That he dislikes cricket and supports “Man U” isn’t the only trait that makes Sahaj Grover an unusual 14-year-old Indian. When it comes to chess, the boy from Delhi likes punching above his weight and having suddenly unfurled an ability to do well against players rated way above him, Grover has captured a maiden GM norm in spectacular manner.
After missing it narrowly in Dubai in May, Grover nailed the norm at Kolkata Open. The average Elo rating of his opponents over 10 rounds was 2551 and the player with a rating of 2288 snatched 5.5 points. Eight of his games were against GMs and apart from beating three of them he drew with three more.
In Dubai, where the average rating of his opponents was 2518, Grover had logged five points in nine rounds. He has performed well below that lofty level against players with ratings like him or slightly more and less. This dip in the graph while playing against weaker players makes his achievement astonishing.
Attributing the fluctuation to Grover’s temperament, his coach Vishal Sareen said there was a fear factor. “He’s afraid of losing points but against GMs he has nothing to lose and performs at his best.”
Sareen has been coaching Grover for three years and travels with him. The IM said although his “inconsistent” ward “surpassed” his expectations in Kolkata, he was not “surprised”. Quiet after winning the world U-10 title in 2005, Grover has made a roaring reappearance. How he handles pressure of expectations now will be closely followed, among other things.