Create your free account

By clicking “Register”, you agree to our
terms of service and privacy policy

Log in


Reset password

Raising 600+ elo and becoming the first IM of his country

Prin Laohawirapap became Thailand’s first International Master in chess. How did he raise his level against all odds? Find out here.

Success Story | 8 min read
Raising 600+ elo and becoming the first IM of his country

It was 2017. 
The Thailand Chess Federation was organizing a training camp with a Grandmaster for the national team.

As the country lacks a strong chess culture, it’s a rare opportunity even for the best players to work with an experienced coach.

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

“I annotated my games. My dad sent them to the federation. I didn't really expect anything at that point. I did what was asked, and they picked me!” says Prin Laohawirapap, who was just 11 years old then.

The Grandmaster wearing a cap

“I was actually expecting the chess coach to look like Nigel Short. I thought that's what top GMs look like.”

“And then there's a guy wearing a cap. He just came in and said, ‘Yo, what's up?’ ”

“Is this the guy? Who’s this?”

It was GM Avetik!

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

The best experience of Prin’s life

“Before training, Avetik would make us meditate for five minutes to stay focused. We trained for around four hours during the afternoon. Avetik made it really enjoyable.”

“I was also happy because I didn't have to go to school, and I got to do chess😀😀It was the best experience of my life.”

Prin and GM Avetik doing planks
Evening exercise was also a part of the training

The young boy had more than just chess talent as GM Avetik shared:

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

Young Prin continued his chess journey while GM Avetik left his comfortable life in Thailand to start ChessMood.

Their paths would cross soon.

Joining ChessMood and training with GM Avetik

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

Since he was already familiar with GM Avetik’s teaching style, he became a ChessMood Pro student in 2019 and also started one-on-one training.

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

Around that time, Prin used to play abracadabra openings like the Colorado Gambit. Any good coach knows it's not the best for long-term growth.

"So the first thing we did was change my repertoire to ChessMood."

Raising over 450 online rating points

He used the chess improvement formula to build his opening repertoire.

“Avetik would give homework, like watch the Anti-Sicilian 2.Nc3 against 2..d6. Then I would watch, make a file on Chessbase and send it to Avetik for the next lesson.” (Study)

“He also told me to play 9 blitz games in a session.” (Practice)

“After each session, I would go through the games, check the openings and update my files.” (Fix)

At first, Prin was uncomfortable as everyone who learns new openings. He pushed himself out of the comfort zone, wobbled, but didn’t give up. And 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." 

His training partner, Tianqi Wang, also played a major role in helping Prin improve his openings.

The advantage of having a training partner

“Tianqi’s blitz rating was around 2750, 100 points higher than mine. He would normally destroy me. And I would get mad.”

“Beating him in a session made me very happy!”

Tianqi Wang: Prin's training partner

“Tianqi’s a very creative player. He plays a lot of novelties in well-known positions. Sometimes it’s brilliant, but most of the time it's bad😄”

“Seeing so many weird opening moves from him was very useful.”

Also, playing with Tianqi helped Prin to practice with a tougher opponent, an advantage he couldn't find back home given the lack of stronger players.

Being 100% committed

You can have the best resources and support to improve at chess.
But to fulfill your potential, you have to put in your efforts.

One picture summarizes Prin’s commitment:

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

“5 days before the Thailand Championship, I had a terrible fever and was in the hospital.”

The doctors advised complete rest. But for Prin, it was time to do chess!

If he studies even while sick, think about how much he practices when he’s healthy.

“After school ends, I normally work from 8 pm to midnight. On Sundays and Saturdays, I work 10 hours.”

Even in school, Prin is looking for a chance to study the game.

“I would have one schoolbook to take notes. And on my left, I would be reading chess books😄”

Accidental study composer

His obsession for chess shines through.

While analyzing games with GM Avetik, Prin often would come up “magical moves” that looked like the solution of a study😄

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🙂

The one skill he learned from GM Gabuzyan

While working with Prin, GM Avetik noticed a few gaps in his games. He also knew the person who could help fill them.

“I started to train with GM Gabuzyan. I already knew him because he streamed the ChessMood events.”

“Gabuzyan would give me real game positions with no clear answers.”

“And he would bet – If you get it wrong, you do 20 squats😫

He would always win because the position was so hard.”

“The most number of squats I’ve done is 50😄”

Squats in a chess class?

“But training with Gabuzyan taught me to be more practical.”

It proved valuable when Prin faced off against higher-rated opponents, as you’ll soon see.

“I’ve also seen the Gabuzyan’s Mind course. It's useful hearing how the GMs think, and you can apply that in your own games.”

In GM Gabuzyan's Mind course
In GM Gabuzyan’s Mind course (fully unlocked now)

Being fearless against stronger players

“There aren’t many tournaments in Thailand. The highest-rated player is only 2300. How can you even get higher than that? You have to play tournaments outside!”

And when you have the opportunity, you have to make the most of it.

Prin did exactly that when he won his first competitive game against a GM, who was also the No.1 player of his country at the time. His fearless approach was rewarded!

Prin's first victory against a Grandmaster
GM Avetik has shared the story and an important lesson in this article.

Don’t make short draws with higher-rated players

At the Southeast Asian Games, Prin was playing against IM Yeoh Li Tian, who was more than 300 elo stronger, leading the tournament, and a draw would make him the first Grandmaster of his country!

The game started with the Caro-Kann Exchange variation and reached a position where Prin had a slight edge (opening work paying off).

“Then my opponent was repeating the moves.”

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

Many would have been tempted to split the point against a strong player and allow the repetition after 24.Nh4 Bg5 25.Nf3. But not Prin.

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

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

Fighting his way to become the youngest FM of Thailand

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

But he fought his way back, scoring 4/4 in the second half and ending the tournament with 7/9 points!

Becoming an FM at the U18 Eastern Asian Youth Chess Championship

By finishing as the joint-winner (2nd place) at the U18 Eastern Asian Youth Chess Championship, Prin became the youngest FM of his country!

The role of his family

“I'm very lucky that my parents are supportive of me. My father always comes with me and takes care of everything, including travel, booking tickets, and accommodation.”

Prin Laohawirapap with his mum and dad
With mum and dad

“I only take care of the chess part.”

Raising over 600 elo

Even with the limited opportunities to play in FIDE-rated events, Prin raised more than 600 elo, since joining ChessMood, going from around 1700 to touching 2350 elo.

Standard elo chart (blue line)

When we first interviewed Prin after he became an FM in 2022, he had shared the following goal:

“I hope to become an IM by the end of 2023, or else, Avetik might send some killers😀”

And he made it happen! So we had to interview him again😊

The path to the IM title

Prin participated in the U18 Eastern Asian Youth Chess Championship 2023.

As you read previously, Prin had finished joint-first (2nd place) in the previous edition of this tournament.

Now if he could finish first, he would become an IM.

According to the FIDE handbook, there are exceptional cases where a player can earn the title without needing to score three norms and reach a 2400 Elo rating. Winning a specific tournament is one of them.

After a decent start, Prin took the sole lead with an important victory in the 5th round.

Prin maintained his lead.

In the last round, he needed a win or a draw, when an unpleasant thought crossed his mind.

The final test to become Thailand’s first IM

“My situation reminded me of the IM who only needed a draw to become a GM, but couldn't because I beat him. I was afraid that would happen to me.”

“So I offered a draw on the second move.”

Prin isn’t one to split the point without a fight, but in this case, it made sense because it would secure him the IM title.

However, there was one more twist.

Prin’s last-round opponent was a good friend of his 5th-round opponent, who was in the 2nd place, trailing by half a point.
He had every reason to defeat Prin and help his friend become the champion.

So he rejected the draw offer.

“I was feeling better after the rejection because now I knew I had to play a proper game of chess.”

“I was in his opening prep and didn't know what I was doing. But I started outplaying him.”

“Soon I got a better position. And my opponent offered me a draw. 
I accepted😀”

Prin becomes Thailand's first IM
Photo: Prin

Prin won the tournament and became the first IM of Thailand!

“It was also my 17th birthday.
I didn't get a cake but I got the best birthday present.”


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!

What would be your advice to someone who wants to become an IM?

You need to play a lot of tournaments and work hard.

The best compliment you’ve received in chess.

When I played online and my opponent said I'm cheating, I was very proud of myself.


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

Originally published Feb 22, 2024

This website uses cookies. To learn more, visit our Cookie Policy.