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Published On . Sept. 12, 2023 . By Srikanth Bangalore

An Exciting Journey: A Conversation with Grandmaster Akshat Chandra

An Exciting Journey: A Conversation with Grandmaster Akshat Chandra

Welcome to the 1000 GM Player Profiles series, where we bring you exclusive interviews with some of the strongest players in the chess world. In today's edition, we have the pleasure of talking to Grandmaster Akshat Chandra, a former prodigy and rising star in the American chess scene. Join us as we delve into Akshat's experiences, insights, and one of his memorable games.

As the interview begins, Coach Q introduces the mission of 1000 GM, an organization aiming to produce a thousand grandmasters in the United States through norm tournaments. Akshat expresses his support for this mission, emphasizing the scarcity of norm tournaments in the US and the need for more opportunities for players to achieve their titles.

Coach Q: That's fascinating, Akshat. It's incredible how you stumbled into chess while living in India and how that initial exposure led you to discover your passion for the game. It's also impressive to see how quickly you progressed and developed your skills. Your hard work, talent, and the guidance of your coach, Fredrik, played a significant role in your growth as a chess player. Now, let's shift our focus to the mission of 1000 GM. As an already established Grandmaster, how do you feel about their mission to produce a large number of norm tournaments and potentially a thousand Grandmasters in the United States?

Akshat: I think the mission of 1000 GM is fantastic. The shortage of norm tournaments in the United States has been a challenge for many players, and it's great to see an initiative that aims to address this issue. Having more norm tournaments provides players with more opportunities to earn their titles and progress in their chess careers. It also contributes to the overall growth and development of the chess community in the United States. I fully support their mission and hope to see more events like this in the future.

Coach Q: That's wonderful to hear, Akshat. Your support for 1000 GM's mission reflects the need for more norm tournaments to support aspiring players and strengthen the chess community. Let's dive into the financial aspect of pursuing norm titles. You mentioned that participating in norm tournaments can be quite expensive, with costs including travel, accommodation, and entry fees. Can you estimate the average cost per tournament and the overall amount spent in your journey to earning your IM and GM titles?

Akshat: It's difficult to provide an exact figure, but on average, participating in a norm tournament can cost a couple of thousand dollars, considering expenses such as hotel accommodations, travel, and other miscellaneous costs. Over the course of my journey to earn my IM and GM titles, I would estimate that the total expenses amounted to tens of thousands of dollars. It's undoubtedly a significant financial commitment for players and their families.

Coach Q: That's a substantial investment, Akshat. The financial aspect of pursuing norm titles can pose a significant challenge for many players and their families. Your dedication and the support from your family are commendable in overcoming these obstacles.

Speaking of expenses, let's discuss the playing conditions at norm tournaments. You mentioned that some tournaments are held in five-star hotels, which can be costly. Do you believe that the accommodations and playing conditions significantly impact the players' performance and overall experience?

Akshat: While playing conditions and accommodations can vary, especially in higher-level tournaments, it's important to note that the convenience and comfort of players do play a role. Staying in a hotel near the playing venue can provide players with a sense of convenience and focus. However, I believe it's essential to find a balance between comfort and affordability. Players must be mindful of their expenses and make prudent decisions regarding accommodations while ensuring they have a suitable environment to compete at their best.

Coach Q: That's a practical approach, Akshat. Balancing the need for convenience with financial considerations is crucial. It's about finding the optimal conditions that allow players to perform at their best without incurring excessive costs.

Let's delve into your personal journey a bit more. You started playing chess in India at the age of nine or nine and a half. Can you share any significant challenges or setbacks you faced during your chess career, and how did you overcome them?

Akshat: Like any chess player, I encountered various challenges and setbacks throughout my career. One notable challenge was the competition itself. Chess is a highly competitive sport, and there were times when I faced tough opponents and struggled to achieve the desired results. Overcoming these challenges required perseverance, continuous

Coach Q: Can you tell us about the mission of 1000 GM and its impact on the chess community? 

Akshat: The mission of 1000 GM is to produce a large number of grandmasters through norm tournaments in the United States. It aims to address the shortage of norm tournaments and provide more opportunities for players to achieve their titles. This mission is highly commendable and will have a positive impact on the chess community by fostering growth and promoting excellence in American chess.

Coach Q: How much money did you or your parents spend on obtaining your IM and GM norms? Akshat: I don't have an exact figure, but obtaining IM and GM norms can be quite expensive. Travel expenses, accommodation, and entry fees for tournaments can add up to a significant sum. It requires a considerable financial commitment.

Coach Q: Can you estimate the average cost of attending one norm tournament? 

Akshat: The average cost of attending a norm tournament can vary. In the US, where tournaments are often held in five-star hotels, it can easily amount to a couple of thousand dollars. The cost of travel, accommodation, and other expenses all contribute to the overall expenses.

Coach Q: How many norm tournaments did it take for you to achieve your IM and GM titles? 

Akshat: I can't provide the exact number, but it took at least 10 norm tournaments for me to achieve both my IM and GM titles. It involved participating in numerous tournaments, working towards the required norms, and consistently performing at a high level.

Coach Q: Are accommodations like five-star hotels important for norm tournaments? 

Akshat: While accommodations like five-star hotels provide convenience, they can also be costly. In norm tournaments, it is crucial to have a comfortable and conducive playing environment. Staying close to the playing hall can be advantageous, but it's also important to find a balance between convenience and cost-effectiveness.

Coach Q: Do financially privileged players have better access to norm tournaments and opportunities? 

Akshat: While chess itself is accessible with minimal resources, financially privileged players may have certain advantages in terms of accessing norm tournaments and opportunities. The cost of participating in tournaments and travel expenses can be a barrier for some players. It is important for chess federations to address this and ensure that all talented players, regardless of their financial background, have equal opportunities to showcase their skills and pursue their goals.

Coach Q: How did you start playing chess and at what age? 

Akshat: I started playing chess when I was around 9 to 9.5 years old. When my family moved to India, I met a friend who introduced me to chess lessons. Until then, I had no idea about organized chess, coaching, or tournaments. It was a chance encounter that sparked my interest in the game.

Coach Q: Did you have any early coaches who influenced your chess journey?

Akshat: Yes, I worked with a Serbian Grandmaster named Frederic. He was my first coach, and I learned a lot from him. His guidance and teachings played a significant role in shaping my understanding of the game.

Coach Q: How did you progress so quickly and achieve remarkable success at a young age? 

Akshat: The rapid progress and success can be attributed to a combination of factors. Hard work, natural talent, and some luck all played a part in my journey. Chess is a game that requires continuous learning and improvement, and I dedicated myself to constant practice and study.

Coach Q: That's an incredible game, Akshat. Your aggressive approach and tactical prowess were on full display. Your opponent's opening choice surprised you, but you handled it well and launched a devastating attack on the kingside. The sacrifices and positional moves you made were truly impressive. It's fascinating to see how you systematically broke down your opponent's defenses until the game was decisively in your favor. Well done!

Akshat: Thank you, Coach. It was indeed a memorable game for me, especially considering the high stakes and the need for a victory in that tournament. I'm glad I was able to execute my plan successfully and secure the win.

Coach Q: Your ability to calculate and find those decisive moves under pressure is remarkable. It's no wonder you've achieved such impressive results in your chess career. Thank you for sharing this exciting game with us.

Akshat: Thank you, Coach. It was a pleasure being here.

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