"Winning the National Junior in 2012 was quite special to me," says Grandmaster Sahaj Grover
Grandmaster Sahaj Grover was a prodigy in his junior years, having won the World U-10 Chess Championship in Belfort, France in 2005. He then won a bronze at the World Junior Championship, Chennai in 2011.
If these two big titles weren't enough, this Grandmaster from New Delhi, took off to the lands of Africa, a year back and has won almost all the tournaments that he has participated in there. So, it was natural to catch up with all the latest happenings in his career.
SK: You became the world U-10 champion and next conquered the World junior by winning the bronze medal. However, it took you some time to get to the coveted GM title. Can you share your thoughts about that period of your career.
Grover: It wasn’t an easy time. After attaining two GM norms, I struggled quite a bit with the third one. I remember it being about nine unsuccessful attempts, but I finally did it against Cori Jorge in World Junior 2012.
SK: You have won many prestigious tournaments in your career. According to you which one has been your most favourite?
Grover: Each of those memories are quite special to me of course, but if I had to pick one I would say winning the National Junior in 2012 was quite special to me.
This was because in the last round I was in a must-win situation against a good friend of mine GM Debashis Das and I needed a draw on the other leading boards as my tiebreak wasn’t good.
I remember before the match how stressed I was, but the stars were in my favour and all of those things happened and I won the championship.
SK: You were selected to play for the Texas University team and had shifted to America for a while. Can you share your experience from America and what you learned from there? How did you get to know about it and how did you apply?
Grover: Yes, I played for Texas Tech. The experience is quite different from India, I would say. I relished my time, but I found it quite difficult to manage chess with studies. However, at the end of the day, it was a unique experience for me and I very much enjoyed.
SK: After spending some time in America, you decided to return to India and go to South Africa. Anything in particular that made you shift your base again?
Grover: I struggled quite a lot with managing chess and studies, and at the end of the day, my strength and grades both went down.
So, I decided to take a break and think about what I wanted to do next. In South Africa, I am studying a different major (Media and Communications) and since I had been here quite a few times before, I decided to pursue further studies here.
SK: South Africa has been quite a special place for you. You have won quite a few tournaments including the strong Kasparov closed tournament this season. Can you tell us about your time there?
Grover: It’s been quite nice so far. I am back in the 2500 club after quite some time, which feels nice. So far, I’ve played four classical tournaments that I have won, and I will be partaking in University championships and then the SA Open in July.
The tournaments are wonderfully organised, and I found that most strong events in SA have great venues.
SK: What are your goals at the moment and where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Grover: Well, currently, I’d like to finish my undergrad and meanwhile play chess on the side. After that maybe I’d consider doing masters as well. Meanwhile, on the chess front, I’d like to play more and hopefully increase some rating.
SK: How do you balance your time in South Africa with your chess and Studies together?
Grover: After the US experience, I kind of had an idea of what to expect, so I went to SA prepared. I usually study one day and do chess the other, sometimes both!
SK: What keeps you motivated apart from chess? Do you do anything in specific to improve your performance on the board?
Grover: Well, I like to watch basketball. I think it’s an amazing sport.
SK: How do you prepare for different events? Can you share some strategies for developing and aspiring players?
Grover: Before the tournament, I like to go through my repertoire and see if I have any problems, and during the tournament, it becomes more about understanding how your opponent plays.
SK: You have played with the Delhi Dynamite team for the past two seasons. You have always shaken the World Champion and have had some nail-biting encounters. Can you give us your personal insights about this?
Grover: Yes, it’s been two years. Against Magnus, this year, I think I had a very good chance of actually defeating him, but I think I didn’t handle the pressure too well and it got to me. That’s what a lot of the matches in ProChess League have been like. Nevertheless, it’s been great being part of Delhi Dynamite!
SK: Lastly, what message would you like to give to your fans and followers?
Grover:I would say keep working hard at chess and don’t worry too much about the results. They eventually show up at the end.
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