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Raising 500+ points against all odds and becoming FM

Prin Laohawirapap became Thailand’s youngest FM in chess. What were the secrets behind his growth? How did he raise his level against the odds? Find out here.

Success Story | 10 min read
Raising 500+ points against all odds and becoming FM

In 2017, the Thailand Chess Federation was organizing a training camp with a GM for the national team. 

1 seat was reserved for a youngster, who would be selected based on the commented game they send.

Since Thailand is yet to get its first IM (it’ll change soon 🙂), even the best players here get very few chances to work with an experienced coach. 

For the 11-year-old Prin Laohawirapap, this opportunity was going to change his chess career. He gave his best without any expectations.

“I just started annotating my game. I didn't even have an engine at that point. Once it was finished, my dad sent it to the federation. I didn't really expect anything at that point. I just did what they asked, and they picked me!”

Thanks to the efforts of the father and son, Prin could now train at the camp with the National Team of Thailand!

The Grandmaster wearing a cap

Before the camp began, Prin had a different mental picture of the GM coach.

“I was in the room with other team members. I was actually expecting the coach to look like Nigel Short or something. Because I thought that's what top GMs look like.” 

“And then there's a guy wearing a cap, and he just came in and said – Yo, what's up?” 

“Is this the guy? Who’s this?” 

It was GM Avetik! He was going to train Thailand’s National Team.

GM Avetik with the Thailand's national team
Avetik on the left with the team (in an unusual uniform😁)

The best experience of Prin’s life

The camp was an all-around learning experience for Prin.

“Before training, Avetik would make us meditate for 5 minutes to stay focused.” 

“We used to train for four hours or something, during the afternoon.” 

“Avetik would be showing cool stuff. He made it really enjoyable. I was also happy because I didn't have to go to school, and I get to do chess 😀😀 It was super fun and the best experience of my life.” 

Physical exercise was also made a part of the training!

“After the sessions, all the national team members would go to the stadium and run. In the end, we would also do some pushups and planks.”

Prin and GM Avetik doing planks
Fitness training in the evening

The young boy had more than just chess talent. GM Avetik shares:

“He was an awesome kid who had a smile 😊 on his face throughout the camp. After each and every lesson, Prin, with his father, would approach me to say thank you and then go home.” 

Sometimes, Prin’s grandmother would also accompany him.

A Grandmother’s heart 

“At the camp, she met Avetik. And Grandma's always giving a lot of stuff. She would buy fruits, snacks, desserts and have a gigantic bag of food, and she would give it to everyone, especially my teachers at school or my chess coach. It’s her way of thanking them.”

After the camp, the young Prin continued his chess journey while Avetik went on to start ChessMood. They were going to cross paths soon.

ChessMood & training with GM Avetik

“One of my friends, Chawit saw Avetik had a website.”

Since Prin had already trained under GM Avetik and was familiar with his teaching style, he became a ChessMood student. He also started training one-on-one to speed up his growth.

GM Avetik watching Prin Laohawirapap's game
How good is Prin’s position?

“We got on a call, and he (GM Avetik) asked about my openings.” 

That time Prin used to play abracadabra openings like the Colorado Gambit. 

“So the first thing we were going to do was change my repertoire to ChessMood.”

Prin trusted his coach and was ready for the change.

Being committed 

His approach can be summarized in 1 picture:

Prin at hospital
Taking his chess lesson even in the hospital!

“I had a terrible fever and was in a hospital. It also happened like five days before Thailand Championship started.”

While doctors would advise complete rest in such a situation, for Prin, it was just a regular day to study chess! Such was his dedication.

“I don't know what I'd be doing without chess. Even before the lesson, I was just playing on chess.com anyway. I don't think I ever missed a lesson because I really like learning with Avetik.”

Following coach’s advice 

Under Avetik’s guidance and by using the ‘study-practice-fix’ approach, Prin started building his repertoire. 

“Avetik would be like – okay, your homework is to watch Anti-Sicilian 2.Nc3 against 2..d6. And then, I would watch it (the opening course), and make a file on Chessbase. I would also send it to Avetik for the next lesson.”

“He also told me to play 9 blitz games for a session. And then, after each session, I would just go through the game. In the opening part, I would check my file on Chessbase to see what was in the line.”

“If it was a new move my opponent had played, I would add more lines to my file to make it complete.”

Raising over 450 rating points

At first, Prin was uncomfortable as everyone who learns new openings. But soon, his efforts paid off massively. 

Quote on comfort zone and growth

“I found that 80% of the time, I had a winning position out of the opening. I raised over 450 online points since joining ChessMood." 

It also made it easier for Prin to get comfortable positions against stronger opponents, as you’ll see later. 

Another major role that helped Prin improve his opening was played by his training partner, IM Tianqi Wang.

The advantage of having a training partner

“Tianqi’s blitz rating is around 2750 or something. He was rated higher than me by 100 points. So he would normally destroy me. And I would get mad.”

Rather than getting discouraged, Prin would keep fighting! 

“The next day, I would try again and also get crushed. But when I beat him in a session, I would be so happy! Yes – Finally, I beat this guy!”

Thanks to his training partner’s preparation, Prin saw many unique ideas.

Tianqi Wang: Prin's training partner
IM Tianqi Wang is also a ChessMood student | Pic Credit: Charlotte Chess Center

“Tianqi is a very interesting and creative player. He plays a lot of novelties in well-known positions. And for some reason, he always comes up with a strange move that sometimes is brilliant, but most of the time it's bad 😄😄”

“I would get to see so many weird moves in the opening from him, which was very useful.”

Accidental Study Composer

Often, while analyzing games with Avetik, Prin would be calculating lines in his head. When he would find a ‘magical move’ while calculating a position, that would become his composition 😄 

Here’s one of them:

White to play and win

It’s White to play. Find the mind-blowing move that wins the game! 

Here’s another:

Another of Prin's composition
A screenshot from live training

Can you find the solution here? White to move.

Post the answer to both these positions in the forum 🙂

Training with GM Gabuzyan

Over the period of working together, GM Avetik noticed a few gaps in Prin’s games. He also knew the person who could fill in these gaps the best. That’s when GM Gabuzyan joined in to train Prin. 

“Gabuzyan would stream the ChessMood events, which I would normally watch, so I already knew him.”

The one-sided bets

His new coach had an interesting method of teaching. 

“Gabuzyan would give me a position – it's not like studies where there are clear answers, but it's like random positions from real games where it's hard to know what to do. There are no clear answers.”

“And he would just be like – Do you want to bet? If you get it wrong, you do 20 squats 😫😫”

“The bet is normally unfair, and he would always win because the position was so hard.” 

“The most number of squats I’ve done in a session is 50 😄 I was breathing very hard after that.”

Squats in a chess class?

It taught Prin that every mistake in a real game came with a price to pay.

Learning an important skill

“He would give me positions that sometimes would just be clearly better, but I have to find a way not to mess this up while playing it against him. He taught me to be more practical.” 

This approach would become very useful when Prin would play against master-level players.

Along with chess training, Prin also had to manage schoolwork.

Sneaking chess into school

Because of school, Prin could only find time in the evening on workdays to train. 

“When I got back home, I would normally work from 8 pm to midnight, and then wake up at 6 am. I only have proper training on Sunday and Saturday, where I would be able to work like 10 hours.”

So what kept Prin going? It was his obsession for the game. Even in school, Prin found a way to study chess.

“I would read chess books blind without the board in school. I would have 1 schoolbook, for writing whatever the teachers are on the board. And on my left, I would be reading chess books.” 

“Normally, the teachers are busy teaching, so they don’t see. And even if they do, they’re like ‘stop reading’ 😄” 

Another challenge for Prin was to find opportunities to play against stronger players.

A blessing in disguise

“There are not many tournaments here in Thailand. The highest-rated player is only 2300. How can you even get higher from that? From just playing here? You have to play tournaments outside!”

And when you know you get limited opportunities, it also pushes you to make the most of whatever chances you get

For Prin, it meant when he faced a GM in a serious tournament for the 1st time, he had to make the most out of it.

And so he did! 

In his first competitive game against a GM (who was also the #1 player in his country at that time), he gave his best and won! 

Prin's first victory against a Grandmaster

GM Avetik has shared that story in this article

Something similar happened when Prin was paired against the strong IM Yeoh Li Tian, 300+ elo stronger, at the Southeast Asian Games.

Being brave

IM Yeoh Li Tian was leading the tournament. A draw would make him the 1st GM of his country! 

Prin, being the lowest seed in the tournament, was doing fine but was facing problems against more experienced opponents.

The game reached a position where Prin had a slight edge (opening work paying off).

“And then the opponent was repeating moves. The position was repeated once. And the second time, I didn't repeat it.”

Prin vs Yeoh Li Tian (Position after Black's 23..Bh6)

Prin could’ve allowed repetition after 24.Nh4 Bg5 25. Nf3, and made a draw against a GM-level player. But Prin was brave, not someone to play for draws, even against stronger players.

“I’ve never offered draws since I became 1700.”

So he continued the fight with the practical 24.Kh1. The idea? To play Ng1, f3! Slowly, slowly he built the pressure and eventually won the game!

Raising over 500 elo

Even with the limited opportunities to play in FIDE-rated events, Prin raised more than 500 elo, since joining ChessMood, going from around 1700 to touching over 2250 elo.

Prin's rating progress chart
Prin’s standard elo progress chart (blue line)

Becoming an FM and scoring an IM-norm

In the U18 Eastern Asian Youth Chess Championship 2022, Prin was off to a slow start, scoring just 3/5 in the first half.

And then he fought back, scoring 4/4 in the second half, ending the tournament as the joint winner with 7/9! 

Becoming an FM at the U18 Eastern Asian Youth Chess Championship

And by finishing as a joint-winner at the U18 Eastern Asian Youth Chess Championship, Prin became an FM and scored his maiden IM-norm.

The magic of a supportive family

His family also had a big role to play in his growth. For instance, his father makes sure Prin focuses only on chess.

“He always comes with me. He's the one taking care of everything, including travel, booking tickets, and accommodation. I only take care of the chess part. He supports me a lot.”

Prin Laohawirapap with his mum and dad
With mum and dad

Future goals

“I hope that by the end of next year, I would get IM or my rating touches 2400. Or else, Avetik might send some killers 😀😀” 

Well, it’s one way how GM Avetik motivates Prin before each tournament 😄😄😄 

Rapid Round

What’s your favorite ChessMood course?

The Caro -Kann Exchange

What’s your Right Mood ritual?

I watch movies. I like the Bobby Fisher Against the World documentary. It shows how he (Fischer) worked so hard.

What’s the favorite memory chess has given you?

My first ever win against a 1700, when I was 1300. That made me really happy.

What’s a life lesson you’ve learned from chess?

You have to work hard, but if you don't work hard, then you wouldn't achieve anything. That's what I believe. 

If goddess Caissa could give you a chess superpower, what would you prefer it to be? Which chess superpower you’d like to have?

To be brave and to be able to play without any fear!

***

Share your thoughts, and well-wishes for Prin under this forum thread.

Originally published Dec 20, 2022

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