Immediately after wrapping up his last match of the Dr Hedgewar FIDE Rated chess tournament held at New Delhi against Grand Master Praveen Thipsay on May 1, Chandigarh lad Himal Gusain hardly had the time to catch his breath. Not only he had to return to Chandigarh to pick up his graduation degree from SD College-32, but also board the next train to Bhopal to make it to FIDE Rating chess tournament, starting from May 4, in time.
It was on reaching Bhopal that he finally found the time to reflect on his overall performance in Delhi. Seven wins, a draw and a defeat would have made any other player happy, but not Himal. “The defeat was too hard to swallow as it came against a player who had lower rating points than me. Also, there were ten Grand Masters (GM) and International Masters (IM) taking part in the tournament but I could only play against GM Praveen. I was not satisfied with my performance as I think I could have done better,” shared Himal, who drew the game against Praveen.
Himal is one of the highest rated players in north India with 2322 rating points. With three FIDE Rating tournaments in his flourishing career- the last one being the all-India FIDE Rating Chess Champioship held in New Delhi in November last year, Himal has shown the way to the other chess players from the regions to follow.
And if everything goes as planned, he will become an International Master (IM) by the year end. When he achieved his first IM norm in Odisha three years ago, he became the first player from the region to do so. While a lot of time has passed since then and Himal haven’t been able to achieve two more IM norms, he admits his mistakes that stalled his career.
“I was playing all the tournaments but couldn’t achieve anything. I felt I had become too complacent and it reflected in my performances. I have a lot of catching to do as those who started their career with me are now ahead of me,” added the 21-year-old.
While he has stamped his authority at the national level by few FIDE-rated tournaments, he participated in two international tournaments—Asian Youth Chess Championship at Philippines and World Youth Chess Championship at Brazil— and made the city proud. In UT state tournament, he still remains the player to beat as he won the Chandigarh Chess Championship six times in a row. He couldn’t make it seven in a row as he was busy with his examinations last year and had to miss the tournament.
Himal was still in school when he first tried his hands at chess during a summer vacation at his ancestral home in Dehradun. He spent days dabbling in the sport with his uncle. Soon, he became so good at the sport that he came close to winning a chess tournament at the school level in his first attempt. While he finished as runner-up, he already got a taste of victory and kept pushing himself.
His father, Pushpender Gusain, accompanied him to every tournament and was always there to boost his confidence. He would spend almost seven hours a day to fine-tune his game. “The level of the competition has gone up now. I now work with other FIDE-rated players and we often chat online,” said the MA Economics student of SD College-32. While he is eyeing IM norm by the end of this year, Himal is also working hard on his game to achieve the GM norm. “There are few GM tournaments to be played in Odisha and Mumbai later this year. Hopefully, I will be able to take part and earn few rating points,” shared Himal.