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Orange City boy Sankalp Gupta makes his first IM norm

by Harsh Kanoje - 09/01/2017

Maharashtra has many IMs and GMs, but do you know who is the youngest player to achieve an IM norm from the state? It's none other than Sankalp Gupta who played some phenomenal chess at the recently concluded Rilton Cup 2016-17. He not only scored his maiden IM norm, but also gained 156 Elo points. In this article we bring you the profile of this prodigy and also some of his excellent wins against strong players like David Alberto, Justin Sarkar and Ravi Teja.

Sankalp Gupta has taken the right step in the direction of his target of becoming an International Master, by achieving his maiden IM Norm at the Rilton Cup International Chess Tournament 2016-17. The event was held in Stockholm, Sweden from the 27th of December 2016 to 5th January 2017.


The tournament was very strong with almost 50 grandmasters and the same number of International Masters participating. Super grandmaster and World Championship Candidate Gata Kamsky was the biggest attraction of this event. Although he started as the favourite, it was India’s GM Sasikiran Krishnan who won this prestigious championship.


Sankalp played against three grandmasters, four International Masters and two FIDE Masters in the nine rounds of the event. He scored five points from nine games with an average rating performance of 2489 to complete the required formality of achieving the desired norm result. Sankalp gained remarkable 156 Elo points from this event.

Sankalp Gupta gained 156 Elo points and in the process made his maiden IM norm at the Rilton Cup
Sankalp's performance at the Rilton Cup 2016-17

An eighth standard student of Centre Point School, Wardhaman Nagar, Nagpur, Sankalp is training with the team of Orange City Chess Club which includes International Master Swayams Mishra (2491) from Bhubaneshwar, Orissa and local chess coaches Nayandeep Kotangale and Harsh Kanoje (founder of the Orange City Chess Club).


13-year-old Sankalp created history by becoming the youngest player in Maharashtra state to get an International Master norm. He achieved his IM norm with a round to spare. In the last round he played against GM Evgeny Postny of Israel and lost. A win would have meant a GM norm. The other Indian who achieved IM norm result was Prince Bajaj from Delhi.

Sankalp is the youngest player of Maharashtra to achieve an IM norm

The total number of participants in this strong event were 105, out of which Sankalp's seeding was 94. With his performance he managed to finish 33rd. After Rilton Cup Gupta has his eyes set on India's most prestigious International Tournament - the Delhi International 2017 which is from the 8th of Jan to 16th of Jan 2017.


Sankalp's passion for chess started when he was only four and half years old. Within a short duration after he was introduced to the game, he won the district championship in his age group with full points. The boy is very talented and has a long way to go in chess. Apart from his expertise on the 64 squares Sankalp also excels in studies and has topped the Maths Olympiad.


For his success Sankalp gives credit to his school, school Principal, all his family members and coaches. The biggest role has been played by his mother who has always been there to motivate and support him.

Some famous victories of Sankalp 

Sankalp won a fine attacking game against Ravi Teja at the Abu Dhabi Chess Festival 2016. Before you see the game try your hand at solving this small tactic.


Sankalp Gupta vs Ravi Teja, variation from analysis

There is only one move that helps White to win the game. What is it?

In case you are having difficulties, try to solve this famous example between Fischer and Benko.

How did Fischer (white) finish off Benko?

The move e5 is obvious, but is met with f5. Hence, Fischer came up with 19.Rf6!! blocking the f-pawn. By this logic you can understand that in the position between Sankalp and Ravi Teja, the move Qf6! wins the game. This theme of blocking the f-pawn is good to keep in mind.

[Event "Abu Dhabi Chess 2016"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.08.24"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Gupta, Sankalp"]
[Black "Ravi, Teja"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B19"]
[WhiteElo "1990"]
[BlackElo "2387"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "75"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. Nf3 Nd7 8. h5
Bh7 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 e6 11. Bd2 Qb6 $5 (11... Ngf6 {is the normal way to
play.}) 12. O-O-O Rd8 {The rook on d8 is opposite the white queen, but the
kingside is undeveloped. This gives White attacking chances, as is normal in
this line of the Caro Kann.} 13. Ne4 Ngf6 14. Nxf6+ Nxf6 15. Be3 Qb5 (15... Nd5
{also looks pretty fine.}) (15... Qa5 16. Kb1 Be7 {Would be a normal position.}
) 16. c4 (16. Qxb5 cxb5 $15 {is a very comfortable position for Black.}) 16...
Qa6 17. Kb1 b5 18. Ne5 Bd6 19. Bf4 O-O 20. Qg3 {Everything is now in the
attacking zone.} Bxe5 21. Bxe5 Ne8 22. Bf4 Kh8 23. Qe3 Nd6 (23... bxc4 24. Bxh6
{With a strong attack.}) 24. Bxh6 $1 Nf5 25. Bxg7+ $1 Kxg7 (25... Nxg7 26. Qh6+
Kg8 27. Qf6 $3 {This move can be described as preventing the opponent from
freeing up. If the f-pawn cannot move, the defence cannot be arranged and
White is just winning. The famous game of Fischer-Benko with Rf6!! comes to
mind.} bxc4 28. h6 Nf5 29. h7#) 26. h6+ (26. Qe5+ f6 (26... Kh7 27. g4 $16) 27.
Qxe6 Qc8 28. Qe4 Nd6 $13 {Somehow Black is surviving, but it is clear, his
task is not easy.}) 26... Kf6 $2 (26... Kh8 $5 27. Qf4 (27. Qe5+ f6 28. Qxe6
Qc8 $17 {Black is fine.}) 27... bxc4 28. g4 Rb8 $5 29. Rh3 (29. gxf5 $2 Qa3 $19
) 29... Qb5 30. b3 cxb3 31. Rxb3 Qe2 32. Rd2 Qf1+ 33. Kc2 Qc4+ 34. Kb2 $13) 27.
Qe5+ Ke7 28. h7 f6 29. Qc7+ Rd7 30. Qf4 Qc8 31. g4 {Black forces are so
disorganized that the extra piece is not felt at all.} Nd6 32. g5 Nf5 33. gxf6+
Kf7 34. Rdg1 Rxd4 35. Qg5 e5 36. Qg6+ Ke6 37. f7+ Ke7 38. Qg8 {An excellent
bit of attacking chess by Sankalp.} 1-0


Sankalp Gupta has also beaten grandmasters. David Alberto from Italy was one of them. This game took place during the first round of the Delhi International 2016. Before you see the game, try solving this small problem which was missed by the Italian grandmaster.


Sankalp Gupta - David Alberto

White's queen is attacked, but there is a tricky move here. Try finding it. Black to play.
[Event "New Delhi Parsvnath op 14th"]
[Site "New Delhi"]
[Date "2016.01.09"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Sankalp, Gupta"]
[Black "David, Alberto"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D42"]
[WhiteElo "2068"]
[BlackElo "2597"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "67"]
[EventDate "2016.01.09"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "10"]
[EventCountry "IND"]
[SourceTitle "Mega2016 Update 16"]
[Source "Chessbase"]
[SourceDate "2016.01.23"]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. c3 d5 4. exd5 Qxd5 5. d4 {The Alapin is a solid opening
to play with White. David Smerdon was able to draw with the same opening
against Magnus Carlsen!} Nf6 6. Bd3 cxd4 (6... Nc6 7. O-O Be7 8. c4 Qd8 9. dxc5
Bxc5 10. Nc3 O-O 11. Bg5 $14) 7. cxd4 Nc6 8. Nc3 Qd8 (8... Bb4 9. O-O Qd8 10.
Bg5 $14) 9. O-O Be7 10. a3 O-O 11. Bg5 {We have a very typical IQP position.
White has free flowing development. Black is solid and looks forward to
exploit the d4 weakness in future.} b6 12. Rc1 Bb7 13. Bb1 {Sankalp doesn't
hide his intentions!} Rc8 14. Qd3 g6 15. Bh6 Re8 16. Ba2 {Sankalp plays this
quite well. Once g6 has been played the bishop shifts his attention to the d5
square from a2.} Ng4 (16... Bf8 {In order to free the e7 square for the c6
knight.} 17. Bxf8 Rxf8 18. Rfe1 (18. d5 Ne7 $1 19. d6 Nf5 $15) 18... Ne7 19.
Ne5 Nfd5 $11 {Black is solid and Karpov would love to play such positions.})
17. Be3 Bf8 18. Bg5 Nce5 $6 {The wrong knight.} (18... Nge5 $1 19. Nxe5 Qxg5
$15) 19. Nxe5 Nxe5 (19... Qxg5 20. Qg3 h5 21. h3 $18) 20. Qe3 $1 (20. Qg3 Qxd4
$13) 20... f6 21. Bxf6 Qxf6 22. dxe5 $16 {White is a simple pawn up and goes
on to win the game.} Qh4 23. Qg3 Qh5 24. Rcd1 (24. Ne4 $1 Bxe4 25. Rxc8 Rxc8
26. Bxe6+ $18) 24... Rc5 25. Rfe1 Bg7 26. f4 Bf8 27. Rd7 Bc6 28. Rxa7 Kh8 29.
b4 Rd8 30. Bxe6 Rd2 31. Bh3 Rc4 32. e6 Bc5+ 33. bxc5 Qxc5+ 34. Qe3 1-0


The final game deals with the Rilton Cup 2016-17. This one shows just how strong Sankalp is and how he was able to beat a 2400+ opponent with absolute ease.

[Event "Rilton Cup 2016-17"]
[Site "Stockholm"]
[Date "2017.01.04"]
[Round "8.19"]
[White "Gupta, Sankalp (IND)"]
[Black "Sarkar, Justin Joseph (USA)"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C45"]
[WhiteElo "2093"]
[BlackElo "2428"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "51"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bb4+ {A small subtlety forcing c3 so
that the knight cannot use that square.} 5. c3 Bc5 6. Be3 Bb6 7. Nf5 g6 8. Bxb6
axb6 9. Ne3 Nf6 10. f3 Qe7 (10... O-O {looks pretty normal. But knowing Justin
Sarkar, he doesn't like to castle.}) 11. c4 Qb4+ 12. Qd2 Qxd2+ 13. Kxd2 {
This endgame is just pleasant for White.} d6 14. Nc3 Kd8 15. Be2 (15. Ned5 $1
Nxd5 16. cxd5 $14) 15... h5 16. Rhd1 Be6 17. Ned5 Nd7 18. Ke1 Nce5 19. Nb5 Bxd5
20. cxd5 Nc5 21. b4 Na4 (21... Na6 22. a3 {is complete torture, but not losing.
}) 22. Rac1 c5 (22... Rc8 23. Rd2 $1 $18 {Threatening Rc2.}) 23. dxc6 (23. Nxd6
Kd7 24. Nb5 $18) 23... bxc6 24. Nxd6 Ke7 25. f4 Ng4 26. Rxc6 {Sankalp made it
look very easy. His opponent is a strong player but never really got a chance
after the opening.} 1-0


ChessBase India wishes Sankalp the best for achieving his second and third IM norms.


About the author


Harsh Kanoje is a chess player turned chess coach in Nagpur. He is a software engineer and the founder of the Orange City Chess Club.