Introducing: Grandmaster Vinay Bhat
I am very pleased to announce a new columnist for chess.com, Grandmaster Vinay Bhat.
I have a very special personal relation to Vinay: he's one of the two individuals who are in the running for having beaten me the most times in USCF tournament play. He claims that I am the opponent he has played the most times, and indeed we have been playing together for quite a while. I believe our first [tournament] games were in the CalChess State High School Championships, my sophomore and junior years. Vinay was not yet in high school at the time, but he had a lot more experience in the high school section than I did! I remember when I was playing my first tournaments in Junior High School being surprised to learn that there was an elementary student competing in the high school section: that was Vinay, and that must have been about the time that he played a historical game against Jay.
When I played Vinay for the first time, I was 1700, and was not to pose much of a threat to him for a while yet; he was a master already. Our first two CalChess High School games followed the [dubious] opening (me as white) 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bc4?! Ne4 4.Nc3 Nxc3 5.dc Be7?! and each time I built up a strong attack. From those losses I learned an important lesson from Vinay: with kings castled on opposite sides, if you think a counterattack against the opponent's king would be much slower than their attack, don't bother with it! Instead try to trade pieces in the center of the board, to reduce the fuel available for their attack.
In time, our games became more competitive, though I never quite caught up; I was studying chess a lot, and Vinay was pretty focused on school. Despite that, Vinay managed to become an IM while still in High School. In college, Vinay had even less time for competitive play, although he did join Andy Lee and myself in founding and running the East Bay Chess Club. When work was done (or not quite done) and the club closing, we'd sit around for hours looking at chess together; all three of us learned a lot and had a great time.
Upon graduation, Vinay went on to work for Cornerstone Research. Amazingly, he managed to make his second and third GM norms during this period, by taking extended vacations to Spain to hit the summer open circuit there. In 2008, Vinay was awarded the Samford Fellowship, an extremely generous program set up by the bequest of Frank Samford Jr. This Fellowship gave him the financial support to leave his job, and play chess to his heart's content for the next two years. In 2008, Vinay achieved the 2500 FIDE rating he needed to be awarded his Grandmaster Title.
He would like to see how good he can become by making an all-out effort to improve, a chance he has never before given himself. To that end, he is playing in serious events and working hard in between. His column will feature his analysis of his own games. I remember it was really eye-opening the first time I had a chance to look at analysis files on Vinay's computer. Through his column, he will give us an insight into the work of a serious young man pursuing his limits in chess, and share with us many of the lessons he is learning.
Here are some nice games of his to introduce you to his chess: