bit easily. I would also like to thank GM Debashis Das and GM Stany GA, who were my training partners in different phases of my chess career.

 

SS: You are an engineer. How did you balance your education and chess?

SM: I did my engineering from the KIIT University in Bhubaneswar in Information Technology (IT) stream. I am very thankful to Dr. Achyuta Samanta - Founder, Gaganendu Dash - Sports Director for supporting me throughout my engineering days after providing me with the free seat. I would say it was hard to manage and without the support of the university it would be impossible.

KIIT University is well known in Indian chess for the GM tournament that they hold every year in May. They played an instrumental role in Swayams managing to complete his engineering, while he kept playing.

SS: You are a prolific chess trainer. Some of your most successful students are Sai Agni Jeevitesh, Adham Fawzy, Sankalp Gupta, Shrishti Pandey, Clarence Psaila, Mahitosh Dey, Manish Kumar and others. What is your criteria for selecting students with whom you train?

SM: I used to give training to all level of players. But currently, I have restricted myself to selected students due to limited time. I take serious students with 1800+ Elo because I feel that's where I can help them improve their chess better. I have been quite lucky to find quality students.

 

SS: Does coaching hamper your chess? It has been said by many that it is not so easy to play professionally and at the same time be a professional trainer. How do you manage both?

SM: I think this topic is subjective and depends a lot on the individual. It's not about coaching or anything in particular. It's about whether you enjoy what you are doing . If you don't enjoy where you are then it will obviously require more energy and that would certainly impact other aspects of your life.  I can quote examples of some strong GMs (2600-2700) who have been improving their game while also giving training.

 

For me, I enjoy coaching and hence I find a way to balance both playing and training. I have learnt and am still learning a lot from my students. A very recent example would be that of Adham Fawzy from Egypt with whom I worked as his second in one of the tournaments. He recently scored his final GM norm in Serbia. His fierce attitude towards the game helped me see a new perspective. Also a message from Sankalp at the end of 5th round at the Polonia Wroclaw GM norm tournament definitely boosted my morale. He said, "C'mon sir, crush those guys in the remaining rounds!!"

The relationship of a trainer and a student is a two way stream. The coach helps the student to improve and a good coach also learns from his students! Swayams with one of his top students Sankalp Gupta.

SS: You are now an engineer, a FIDE trainer and a GM. Quite a confusing decision for your future, or you have it all figured out?

SM: After two years of engineering, I knew it has to be chess as a career. Being an IM and FT if I was able to manage both, then why not the same now! I along with Satyapragyan are organising a summer camp in Bhubaneswar later this month I hope I can contribute towards spreading chess both in Odisha and in India. I want to play good chess and work towards fitness (both emotional and physical) and I believe the rest will follow. Also I look forward to explore the other areas of chess apart from playing.

The last date for registration is 10th of May, so you can still enroll to this camp by IM S. Satyapragyan and GM Swayams Mishra

SS: Did you ever face financial struggle as a chess player? Who were the sponsors in your chess career who helped you?

SM: My family has supported me a lot and still do when I need. I am thankful to KIIT for offering me an engineering seat. I am in Air India on a contract basis. However, I don't have any sponsor as such. That's one of the major reasons why I started coaching in the first place. You can say I am self sponsored!

Swayams parents have been his sponsors and rock solid support throughout his chess career

SS: Who are the people whom you would like to thank for becoming a GM?

SM: My family, my trainers, my students and most importantly my close friends. A few of them did go an extra mile to ensure that I keep going and stay motivated when things were not going on track. One of them was very nevous until the last round started (after the ChessBase India Facebook post that my opponent has to arrive on the board in order for me to achieve my final norm). This was because I was close on so many occasions to my GM norm. Their attachment towards my title and my norm was much more than mine. It's not just my success, its their success too.

 

SS: You are an excellent rapid player and also a blitz expert. How did you develop those skills?

SM: Playing lot of online chess in my younger days helped to improve my blitz and rapid skills. Yes, and I also played blitz with my friends whenever we met.

Swayams won the extremely strong Chanakya Chess Club rapid held in Goa in 2015. He has such innumerable rapid and blitz titles under his belt.

SS: Can you share with us some of your favourite books that have helped you to improve at chess?

SM: These have been some of my favourite books

1. Instructive Modern Chess Masterpieces by Igor Stohl

2. Chess Strategy in Action by John Watson

3. How to reassess your chess by Jeremy Silman

4. Endgame Manual by Mark Dvoretsky

5. Kasparov on Kasparov Part -1

 

SS: What would your advice be to all the talents of Indian chess who aspire to be a GM like you some day.

SM: I would like to quote a personal experience: In 2016 - I played Groningen Chess Festival. I started badly, was losing a lot of Elo but still I played on. Finally, I lost 39 Elo points and that too with my K factor being 10. I remember celebrating my losses! So I would suggest everyone not to withdraw or give up as those games and experiences matter a lot.

The ability to survive when the chips are down has helped Swayams to learn and grow as a chess player | Photo: V. Saravanan

SS: If you had to choose one favourite game from your chess career, which one would that be?

SM: It has to be the one I played against Mosesov Danylo (2315) at the Budapest Spring Festival 2019 in round three, just a couple of months ago.

 

Swayams Mishra vs Mosesov Danylo, Budapest Spring Festival, Round 3

Black has just played his rook to e8. How should White continue?

SS: What has been the role of ChessBase and ChessBase India in your chess career?

SM: I believe ChessBase is a must for someone who wants to be a professional player. I was lucky to have learnt the usage of ChessBase from late Mr. Paritosh Bhattacharyya and have used it in the right way ever since. ChessBase India has been revolutional. I keep myself updated with the chess news. I rarely open chessbase.com since ChessBase India has begun. Sharing success stories and videos have inspired and motivated me at times.

Some memorable photos in the life of India's 62nd GM:

Swayams is a food lover! Don't believe us? See for yourself...

...A connoisseur of good food!

Swayams with his good friend Lalith Babu!

Winning a prize at the 1st Keshabanda Das Memorial All India open tournament. This was in 2012.

The complete dedication of a chess player! | Photo: ChessMine

With the legendary Vishy Anand at the Isle of Man international in 2017

Stars of Odisha chess (from left to right): Debashis Das, Swayams Mishra, Rakesh Kumar Jena, Padmini Rout and Anwesh Upadhyay

Swayams with one of the trainers who has made a huge influence on him - Farrukh Amonatov

It's always nice when you and your training partner are standing on the podium at the end of the tournament. Swayams with Stany.

Two of them have already become a GM. It's now time for Satyapragyan (left) to achieve his GM title. He already has all the GM norms he needs under his belt.

In 2014 when Amruta took this picture, Swayams wrote on his Facebook: "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." "I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep"

Related articles:

Swayams is India's 4th GM in the year 2019. The previous three have been Visakh NR, D. Gukesh and P. Iniyan. ChessBase India had a huge article dedicated to all three of them when they became GMs. You can read them here:

The Fighter - India's 59th GM Visakh NR

Gukesh becomes 2nd youngest GM in the history of chess at 12 years, 7 months and 17 days

Breaking news! India gets its 61st GM - P. Iniyan