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The bumpy road to the IM title

In 2018, Tianqi Wang was just 50 elo points away from the IM title. But things got worse, forcing Tianqi to make necessary changes to reach that milestone.

Success Story | 7 min read
The bumpy road to the IM title

Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

And when we get punched, our perseverance gets tested. We then have a choice – to move forward despite the hit or to succumb to the pain and give up.

That’s the choice Tianqi Wang, a university student in his early 20s with elo over 2200, faced on his quest to become an IM.

2017 - 2018: A lightning start 

To become an International Master, a player must score 3 IM-norms and cross 2400 elo. Tianqi had met the first criteria by 2018 itself.

“In 2017, I participated in my first norm tournament, where I also ended up getting an IM norm. And by November 2018, I already had all the 3 norms for becoming an IM.”

With 2354 and all the required norms in the bag by November 2018, it seemed like a matter of time before Tianqi would raise another 50 odd points and become an IM. 

The situation keeps getting worse. 

At first, he dropped his rating in the December 2018 list. What followed next was a tough period that tested Tianqi’s patience and persistence. 

“In 2019 I was still trying to go solo and had varying success. The main part was that I didn’t practice chess in a disciplined way. Later, Avetik took care of this problem pretty quickly with a few lessons.”

2020 also started on a bad note, with Tianqi’s elo slipping by 50 points in February to 2256. It was the lowest rating he had in almost 3 years. To make matters worse, the pandemic put a halt on all chess tournaments. 

What glitters in the dark is an ad.

One day while scrolling through Facebook, Tianqi came across an ad.

“After I had 2 bad tournaments in 2020, I saw a Facebook ad of ChessMood. It looked like a structured way I can improve my chess. Also, I started to work with Avetik, from beginning 2020 to late 2021.”

With that, Tianqi’s journey of working with ChessMood and also with GM Avetik began.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

Rather than getting discouraged because of the pandemic and the tough year he had, Tianqi put his faith in the growth plan. 

“I was following the growth plan Avetik had set up for me. He did say that it would take about 1 year to fully transition to a different set of openings to play with.”

Keeping the Right Mindset

Tianqi’s mindset can be understood with this one word. 

“It’s CoGro.”

For those who don’t know, CoGro is the ChessMood mantra for Constant Growth. 

“I see some people making this mistake. They learn something from the courses and then stay static. When there’s no CoGro, they don’t improve.”

With the right mindset and a lot of time in hand(due to the pandemic), Tianqi started to address the problems he was facing.

Bringing discipline to practice.

First, Tianqi had to bring a structure to his training.

“We were overhauling everything I played. I just checked everything with ChessMood courses. Then he(Avetik) said one of the best ways to memorize opening lines without forgetting them is to play disciplined blitz games.”

Switching to a new opening system

Next, he made the uncomfortable choice of transitioning to play 1.e4 with White. In the past, the mere thought of studying 1.e4 felt like a giant undertaking.

“Before 2020, I looked at 1.e4 and wondered – Okay, how many moves I need to memorize?”

But studying from ChessMood courses changed Tianqi’s perspective.

“It was very eye-opening how he(Avetik) showed 1.e4 can be studied in a not-so-time consuming manner. After I learned all the 1.e4 courses from ChessMood, things came naturally to me. And even like the rare occasions where he sticks in some computer moves, it makes sense for me to play.”

The new repertoire with 1.e4 made life harder for Tianqi’s opponents.

“At first, people weren’t comfortable. So I gained like 100 points right off the bat.”

Cutting down on “Offer draw?”

Previously, Tianqi would offer draws too many times. That had to change. 

“In the past, I used to offer many more draws than now. I’ve cut down on draw offers significantly. It made me realize how many nuances a person can exploit from apparently normal positions.”

This change helped him convert drawish positions into victories. 

“So for example, in the recent tournament I played, there were 4 endgames where I could have given up and agreed to a draw. But I got curious to see if my opponents would find the correct defense. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t.”


An endgame Tianqi had shared with the ChessMood family.

For example – In the above position, Tianqi’s opponent(White) has a spectacular stalemate idea that holds the game – 1.Rf2+!! But they played 1.Ra1? And eventually lost.

Better Tournament Management 

Choosing the right tournaments for raising rating also proved to be an intelligent choice.

“I was playing weaker tournaments with players around 2000 elo. Avetik asked me to stop that and play in stronger events.” 

Rating Explosion

With all these changes, Tianqi soon crossed 2300 elo again. Behind the scene, his online rating had exploded by 300 points, from 2500 to 2800 in 1 year!

However, the ‘mental’ hurdle of crossing 2400 elo was still there.

The charge to 2400

In May 2022, Tianqi was rated 2331 and was scheduled to play in 3 tournaments. In the initial 2 events, he raised 38 elo. Yet, he still had a distance of 31 elo to cover in the last event for crossing 2400. 

“After scoring 5 out of 6 points, I sensed this could be the tournament I achieve my IM title.”

However, there were 2 draws in the next 2 rounds. So the only way to cross 2400 was to win the last round against IM Mark Plotkin.

“I was okay with a draw. But, I thought why not push for more?”

With good play in the opening, Tianqi won an exchange and reached the following position.


Tianqi Wang vs Mark Plotkin

Despite being an exchange up, White needs to be precise. Tianqi pushed 1.e5 here, defended with courage and went on to win the game. 

With that, the long wait of almost 4 years had come to a sweet end – Tianqi had become an IM!

The feeling of becoming an IM

“In the immediate moments, it was actually the people who were following my chess progress that were significantly more excited than me.”

“Then gradually I myself started to become more grateful for the life opportunities that emerged as a result of me finally crossing 2400.”

Tianqi's Elo rating progress chart
Tianqi's Elo rating progress chart

Thanking the supporters!

Many supported Tianqi on his journey to becoming an IM. 

“There were 3-4 people I played training games with. I had 2 training partners from ChessMood. One of them was Prin and the other was Thanadon(both are top players from Thailand, also trained by GM Avetik). The others I met at tournaments.”

“There are another 2 who are my closest friends. They always told me that I need to keep moving forward.”

“And probably another 4-5 coaches, including everyone who was with me from the beginning of my chess journey. And of course my parents and my grandparents.”

New title, new opportunities.

With the IM title in hand, Tianqi feels many closed doors have opened for him.

“I might be too modest. I understand that there are 2000 people with better titles and another thousand with better ratings. But I was very happy to see a lot of opportunities arose after making 2400.”

“Because with my old rating, I would probably never have gotten the opportunities to join inter-collegiate chess teams. The title is important for a full scholarship which is very important when you’re out of your state.”

***

Rapid Round

In this round, Tianqi came up with some unpredictable answers. Enjoy!

Favorite chess piece.

Knight.

Favorite player from the current generation.

Illia Nyzhnyk.

Because he’s the best player I’ve come in contact with. 😄

Favorite player from the past generation.

Tigran Petrosian.

I hate being featured in books where I’m on the losing side of a miniature attack. And I saw that if I follow the footsteps of Petrosian, that would never happen. 😉

Your favorite opening.

Okay, this one is for Avetik – the Italian Defense.

“It’s very innovative to play with Black as 1.d4. And he brought it to my attention.”

The Italian against 1.d4? With Black? How?

Actually, there’s no official name for that line because Nicolo Pasini, an Italian, has pioneered it. 

Pasini's Italian Variation against 1.d4

NoteThis line was successfully played by students of GM Avetik, and even GM Gabuzyan has also played it from time to time. It’s more complex and has many hidden nuances compared to the Benko Gambit we recommend in our repertoire.

Message to someone who’s making their IM norms.

Don’t think too hard.

There’s a reason why a GM famously proclaimed IM norm games to circus shows 😄

Your playing style in 1 word.

Suppressive.

Opening/Middlegame/Endgame – Which one is your favorite?

Middlegame.

Because it has the least dependence on computers.

Rapid or classical or blitz – Which one do you enjoy the most?

Classical.

Your favorite ChessMood course.

Johan Hellsten’s course on Defense.

Your Right Mood ritual.

Eat good food. 

As for food choice, I would go with chocolate 🙂

What’s the one thing you’d do to improve your chess.

Constantly learning new things about openings to the end.

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

See what my opponent is thinking. 

Sometimes, I would also like to see why they’re taking 40 minutes on a simple position😁

Thank you for reading! 
Share your questions, congratulate Tianqi and connect with him via this forum link.

Originally published Aug 16, 2022

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