LE TOUQUET (France): Former under-10 world champion Sahaj Grover became India’s youngest International Master, winning the final round game against the higher-rated Nicolas Clery to finish fifth in the International Open Chess tournament.
The class IX student started with two wins, including a spectacular effort against Grandmaster Vyacheslav Ikonnikov of Russia and five draws and a couple of more wins later, he assured himself of his sixth International Master norm which was inconsequential.
Though just 2288 as per ELO ratings of September 2009, Sahaj gained the required points to scale his rating well past the 2400 mark.
The youngster, who also made his maiden Grandmaster norm just a month earlier during the Kolkata open tournament, will be 2372 in the next rating list due on the November 1 and here he gained as many as 35 points to breach the 2400 mark — a must for International Masters.
It was an easy ride for Sahaj after he won against Ikonikkov in the second round, which also got him the award for the best game of the day.
A spate of draws followed, including one against eventual champion IM Jean Noel Riff, and in the last two rounds the 14-year-old was in his element once again as he tormented Frenchman Christan Kieffer in the penultimate round and cruised past Nicolas Clery — ranked 86 points higher than him in current FIDE list — in his final effort.
While Riff secured seven points in all, it was a four-way tie at the top with top seed GM Jean Marc Degraeve of France, GM Yuri Vovk of Ukraine and GM Bartlomiej Heberla sharing the honours. Sahaj was the lone player on 6.5 points and got a well-deserved fifth spot.
“It was a good tournament for me as I went unbeaten and got my second best result ever after the GM norm in Kolkata,” Sahaj said after winning the last round.
The other Indians in the fray had a mixed outing with IM Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury finishing 10th on 6 points and IM Dinesh Kumar Sharma settling for the 21st spot tallying 5.5 points in all.
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– GM Susan Polgar