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Gopal — a Grandmaster in quick time

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G.N. Gopal
G.N. Gopal

Rakesh Rao

Becomes the 16th GM of the country

Gopal is Kerala’s first GM

I am so happy to learn about the confirmation: Gopal

NEW DELHI: Eighteen-year-old Kochi boy G.N. Gopal has officially become the 16th Grandmaster of the country. The confirmation came from FIDE; the game’s governing body, after its Executive Board meeting in Antalya, Turkey, on Saturday.

India also added two more players to its list of International Masters. Tamil Nadu’s S. P. Sethuraman and Aswin Jayaram received confirmation of their titles. Joining the ranks of Woman International Master was Padmini Rout from Orissa. B. Adhiban, however, received conditional confirmation of his IM title since his certificate, after winning the Asian under-16 title earlier this year, was not signed by the concerned authority.

Gopal’s elevation to the status of a Grandmaster comes 16 months after Parimarjan Negi become the 15th and the youngest GM in the country. Significantly, Gopal’s achievement is unique since he became a GM within just eight years of taking up the game. He is also Kerala’s first GM.

Delighted

“I am so happy to learn about the confirmation,” said an understandably elated Gopal to The Hindu when informed of the FIDE’s decision on Monday. “This has been a great year for me and I am glad that I could achieve the title in the same year,” said the soft-spoken lad from Bharat Petroleum.

Gopal, who completed his International Master title-norm on way to the sixth spot in the last National ‘A’ chess championship in December 2006, made five Grandmaster norms from February to October this year.

His norms came in Kolkata International, Lake Sevan tournament in Armenia, Asian zonal in Bangladesh, Asian championship in Philippines and the World junior championship, also in Armenia. In the process, Gopal also raised his rating from 2423 in January to 2520 on the 1st of October. In doing so, he also met the stipulated rating requirement of 2500 for the GM title.

“For me, things have been falling in place since the last National championship. A place in the National team for this year gave me several opportunities to play in overseas tournaments. Earlier this year, I missed my first GM norm by just half point in the Aeroflot Open in Moscow. In fact, I was made to play the Kolkata International Open at the behest of my coach Varugeese Koshy. After playing in Moscow, I was looking forward to returning home. But once I beat Georgian GM Levan Pantsulaia, I got my rhythm and eventually got my first GM norm,” recalled Gopal as he looked back at the year.

Gopal tied for the top spot in the Lake Sevan tournament in July, again tied for the Asian zonal title with Surya Shekhar Ganguly before losing the tiebreak games. Thereafter, in the Asian championship in the Philippines, Gopal followed third-placed Abhijit Kunte to be among the 10 qualifiers for the World Cup in September.

Next week, Gopal makes his World Cup debut against former World champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov. “I have prepared extensively for the match. I know the odds are heavily against me but I will give my best,” assured the youngster.

Workaholic

Coach Varugeese Koshy attributed Gopal rise the boy’s hard work and his disciplined ways. “He is a workaholic,” declared the 49-year-old Chennai-based International Master and continued, “his passion for learning is amazing. Give him a position that requires initiative and Gopal will be equal to the challenge. When it comes to finding the right continuation with combinations, Gopal is very much at home. That’s his strongest plus point.”

Koshy, whose trainees once included GM Hari Krishna and WGM Tania Sachdev among others, is coaching Gopal since 2002. He expects Gopal to breach the 2600-point barrier in the next 12 to 18 months.

“He has it in him to reach the 2600 level provided he gets coaching from some of the noted trainers in the game. He is exceptionally hard working and I see no reason why he cannot graduate to the next level in a short time,” concludes Koshy.

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