"The ones who work hard will become a Grand Master or have already become one" says Abhijeet Gupta
Olympiad, World Cup, Asian championships, World Junior, Commonwealth, and much more. Impressive, isn't it? Well, this man from New Delhi, originally from Bhilwara, Rajasthan, India, has done it all. We are talking about 'Mr. Commonwealth' or simply Grandmaster Abhijeet Gupta, who shares his thoughts about his life in chess, his ambitions, future goals, and much more in this interview.
SK: Firstly, congratulations on your phenomenal chess career so far. You have really been a hero for all the Indian chess fans. Can you share your initial outings in the game?
Abhijeet: Thank you so much. So, it's been too long ago when I started playing chess. I learned chess by picking up from my father, who was a recreational player and used to play with his friends. The first event that I competed in was a club-level event, although I don't remember which one. I won this event and from then on I just started playing more and more. Winning obviously helps!
SK: Next, I come to the Commonwealth Championships straight away. These championships seem to have been your home for the past few years. You have also been dubbed as Mr.Commonwealth. However, this year we don’t see you in the playing field. Can you share your thoughts on this?
Abhijeet: I saw the field and it was mainly Indian Grandmasters this year, not too many from the Commonwealth countries. So, I decided to skip it this year. Also, I had won it a few times before, and I thought it was okay to miss it this time around.
SK: You are one of the three Indians in history to have won the World Junior title. How does it feel like and what did the title mean for you?
Abhijeet: Well, it was very special to win this title at that time. My start was not good, and it was quite topsy-turvy. I think before going into the rest day, I was 4 or 4.5 points out of 7, and then I drew my eighth game. However, luckily, for me, I won the last five games. It was also special for me because I won the last round against an Englishman on the 15th of August(in 2008).
Looking back at it, it's just a happy memory. (Don't forget to read his coach's (Mr.Vishal Sareen's) interview here.)
SK: Now, I come to the Olympiad. You have won an individual silver in 2012. However, we haven’t seen you in the team for some time now. What can you say about this and what do you think about the prospects of this current Olympiad team?
Abhijeet: Well, the 2012 Olympiad was also quite special for me. We had a really strong team but somehow didn't play that well. For me, personally, I was scoring quite well. It was also special because it was my first time at the Olympiad and after that I haven't got the chance to play in the Olympiad so far because there is a system to participate in the National Championships, which I had constantly skipped. However, now, I am trying my best to get back into the Olympiad team.
This year the team is the strongest that the country has ever produced. So, I am really hoping that they do well, this year.
SK: One has also seen a spirit of entrepreneurship in you considering the fact that you have launched a new venture Let’s Chess and have tied up for an online training camp. Could you elaborate on this.
Abhijeet: The Let's Chess venture is mainly Vishal Sir's idea and I am helping him out in whatever way I can. The main idea is to improve the quality of chess in Northern India because we don't have that many strong players. Like in Chennai, they have a Grandmaster in every street, literally! So, we are trying to do the same here. We are trying to get fresh talent and guide them to reach to the next level.
The online camp was a one-off thing, but hopefully, I will do more like these in the future. However, as of now, it was just a one-off thing.
SK: So, one often wonders what it takes to become a Grandmaster and how a Grandmaster differs from any other player. Can you tell us some tips of how to prepare and the ideas of performing well in a tournament? You are known for being a grinder towards the end of a tournament. Where do you get this feature from?
Abhijeet: These days it isn't very difficult to become a Grandmaster, but it was tough a couple of years back because one didn't get too many tournaments that could help to get the norms. Whereas, now, we have at least 10 Grandmaster tournaments in a year in India itself, so it isn't that tough. However, in my personal opinion, it is tougher to reach 2700 from 2600 than to become a Grandmaster, these days.
How does a GM differ from any other player? I think it's the work ethic. Probably, the ones who work hard will become a GM or have already become one. So, it's basically the work that is being put in. As far are the tips are concerned, as long as you are working, you are doing well. If you aren't working, maybe somethings learned from the past could help, but eventually, they will run out. Then, you will have to work again if you want to succeed.
I think you can train your brains to become like that, but it mainly comes from experience. I also remember that around 2012 or 2013, I had a number of tournaments, where I would have clinched the title had I won my last round. However, I didn't win them. So, it's just experience. You can't win them all. I would just say that one needs to be consistent. If it is a nine-round event, I would try to just be in the lead group with 7 or 8, and then the last round is anyone's game. This has been my motto for a long time, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. So, there is no set formula for it, but I think it just comes with experience.
SK: Who has been your inspiration in chess and in life in general? What keeps you motivated throughout your career?
Abhijeet: I would say that Anand has been a big inspiration since I started playing chess. Still, when I meet him, he's so motivating. He has been competing professionally for so long and it keeps me going. Also, my family is very important to me.
They have been supporting me since the start and continue to do so. So, I would say that my family has been my biggest support system. Otherwise, I also think Roger Federer has been my all time hero.
SK: What is your schedule like for the upcoming year and what are your goals for the next two years?
Abhijeet: So, now, I will be playing in the Asian Teams in Iran at the end of this month. Then, I will be playing in Abu Dhabi, and probably the Isle of Man in October. However, October is far, so I haven't really planned for the Isle of Man as yet.
Actually, my goals are more towards learning rather than being materialistic. So, when I'm talking about chess, I want to learn new positions. For example, let's say for one month, I will focus on something and try to get that correctly rather than thinking about improving my rating or win this particular event.
SK: You have been the stalwart for Delhi Dynamite from the PRO Chess League. Can you share your experience of playing in this league for the past two years?
Abhijeet: It's been a really nice experience playing for Delhi, and you know how passionate we can get. I still remember one of the days when I was in China playing an event and those games were in the morning.
After these morning rounds, I had to go for the prize-giving ceremony, and the PRO Chess League matches were starting late at night, probably 12 or 1 am, China Time. I still played the games for the team and did quite decently, scoring 3 or 3.5 points out of four not losing any game. I always take pride in playing for Delhi and it's always been really close to my heart. Given a chance again, I will probably like to continue playing for the team forever.
SK: Finally, what would you like to say to your fans and followers?
Abhijeet: Just follow your passion. It's important to like what you're doing rather than just following the trend, and of course work on it then. Once you start doing something you like, the work doesn't become like work. You seem to start enjoying it. This has been my motto in life so far.
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