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GM Nigel Short vs. Neelotpal Das – How to be a Grandmaster Interview

The interview with Neelpotal Das

When did you learn chess and who taught you?

My father taught me chess when I was 9 years old.

When did you begin playing tournaments and how did you do?

I started taking part in tournaments as soon as I knew the basic rules around 9 years of age I suppose.

When did you begin making legitimate progress in your game and How?

I played my first National U-10 age group and tied for 1st, finishing runner up on tiebreaks. Due to this result I qualified to take part in the World U-10 category in Germany where I played quite well and finally finished 7th.  These initial successes really motivated me and my parents to take it seriously.  How it happened, well there cannot be any ready-made recipe for this.  As for me I joined a local chess club in Kolkata (Alekhine Chess Club) where I used to play Blitz and analyze games for several hours with friends and other local players.  This helped a lot initially.  Besides the exposure to National and International level tournaments that helped me mature more as a player, I was really in love with the game and used to practice with limited resources. In those day I had only Chess Encyclopedia and Chess Informants as my training tools.  No computer in those days.

Can you recall a specific turning point? (a game, event, working with a chess coach, etc..)

I would say the initial success like winning the under 25 Nationals when I was 14 years old and many other achievements at the National level were a big moral booster.  There was no dramatic turning point as everything happened gradually.

What are your top book recommendations for beginner to intermediate players? (<2000)

I never thought it in detail so I need to study this topic for some time.  But in generally I would say a good and experienced chess coach should be the best option than any particular book until one reaches a level where he/she can understand what is important to them.

What are your top book recommendations for advanced players? (2200+)

I have immensely benefited from the books of two remarkable authors: Mark Dvoretsky and Jonathan Rowson My recommendation for Dvoretsky’s books would be for example:

1) Positional Play

2) Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual

3) Dvoretsky’s Analytical Manual

4) Studies for Practical Players

Sometimes it might be too hard but if one succeeds in doing that it would be really great.  I think such books one can study at any point of their career.

I’ve read two books of Jonathan Rowson that is “Chess for Zebras” and “Seven Deadly Chess Sins”.

If one can understand and try to follow and implement the practical tips given, I believe it is very useful.

How did you become a GM?

In 2006 I became a GM – I never had a chess trainer, I prepared on my own.  I played mainly in European circuit tournaments as in India we have very few International events.  Playing stronger players in various open tournaments around the world helped me to improve.

What was your exact study regimen when you were working towards GM?

As I said earlier I never had any formal training session with any coach hence I used to be dependant mainly on books.  Later on I shifted everything to my PC where I have my own Openings notes, my game analyses, etc..  Like everyone I also use various engines especially for checking particular opening lines. I’ve seen a tendency of many players (especially youngsters who are so called computer buff) to always use some engine while analyzing.  Although it spots the mistakes very fast, one doesn’t improve his/her ability to calculate and analyze positions.

Hence as a general advice I would say those who are the level below International master shouldn’t use the engine so often.

What is your study routine now? (how is it different?)

There is not much difference in training regimen as compared to before, as you always need to improve various aspects of the game like updating Opening analysis, revising the theoretical endings again and again, sharpening the tactical skill by solving studies, etc..  I think it’s a continuous process and with some changes in result it doesn’t differ that much.  But the main difference for a GM from other players is that Openings become very important.  Therefore, a professional player always needs to have good knowledge and the latest ideas in mind.

What is next in your chess career?

Doing both the things as a chess player and also as a coach is quite difficult I feel.  Right now I am fully concentrating in my professional career.  Yes I definitely want to share my experience in chess with my pupils, but at the moment I don’t have any ambition to become a chess organizer.

Nature or Nurture: Do you think top chess players are born with a natural ability/ gift or do they become so talented through hard work and the right environment?

I think a combination of both is required (natural ability and right environment).  Also worth mentioning is that the ability to work and bring out the best within oneself on the board and off the board is also a remarkable quality which not many people possess.  With hard work I think one can become a strong GM but to be among elite players of the world I think some inborn or natural talent is needed.

How do you feel about cheating in chess? (specific deterrents/punishments?)

In the top level tournaments some regulation exists already but it’s not the case in
open events where the chances of cheating is even more.  I think there should be some kind of random frisking / checking of the players before a round begins, even in open tournaments.  Delaying the online transmission could be another option.  Also I believe that any electronic devices like mobile phones, laptops,etc.. should not be allowed in the tournament venue.  As per the present rules, players can keep a phone switched off but even that too should not be allowed.  Overall it seems so far there has not been any strong measure taken up by the officials or organisers worldwide.

Who is your favorite player and why?

Very tough to say as there are many.

Alekhine : I find Alekhine’s games are always classic and immortal.

Botvinnik : Because of his immense contribution in Chess.

Fischer : Because the status he has given to Chess

Kasparov : Just because he is Kasparov

Vishy Anand : Because of his consistent success in all forms of tournaments, be it
Classical or Rapid or Blitz events.

Chess received recognition in India due to Anand.

Ivanchuk : Ivanchuk’s passion for Chess is amazing and his games are just brilliant.

How to be a Grandmaster Series

People always want to know how Grandmaster’s achieved the extraordinary feat of becoming a GrandMaster. I noticed most Grandmaster interview’s focus more on recent and upcoming tournament’s and do not focus on how they became a GrandMaster. While most people assume that becoming a GrandMaster is simply a formula of natural talent and hard work, we’ve discovered there is more to the secret formula. Our interview series hopes to unlock these “GrandMaster secrets” so we can learn to not only work harder, but smarter as well. Our GrandMaster Interview series includes both audio and video interviews on our YouTube as well as text interviews with corresponding games on our site. We hope you enjoy these grandmaster interviews. Comments are appreciated and if you have questions you’d like to ask future grandmasters, let us know.

By Chess Coach Will Stewart (USCF 2256, FIDE 2234). Follow William on Facebook and Twitter Thank you to for letting us use their interface.

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