Final GM Norm in SF!

Final GM Norm in SF!

GM SMTheWeirdOne
Jan 26, 2014, 10:52 AM |

Hi everybody, Darwin Yang here; considering that I posted about my last two GM norms, I thought that I would do the same for my final one and wrap up the whole thing. Hopefully my experience/commentary will help some of you in the future :)


To begin with, some background on the tournament: The Bay Area International was held from January 2-8, 2014, in San Jose, California, and was excellently organized under Arun Sharma. I highly recommend the tournament/area to stronger chess players, and they do not ignore lower rated players either. This year, there were many skilled players both from within the US and outside, including a strong Chinese delegation led by 14-year old 2600 GM Wei Yi, who was among the tournament winners.


The most intense portion of the tournament for me was the final few rounds, so I'll start with those games. To summarize the earlier rounds, I defeated Brandon Ashe, drew GMs Wei Yi and Holden Hernandez, defeated NM Erik Santarius, drew Daniel Naroditsky, and then defeated IM Raja Panjwani.


I went into my 7th round Black game against GM Bartlomiej Macieja with high hopes, sitting with 4.5/6, and with the chance that, if I drew, I might only need to split the point in my final two games for the GM norm. It was a tough QG Tarrasch battle, where he sacrificed an exchange for two pawns, which I blundered away in time trouble. (By the way, all of the games from the tournament can be found either in the latest Week in Chess or on the tournament website).

After this devastating loss, calculations determined that I would probably need to win my final two games, a tough task considering that I had not beaten many strong players during my previous year-long slump. In addition, I would have to play Black in the last game as well, and I don't even remember the last time I beat a GM with black. This negative feeling was compounded when I was paired against IM-elect Jeffery Xiong, a young (13-years old!) and highly talented player also from Dallas, who had a very good record against me.


This situation closely resembled that of my first norm in St. Louis several years ago, after I lost to IM Angelo Young, where I needed 3.5/4 out of my final four games; here, however, I didn't have the safety net of one draw in my pocket.


All of these factors made me distinctly uncomfortable during the course of my preparation; and I questioned whether I would be able to succeed. However, I decided to just concentrate on the upcoming game: If I won, then I would worry about the final game. This concentration, and taking it one game at a time, helped me to focus on the task on hand.


Jeffery dealt with my opening preparation quite well, and was holding decently. White's eventual breakthrough and the ending play was very instructive: studying the rook ending beyond my comments will certainly help.



Jeffery ended up with an IM norm (his fourth!), so he should be getting there quite soon. He will certainly be a strong fixture in the US scene for years to come.


With this challenge overcome, the only thing remaining for me was my final round game against GM Viktor Mikhalevski. I had a rather embarassing quick loss to him years ago in the Chicago Open, so this was another historically tough opponent for me. Luckily, the stars shined on me, and I got to play White again! This gave me some hope that I would be able to achieve a "miracle".


Before and during the round, I was nervous and anxious beyond belief; my last norm hinged on this final game. Before the tournament, it was all I could ask for to get a do-or-die game for Grandmaster. Unlike previous tournaments, though, I was able to control myself and remain tunneled on the game.


The game ended up quite crazy, as I expected:

I have nothing but respect for Mikhalevski, and to beat him for the final norm... it was almost unbelievable. During the closing sequence, when both of us were playing off increment, I could almost feel my body shaking: at least I was able to make the moves! When he put out his hand to resign, and after the signing of the scoresheets, I could only stand up and look out, not just into the tournament room, but into the past 10 years of chess struggle and triumph.
This is not the end of the chess journey for me; I still have some rating points to get to reach 2500, and I don't think I will ever stop playing and learning chess. But it is the end of a 10 year journey from a small child playing in his local Dallas Chess Club, saying, "I want to be grandmaster." 
No matter what trials are ahead, I face the future with renewed confidence.
Thanks very much to everyone who was ever supported me! The Dallas Chess Club, my friends, my understanding teachers, ... and most importantly, my coach Gregory Kaidanov and my family, without whom I would never have reached this point. I have nothing but eternal gratitude.
I hope this post will help people with their chess understanding, or to deal/cope with their own mental troubles; anything can happen! You just need to focus and control your nerves (eliminating them is quite impossible, I find).
Have a happy and fruitful 2014 in chess and life!