'I want the GM title'

Published : Aug 25, 2001 00:00 IST


HIS nine-game second Grandmaster norm was achieved after he conceded a walkover in the second round when he overlooked the playing schedule.

Overcoming this handicap, the 39-year-old Devaki Venkataraman Prasad of Indian Oil, Bangalore, added this norm to the 11-game first Grandmaster norm he achieved at the Sakthi GM Tournament in Chennai in 1996. He now has two norms covering 20 games and needs another norm covering at least four games to become India's next Grandmaster.

In the process of achieving the norm, Prasad also remained undefeated and tied for the second to fifth places at the Grandmaster Open in Dortmund on July 22 for his best performance in five years.

As he was waiting for his taxi to leave Dortmund for Biel, Prasad spoke to The Sportstar.


Question: How does achieving your second Grandmaster norm feel?

Answer: It gives me immense satisfaction. Especially the way I played here. There were no hiccups in any of my games. I am happy that I made my second Grandmaster norm. If I make one more norm I will be achieving the title. Though it has come a bit late - after nearly five years since my first norm - I still have confidence in myself and I did some preparation before coming on this European tour.

Is it not a gamble that you took by not playing in the National 'B' at Nagpur and opting for this expensive trip to Europe?

No. I will put it the other way. I thought if I became a Grandmaster, anyway I can play the National championship. I also wanted to complete my norms quick since my first norm was in 1996. So I decided to play in as many strong Grandmaster tournaments as possible abroad and in India so that I make the title.

So, was there a lot of pressure on you due to the forfeit, as well as the weak Elo rating of the field?

When I arrived here I was expecting the field to be much stronger. When I found there were only seven Grandmasters I realised it would be very difficult to make the category average. There was no player above 2,600 rating. Forfeiting a game worsened it. Because of the streak of wins I could make up my performance rating which I had not anticipated earlier.

How did it feel to play the classical seven-hour control after playing the four-hour control in New Delhi?

I feel seven-hour control is still okay, I am quite comfortable. I did not have much problems in four- hour controls, but playing two rounds in a day in events like the National championship really puts pressure on all the players.

Does it favour any one group?

No, it doesn't favour any single person. Even if a player is able to play fast, accuracy can't be maintained in a four-hour game in all the games, especially when there are two rounds. We had this experience twice: in the Zonals in Colombo and in the National 'A' championship in New Delhi.

What went wrong for you in the Zonals and the National 'A'?

In the Zonals, I was playing after a gap of three months. I had not played from January to April. So, I had a loss in my very first round. After that I made up, but it was not possible to be in the race for the championship because it was dominated fully by the Indian players.

In the National 'A' I lost a crucial game in the penultimate round. That put me off and I had to be content with the eighth place.

Which was your best victory in Dortmund and what is special about it?

It was my victory over Grandmaster Vladimir Belikov of Russia because it was a very hard fought and lengthy game. I needed a lot of planning to improve from a slight edge to win the game. I was able to convert it into a king side attack and finally I won an ending.

Was there something new in your approach?

Not really. I faced a lot of 1.e4 players this time. So there were many Sicilian games in this tournament. Even in the lone game where my opponent played 1.d4 it got converted into a Sicilian! It was like I had five black Sicilian games and I scored 4.5/5. That was the key in this tournament.

Where to from here?

At Biel we have a round tomorrow (July 23). Then I will play the Asian Championship at Kolkata.

Was bringing your wife along helpful?

It was very helpful. This is the first time she is accompanying me abroad. Also I am again planning to play a lot of tournaments in Europe.

India is now one of the stronger countries in chess and visitors lose Elo. Do you have this feeling that it is easy to earn Elo points outside India than at home?

Definitely. In most of my trips to Europe I have invariably gained rating. The reason is that many of the Indian players are under-rated. They play much better than their strength of 2300 or 2375. They are playing at a higher level than their rating. As a result, making norms or trying to improve rating is an uphill task at home compared to coming here. Here, twenty-five hundred is a normal rating.

Do you work with any particular person or do you work alone?

For this trip I did it alone. Sometimes I work with Abhijit Kunte.

How did it feel coming to Dortmund and how does it feel leaving this place?

When I left India I was desperate to make the norm. I was edged out narrowly in the National championship. I skipped the National 'B'. I want the GM title. It has been five years since I won my first norm. After this series, I may play one tournament in the Gulf. These events come one after the other and I thought even if I click in one of them, the title is there.

What prize money did you get and what support did you receive from your employers?

Here I received 600 German Marks (Rs.12,600) for the second to fifth prize besides the appearance fee. Indian Oil is supporting me fully. We get a lot of time to prepare. Sponsorship is there whenever we play abroad. This is done by the PSCB. This has helped a lot since it is very difficult for a player to come to Europe spending his own money.

Is it a one-off or do they do it periodically?

It is done on a case by case basis. If the performance is good they keep sanctioning. If a player is in the National team and is generally doing well his expenses are paid.

The Petroleum Sports Control Board has won the National team championship and is the strongest team in India. Will they lose interest like the Bank Sports Board did some years ago?

PSCB has won the National team championship over the last four years. I was a member in all four. I don't think the interest will die down that early because most of the players are relatively recent recruits. Many of the players are doing very well. Kunte and Sasikiran became Grandmasters after joining. Besides, there are many youngsters like Ganguly and Ramesh and so on. Recently Konguvel gained a GM norm.

PSCB has many chess players who have unconfirmed jobs. Does this put pressure on the players to perform all the time?

I think it is the only company which is having this policy. PSCB is a governing organisation. In Indian Oil we don't have this problem but there are some companies who do so. Those players try to prove by performance.

Do you think the challenge for PSCB from Bank Sports Board in team competitions is a thing of the past?

Yes. It is slowly fading away. A lot of players went out of BSB and I was also one of them.

More stories from this issue

Sign in to unlock all user benefits
  • Get notified on top games and events
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign up / manage to our newsletters with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early bird access to discounts & offers to our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment