P.K. Ajith Kumar

The in-form player wants to become GM within a year or two

KOZHIKODE: On Monday afternoon, in a small Gujarati town of Valsad, G.N. Gopal walked quietly into the history books. He became Kerala's first-ever International Master (IM) in chess.

The 17-year-old from Kochi made his third and final norm when he drew with Suvrajit Saha in the ninth round of the ongoing National `A' championship. "My aim when I left home for this tournament was to complete my title and I am glad that I have done it," he told The Hindu over phone.

He had made his first norm at the World junior championships in Istanbul last year and the second at the Balaguer Chess International tournament in Spain in July. "I feel I should have completed my title at least a year ago," he said. "Of course it feels nice to know that I am the first-ever IM from Kerala."

Gopal rates his triumph at the National junior championship in Tirupati in 2004 as his best performance till date. He had done pretty well to win an under-20 event when he was just 15. That was his second National title, having won the under-12 rapid event in 2001.

Gopal went to Valsad in good form, after winning the junior boys' silver medal at the Commonwealth championship in Mumbai last month. It was a good show as he finished 10th overall in a tournament which had 13 GMs in the fray.

At the moment though, he wants to stretch his good run at Valsad further. He has 5.5 points from nine rounds, and he has already held two GMs Abhijit Kunte and Deepan Chakravarthy and beaten a highly rated M.R. Venkatesh.

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