TWO MORE TO GO

Chandigarh's 18-yr-old chess wizard Himal Gusain looks forward to secure next two IM norms by the year end

If everything goes as planned, Himal Gusain, the enigmatic chess player from Chandigarh, will achieve the next two International Master (IM) norms by the year end. Of course there is still lots of time, many more tournaments to play, many mountains to scale and many inner demons to fight. But he has already taken the step, a rather giant one, towards achieving the goal. Two days after achieving the first IM norm at the fourth Odisha International Grand Master Open Chess Championship, where he scored seven points out of 10 to claim 16th position, Gusain, with a new-found confidence, was again playing the mind games with top grandmasters and international masters from other countries. He finished at the 16th place despite being seeded 51 in the tournament.

Right after the tournament, 18-year-old Himal took off to Pune, to train with former Indian GM Abhijit Kunte for a month before the tedious season ahead of him. "Winning the first IM norm was a very special moment for me. Looking back at the year that has gone by and the way I have performed in the current year, I was confident of achieving the norm at Bhubaneshwar," chuckled Himal, who is the highest FIDE rated player in Chandigarh with a rating of 2271 and might see a leap in his rating to 2311 by July 1. No one from the neighbouring states of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir has come closer to achieving the first IM norm, thus making Himal the first player from the region to do so.

The year had started with a bang for Himal, as he annexed the Chandigarh Chess Championship for the sixth time in a row. Before that, in the last season, he had taken part in the Asian Youth Chess Championship at Philippines and the World Youth Chess Championship held in Brazil. He took heart from his performance at Philippines where he finished a credible 10th, but it was Brazil where he gained 35 points despite securing the 15th position, a performance which he accepts was the cornerstone of his success in the current year.

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