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India gets its 49th grandmaster - Abhimanyu Puranik!

by Sagar Shah - 22 August 2017

Just a day after Vidit Gujrathi became the fourth Indian to cross 2700 in the FIDE Elo list, we have more good news from the state of Maharashtra. India got its 49th grandmaster in the form of Abhimanyu Puranik from Pune. The 17-year-old made his final GM norm with a round to spare at the Abu Dhabi Masters 2017 and also crossed 2500 Elo. It's raining grandmasters in India, and we are just one away from reaching the 50 GMs mark!

49th grandmaster of India: GM Abhimanyu Puranik

Born on 11th of February 2000, Abhimanyu Puranik is just 17 years, 6 months and 11 days old, but he can already boast of having achieved the most coveted title in the chess world. The boy from Pune became the 49th grandmaster of India after he scored his final GM norm with a round to spare at the Abu Dhabi Masters 2017 and also crossed 2500 on the live Elo ratings.

The last round will be played today, but Abhimanyu has already achieved the norm irrespective of what he does in the final game
Although Abhimanyu played many interesting games in the tournament, we think his fourth round win against Gu Xiaobing is perhaps the most representative of his style of play. Pieces are just randomly scattered all over the board, and the young Indian is able to find his way in the complex position. That's Abhimanyu's true strength.
[Event "24th Abu Dhabi Masters"]
[Site "Abu Dhabi UAE"]
[Date "2017.08.17"]
[Round "4.21"]
[White "Gu, Xiaobing"]
[Black "Puranik, Abhimanyu"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C47"]
[WhiteElo "2347"]
[BlackElo "2495"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "64"]
[EventDate "2017.08.14"]

{This game is a great example of what a sharp calculator Abhimanyu is.} 1. e4
e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. d4 Bb4 (4... exd4 5. Nxd4 Bb4 {is the normal way
to play, but Abhimanyu wants a complex game.}) 5. Nxe5 (5. d5 {is also
possible.}) 5... Nxe4 6. Qg4 {The fireworks begin. The knight on e4 is hanging
and so is the pawn on g7.} Nxc3 7. Qxg7 Rf8 8. a3 (8. Bh6 {doesn't work as the
rook on f8 is already defended by the bishop on b4.} Nxd4 $1 $19) 8... Nxd4 $1
{Sharp play by Abhimanyu. He is not the one to shy away from challenges.} 9.
axb4 Nxc2+ 10. Kd2 Nxa1 11. Kxc3 (11. bxc3 {might have been a safer choice,
but Gu might not have been happy with the knight coming out on b3.} Nb3+ 12.
Kc2 Nxc1 $2 13. Bb5 $1 $16 {And with the rook coming to e1, it's going to be
very dangerous for Black.}) 11... a5 $5 {Opening lines against the king.} 12.
Bg5 (12. bxa5 Rxa5 13. Bg5 {might have been a better choice than the game, but
with such an unusual position, it is not so easy to decide on what is the best
way to proceed.}) 12... axb4+ 13. Kd3 (13. Kxb4 c5+ {activating the queen was
Abhimanyu's plan.}) 13... f6 $1 14. Be2 $1 {Xiaobing is upto the task. She
threatens now a check on h5.} Qe7 15. Bh5+ Kd8 16. Nf7+ Rxf7 (16... Ke8 17.
Bxf6 $18) 17. Bxf7 Qd6+ (17... fxg5 18. Qg8+ $18) 18. Ke2 (18. Ke4 $1 {was the
brave move and would have drawn the game. The point is that the king controls
many of the important escape squares for the black king. But putting your king
on e4! Isn't that scary!} fxg5 19. Qg8+ Ke7 20. Qe8+ Kf6 21. Qh8+ Kxf7 22.
Qxh7+ Ke8 23. Qh5+ Kd8 24. Qh8+ {And thanks to the king on e4, it will be a
perpetual!}) 18... fxg5 19. Qg8+ Ke7 20. Rd1 (20. Qe8+ Kf6 21. Qh8+ Kxf7 22.
Qxh7+ Kf6 23. Qh6+ Kf5 $19 {This time the white king is not on e4 and Black
king is able to break free and dodge the checks.}) 20... Qf4 (20... Qa6+ 21.
Kd2 c5 {might have been more accurate, but at this point I don't even believe
the computer!}) 21. Rd3 $2 {The final mistake of the game.} (21. Qe8+ Kf6 22.
Kf1 {was the right way to reach some sort of a position where Black cannot
make use of his extra material.}) 21... d5 $1 {Excellent move activating the
bishop and threatening Bg4+ winning the queen.} 22. Re3+ Kd6 23. Qd8+ Kc5 24.
Qxd5+ Kb6 {No checks are possible to the black king now!} 25. Re5 Ka7 26. f3 g4
27. Bh5 Qxh2 28. fxg4 Qg3 29. Qe4 Nb3 30. g5 Bd7 31. Bf3 Qxe5 32. Qxe5 $1 {
The final tactic and the game is decided.} Re8 0-1
Puranik made his maiden GM norm at the Zalakaros Open in Hungary in 2016, the second one at the same tournament in 2017 and the third one at the Abu Dhabi Open 2017. Abhimanyu joins the group of players Aravindh Chithambaram and Karthikeyan Murali as the young grandmasters who will make it big in the years to come. In fact Aravindh and Karthikeyan are born in 1999 and Abhimanyu in 2000. He is not the youngest GM in India at this very moment because of Aryan Chopra who is born in 2001.

Down the memory lane:

Abhimanyu started playing chess when he was only five and a half years old, and had been passionate about the game right from the start. He was a student of Symbiosis primary school and also liked playing football. He started receiving coaching from International Master Chandrashekhar Gokhale. Chandrashekhar emphasized physical exercises for Abhimanyu to develop stamina to sit through four to six hours of play without losing concentration. The boy achieved international rating at the age of 8 years.

Abhimanyu with his first coach C.S. Gokhale. This picture was taken in 2016 when co-founder of ChessBase Frederic Friedel visited Pune

Abhimanyu’s style of play caught the eye of Raghunandan Gokhale, eminent coach and winner of the ‘Dronacharya Award’, at a workshop arranged by Chandrashekhar Gokhale for his students. He appealed to Abhimanyu’s parents to send him to Greece. Samir and Sneha Puranik, Abhimanyu's parents, put up their own funds and endured visa hassles to acomplish their task and Abhimanyu justified everyone's faith in him by besting powerful players and winning the gold at the World School Chess Championship-2007 in under-7 section by scoring 9.0/9!


The World Chess Organization offered him the title 'Candidate Master' after he won the bronze medal at the World Youth under-10 in 2010.

Abhimanyu with his collection of trophies which kept growing as the years passed by

Abhimanyu became an IM in 2015 after he scored three IM norms and crossed the rating barrier of 2400. His first IM norm came at the age of just 12 years when he put up a creditable performance at the Prague Open in 2012. He had to wait for nearly three years for his next two norms but he achieved them in a hurry at the Mumbai and Kolkata Open in 2015. 

The little boy receiving the prize from Pune's first GM Abhijit Kunte
The wait of three years for achieving the next two norms for the IM title were not in vain. Abhimanyu's level had already reached the next stage and he immediately scored his first GM norm at the Zalakaros Open in 2016 in Hungary.
The third GM from Pune chats with the second one - Akshayraj Kore
Abhimanyu kept gaining rating points and made his second and third norms in Zalakaros 2017 and Abu Dhabi 2017 to become India's 49th grandmaster!
Abhimanyu with his parents Samir and Sneha Puranik
A huge credit for the boy's success goes to his current coach Jayant Gokhale

Young Abhimanyu with late Dajikaka Gadgil, the founder of PNG jewellers and a great promoter of chess
For many, winning the GM title signals the biggest achievement in their chess careers. For talents like Abhimanyu Puranik, this is just a stepping stone in the direction of becoming a world class player. We wish him all the best in his journey of reaching the next level - the 2600 mark!
The look says it all. The boy is here to stay!

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