Wednesday, July 23, 2014

People behind my IM title!

On 18th July 2014, after 13 years of playing Chess, I achieved the Title of International Master!
Enjoying the success with a slice of my favourite dish: Pizza near Sant Marti, Spain!

I could go on for hours about how I worked hard on those nights when I chucked my sleep in order to get to the depths of a line which never happened in my over the board game! Or I could talk about the physical fitness regime which pushed me to the state of unconsciousness on many occasions! Or about solving a study on which I worked for days and days in my head without a chess set, thinking about it even as I had food and to experience the unadulterated joy of finding the key idea! Yes there are loads of such individualistic experiences I could share about! But since the day I was close to achieving my IM title there was one article which I wanted to write thanking all the people who have helped me to achieve it. Of course, it would be impossible to cover each and every person but I have chosen the main 11 people who I think played pivotal roles.

No great thing was ever achieved alone! Anand with his team!


After achieving the title, the first thought that came to my mind was that this would really have been impossible without your support,mom and dad! From the day I started playing chess until today I have had the utmost support of my parents.
 My father was the one who introduced me to this game when I was around 10 years old. It was the urge to beat my dad at the game of chess which made me improve rapidly in my initial years! Barring from the fact that my parents have sponsored me for almost all my chess trips, the emotional support that they have provided me with has been of key importance. I think there has not been a single day in my chess playing life when after the game, my dad has been unaware of my result. I must have played more than a 1000 game but he has always asked me as to how my game was and if I had lost what was the reason for the same. The focus was always on how to improve as a chess player rather than on the results!

This is what my dad has to say about this pic: 
Dear All
I had the opportunity to play with the latest IM from India few years ago in Switzerland & had him in great difficulty. After that he has not dared to play against me in any competitive tournament-Dharmen Shah (IM ka Baap)

My mom I can say plays the role of the balancer. She makes sure that there is some sanity left in me. Often when I am engrossed in the middle of a deep calculation, she would come by my side and talk about what I would like to eat in the evening! While it really makes me angry at that instant, I realize how her love is totally unconditional and not at all dependent upon my success or failure in chess! In my worst of tournaments she has been the one who has motivated me to come out stronger!

3.Mahesh Ved and 4.Late Praful Shukla.
Me having a light moment with Mahesh Sir on the day of my marriage!

My first coach in chess was Mahesh Ved. Whatever qualities of integrity and discipline that I own today are thanks to him. When I was just 12 and played in my first outstation tournament, my parents were not able to accompany me because of their commitments in Mumbai. It was Mahesh Sir and Praful sir who took care of me like their son.I have been on many a trips with them ever since. Mahesh Sir taught me the importance of discipline. We were never allowed to watch TV during the tournament. This habit has been ingrained in me so well that I don't even remember when was the last time I watched TV during an event! We would have to drink plain milk with sugar in the morning in his presence which I really hated but I realized that as a sports player, you often have to do things that you don't like in order to stay in good shape! Some of the habits of Mahesh sir have also rubbed off on me. For eg. I was so inspired seeing his huge collection of chess books that I promised myself to buy a chess book in every tournament I play. Though I am still some books away from overtaking him, I can boast of the second largest chess book collection atleast in Ghatkopar!! :)
One incident which will always stay with me was the following: " I won the u-19 state championships in pune with 7.5/8 and a round to spare. I was going to agree to a draw in the last round when Mahesh sir called me. I think these were his words, " Playing for a win when nothing is at stake is a matter of attitude." I played that game and created one of the best positional masterpieces of my career. Ever since then I have stopped agreeing to draws before the game!
Late Praful Shukla: A kind and great human being.

Praful Sir on the other hand was more easy going but it was he taught me the importance of saving every penny. Praful sir who passed away a few years ago would be proud that his student has become an International Master!
I shall always be indebted to my initial gurus who gave me practical knowledge which no books in the world could ever have given me!


This man is a genius. He is the author of the books Reassess your chess, Reassess your chess workbook, Amateur's mind and Silman's endgame course (Atleast these are the books I have read). I have read his books maybe 3-4 times. Whenever someone asks me what is the best way to improve at chess, I recommend his books. Oh the theory of imbalances! What a theory! It kind of brought a balance in my thinking! When I was near 2100, I read his books. His method was long. To find the imbalances, make a list of them. Prioritize and then make use of your positive imbalances. I worked on it for years. Trying to make it a part of me. As of today I have forgotten what the imbalances were but it has become a part of my natural thinking process. Anyone who thinks he or she is bad at positional chess, no matter what his rating is 1200 or 2300, I would heartily recommend his books!
I haven't met him in person but cannot wait for the day when I would!


Imagine this: Its a dark room. There is a table and a chair. Above the table there is small tube light. On the table lies a laptop and next to it a chess set with a book and a pen. Daniel King in his flawless English asks me to pause the laptop and have a think. I press the pause button and have a deep think and then write down my answer in the book. With utmost excitement, I click the play button to see if Daniel King agrees with what I have written! On the days when my answers matched with him I would be the happiest man on the planet! :) His Powerplay series from 1-21 are a joy to watch. If you are serious and ready to work hard you will get coaching from one of the best tutors in the world. Those days and nights of learning from Daniel King locked in a room for hours were probably what took me to the next level after Jeremy Silman!
Not to forget most of my talking and writing skills are thanks to the beautiful way in which this guy speaks! It's my dream one day to make a DVD with him! :)


I must say that after working with Silman's books and Daniel King's DVDs I had developed a kind of word based approach to my thinking. Yes both Silman and King have a lot of word annotations as compared to variations! I think Mark Dvoretsky changed all of it!! Variations here, variations there, variations everywhere!! I started to think more in terms of concrete moves than abstract theories. But bear in mind, somehow Silman and Daniel King's theories worked perfectly with Dvoretsky approach. For eg. Thanks to Silman and King I would know that the best square for my knight was d4 and thanks to Dvoretsky I would concretely try to work the best possible way to bring the knight to d4! Silman and King helped me plan and Dvoretsky helped me execute! A deadly combo!! :)
His works are really of a high quality and I can recommend his books to people aiming to become an IM or GM.
I have read a lot of things about Dvoretsky as to how his methods are inflexible and he doesn't adapt them to suit the needs of specific students. But whatever it is I am grateful to him for showing me that concrete variations are the blood of chess. 
WISH: to have one training session with the man who is deemed as one of the best trainers in the world.


Artistic and unconventional describes this man the best! I got to know about him through his lectures on His way to talking in the lectures was so smooth. It seemed as if he had some fresh approach towards chess. Chess seemed easy when I heard this man speak. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that he has a Ph.d in philosophy. I really wanted to learn chess from Jesse and once even managed to contact him for training. However, I couldn't afford his fees. You can know more about Jesse from my blogpost which I wrote some months ago.
WISH: Jesse is a huge Smyslov fan. I would like to go to USA some day and sit with him and a chess set, with no engines or computers. Just a book of Smyslov's best games and to analyze the games for hours on end!


The latest Grandmaster preparation series is maybe one of the best written books by Aagaard for the ambitious players. But it was back in 2006 that I was able to chat with Jacob on server. He was playing a game and told me that he would get back to me after the game was over. Sure he did and with great patience he answered all my questions for the next 20 minutes. From questions like how I should improve to what is the correct approach towards the game of chess, he typed everything. Maybe it was one of the best chats I have ever had with anyone. The one line which I always remember is this:
Me: "So the right way forward is to work hard on chess?"
Aagaard: " I think when you do something that you like, it ceases to be hard. It shouldn't be hard work, it should be easy work!"
What a great approach!
It showed me that what a kind Samaritan he really was. Today he is a well celebrated hero in the world of Chess trainers but I have high regards and respect for him ever since that day of 2006.


In 2010 I went to play in Budapest. There I met GM Josefz Horvath. If ever you need an inspiration to be a chess player, you should meet this man. Josefz devotes almost every single minute of his to chess. He is one of the best trainers in Hungary.He has informators from 1 to the latest one, NIC yearbook from 1 to the latest and his house his littered with every latest book that has been released in the world of chess.  The thing which really amazed me was his encyclopedic knowledge. I would show him one of my games and he would tell me ,"ahh the same structure arose in the game Ribli-Smyslov 1983 London." Or " Sagar have you seen the game Polgar-Sax Hungarian championship 1990. The same tactic was used in that game." 
Hours would pass by as he would show these wonderful games and I would be thoroughly mesmerized by his memory. Another important thing which Josefz would always do was to save each and every move that we discussed during the training session in the database. According to him, a good idea can be hidden in any move and hence no effort must be wasted! I have been saving even the silliest of my blitz games from that day onwards! 
Horvath Josefz has really played a huge role in helping me become an International Master.

And friends last but not the least, no recipe is ever complete without the magic ingredient. The ingredient which brings all the factors together and magically makes everything work. For me without doubt that person has been my wife and the love of my life: AMRUTA MOKAL

With my biggest support after crossing 2400 elo in live rating list.

There is a widespread notion in the chess world that marriage spells the end of one's chess career. While many have witnessed a slump in their form after tying the knot, things have really gone like a fairy tale for me! I not only gained almost 100 Elo points in the first five months of my marriage but also made my final IM norm and achieved the IM title. Lady luck has smiled upon me some would say! But I say that the lady luck believes in a lot of hard work! After marriage we had a nice relaxing honeymoon for seven days and have been on the chess board ever since. It's so nice to have a playing partner at your disposal any time you want! :) In the Barbera Open where I made my final norm and gained 53 Elo points, Amruta took complete care of me. She didn't play in the tournament, cooked food for me, prepared against my opponents, analysed my games and told me the mistakes I had made. A totally dedicated second! :)
I was an IM strength player since many years but somehow I managed the feat only after marriage! A big thanks to my wife who had a huge role to play in my success.

I would really like to thank from the bottom of my heart to all my facebook friends. I received nearly 735 likes and 222 comments!! :) That's just too much!! Now I am inquisitive to know the number of likes I will receive when I become a GM!! That's really a cool motivation to work harder!! :)

As you can see, there were so many people who selflessly helped me in becoming an IM. The time has come for me to do something similar.
I am ready to guide people who wish to improve in the game of chess with whatever knowledge I have. You can contact me on my email address : or contact me via message on my facebook page or write to me on twitter
Age, financial situation is no bar. You can contact me. However two things are quintessential: love for the game of chess and an appetite for great hard work.

I will try my best to become a GM soon but as I have always said the fun is not in reaching the destination but in enjoying the journey! I will soon post my journey to the IM title! Till then! Adios!


  1. Wish you all the best to become a GM !

    1. Thank you very much sir! :) You too had a huge role in helping me learn a lot of classics when I was young!

  2. Congratulations my friend!! So proud to have a friend like you! You deserve all the titles in the world. May this be a stepping stone to your journey to become a GM. Cheers!!

    1. Apurva thank you so much!! I am so glad that you too have started living your passion and started your own football blog!

  3. Congrats Sagar! It is great to see your enthusiasm, it is like morning coffee :) I wish you good luck and good chess!

  4. Sagar bhai, your "coolness" is like a GM. I do not think it would take much time for you to become a GM.!! Best wishes for that.
    I still remember a i cident where I saw a good human side of you. During a Blitz tournament in Thane. I was playing with a handicap player who was hardly able to move himself. Sagar bhai , you were helping him to move his pieces. That was a very noble job by you. That was our first and last personal meeting, but I can not forget it. Advance Abhinandan for GM Title !!!

    1. Thank you Dilip Bhai. I remember you very well. I think you had won against Shailesh Nerlikar in that round. I hope to work hard towards my GM title and hope to meet you soon.

  5. Congratulations on becoming an IM

  6. Long overdue I guess?! A case of Hard work triumphing over Hard luck I suppose... :)

  7. All the Very Best For your Future sir, May you achieve all your dreams :)
    gl for next GM norm..

  8. Sagar all the best for your all dreams...

  9. Sagar all the best for your all dreams...