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The Anti-Arrogant ChessMoodian & His Journey to the Top 100 in the World

Learn from the inspiring journey of GM SL Narayanan, a world top 100, and discover how he uses ChessMood in his training.

Success Story | 8 min read
The Anti-Arrogant ChessMoodian & His Journey to the Top 100 in the World

“I know” is one of the easiest ways to feed your ego and stop your growth. In chess and in life.

On the opposite, when you have an “I want to know” mindset, you are curious and eager to learn more and more. This is when the doors open, you notice them and you skyrocket.

His anti-arrogant mindset is what led one of the strongest ChessMoodians – Grandmaster Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan also known as SL, to climb into the top 100 in the world.

While many have this “I can beat anyone I want, including Magnus Carlsen” mindset, SL was the opposite…

“My favorite chess memory was seeing Magnus Carlsen in the Qatar Masters in 2015.”

“I was hoping to play him in the 1st round there. But just by one spot, I got paired with Anish Giri.”

“I was quite young then. Sitting next to all these greats like Magnus, Anish, Kramnik was very motivating. It was like a dream.”

Fast forward 8 years, at the Qatar Masters 2023, he achieved a remarkable feat.

In a field featuring the world’s best players like Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, and Anish Giri, SL finished an impressive 3rd and had the best rating performance of the event at 2792!

Now it’s easy to think of him as someone incredibly talented. But talent alone isn’t enough.

Give 100% to avoid regrets

SL had to make early sacrifices. 

“In both 10th and 12th grades, I scored full marks. So I had to decide whether to continue with chess or seek some other career.”

“My teachers recommended perhaps I should combine both, which seemed a bit weird.”

“To divide your focus and achieve nothing in both is pretty easy. But if you give your 100% in one thing, there won’t be any regrets later.”

Quote by Robin Sharma

SL chose chess.

Invest in yourself

Despite coming from a humble background, SL bet big.

“I have invested quite well for training, recently and also in the past.”

“Obviously, at first, you might be very reluctant to spend on something where you’re unsure about the result. We are all humans.”

“But in the long term, it will bring you all the benefits.”

Quote by Warren Buffett

When the student is ready, the teacher appears

As SL was fully committed to his growth, he found a mentor who believed in his journey.

“In 2014, I played in the Philippine Open when I was an IM. There I met GM Avetik for the first time.”

“He’s an exceptionally strong player. What made him unique was his vibrant energy. That's how I decided to train under him and enjoyed the sessions very much.”

There was another person who played a huge role in SL’s journey.

The dedicated father

As GM Avetik recalls:

“From taking care of the financial side to accompanying his son to tournaments, his father made a big contribution.”

A combination of focus, sacrifices, guidance, and a serious commitment to chess helped SL become a Grandmaster in 2016.

Since then, he has only doubled down on his growth.

Becoming one of the first ChessMoodians

Thanks to his coach, SL knew about our platform from the moment it was born in 2018.

“Avetik told me he was starting ChessMood. I liked the concept and tried to watch all the videos and absorb the useful things for me.”

One day, his ChessMood preparation would earn him an important victory in one of the most important chess tournaments of his life.

Winning with ChessMood’s novelty at the World Cup 2023

SL, playing with the White pieces against GM Yuriy Kuzubov, reached the following position in their 2nd classical game at the FIDE World Cup 2023.

Position from Narayanan vs Kuzubov, World Cup 2023

“I had prepared this Petroff line from the ChessMood course for the shorter time control but didn’t expect my opponent to go there.”

“I knew of the Re5 novelty from the course. I had not revised it for 1 or 2 years. But the way Avetik explains is so precise and crystal clear, that once you learn, it will be imprinted in your mind.”

Narayanan vs Kuzubov, World Cup 2023 and ChessMood's Novelty in the Petroff
What’s the point behind the move? It’s covered in the Advanced section of Fight the Petroff Defense

SL played the spectacular 14.Re5! and went on to win an important game, and qualify to the next round.

“That's one of the things I like about the opening repertoire of ChessMood. It’s practically very strong!”

Chessable is good, but…

“I have tried Chessable a bit as well. But it's too long for me. I don't have that much patience.”

“ChessMood was easy to learn. The entire White repertoire – it didn't take long to prepare. Maybe 3-4 days maximum. But of course, I spent 5-6 hours daily on it.”

There’s another source SL has used to expand his opening knowledge.

The importance of learning classics

“I like this classical games course where 100 games were analyzed. I went through them, one game each day, regularly.”

Some with an “I know” mindset ignore studying them. On the other hand, you have the anti-arrogant SL. Despite being a Grandmaster, he kept an open mind and learned from the classics while following the right method!

The classical games courses on ChessMood

“Of course, I could finish maybe 30 classics a day. But I didn’t just want to accumulate knowledge. I also wanted to process it.”

“In my opening preparation, I have taken ideas mentioned in the classical games, which were not the best choice according to the computer.”

“For example, in the Maroczy structure, the computers will say it's slightly better for one side. But it doesn't matter at all in terms of the objective evaluation. You need good understanding as well.”

Why GM Narayanan loves ChessMood endgames

When it comes to endgames, SL also found it useful to refresh his knowledge.

“I already knew most of the theoretical positions from the endgame courses. I was just seeing the video to know the conclusion. If I had some doubt, then I would go deeper. It was quite instructive for me.”

“You can learn from the Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual. Obviously, it's a good book. But you need someone to tell you what you need to remember.”

But by seeing the video, I feel you don't need to put in that effort. It’s easier to imprint the knowledge.”

His hard work clearly shows in his rankings.

Top 100 and meeting his coach after 7 years

In October 2021, SL participated in the 1st ChessMood Open. He secured the 2nd place and raised 10 elo.

This brilliant performance would help him reach world no. 82 in the November 2021 list, breaking into the top 100 for the first time!

And who better to celebrate it with than the man who was instrumental in his success?

SL with his coach GM Avetik 

His coach and our founder GM Avetik showed him around the city on a motorbike!

Later SL visited the ChessMood office and we had a good time.😁

SL Narayanan with coach GM Avetik and members of the ChessMood team
SL and coach GM Avetik (right) playing chess doubles at the office. How many ChessMood team members can you recognize?

GM Narayanan’s go-to source for chess inspiration

“Before the game, especially if I'm not confident, the words on the ChessMood blog have a big impact on me. You get a renewed energy.”

“I have read almost everything – how Gabuzyan won the National Championship, Kontinjan's story showing his confidence level, etc. There’s also a lot of useful advice, like how many games you should play, etc.”

“I know many other Grandmasters who aren’t members but still read the blog.”

Keeping the right mood before a tournament

SL has even contributed an article on how to prepare for a tournament.

Much like the advice he has shared, SL is usually relaxed and calm.

GM SL Narayanan calm and relaxed at the ChessMood Open

“I don't think there should be any reason to worry unless you notice some serious drawbacks in your play and you can't improve.”

He fully trusts his preparation before the event starts.

This was also his approach before the Qatar Masters 2023.

The right mindset when you have a lower-rated opponent

“I won the first three rounds. I had a strong start which is crucial for Swiss events.”

GM SL Narayanan at the Qatar Masters 2023

Although all three opponents had a lower rating than SL, they were titled players, one of whom had even defeated Magnus Carlsen at the event.

“Some players are truly underrated, and they can perform exceptionally well. 

You have no control over the rating. But what you can control is the game and the moves.”

Crucial results against 2 top-level opponents

Another important victory came against a formidable Grandmaster.

“I won against GM Gukesh. It was the most difficult game of the event.”

SL found a brilliant win in the Queen endgame with Kh3!

Narayanan vs Gukesh
Black lost after 1…b3. Can you calculate White’s beautiful win after 1…Kf8? Post it in the forum.

In the final round, he was paired against one of the world’s strongest chess players, GM Hikaru Nakamura.

“I thought he’ll take chances because if he wins, he can play the tiebreaks. What surprised me was that I didn’t expect him to play solid. He's such a strong player, and to break his solid structure is not easy.” 

Still, SL managed to outplay him in the middle game but eventually, the game settled in a draw.

“It was fun to play with Hikaru over the board.”

3rd place at the Qatar Masters 2023

SL had the best rating performance of the tournament. He even gained 17 elo points, reaching a live rating of 2668.

GM Narayanan receiving the 3rd prize at Qatar Masters 2023
Credits: Qatar Chess

“It was good to perform like this in such a strong event. Many enjoyed my games and I got nice messages. I am happy I was able to attract spectators.”

Can he achieve his goal inspired by his countrymen?

“Everyone thought crossing 2600 was a difficult barrier until Nihal did. I was 2580 at that time. And I said to myself ‘Okay, this isn’t so difficult. I can too.’

Then everyone thought crossing 2700 was a difficult barrier until Gukesh did it. And now I’m thinking ‘Why can’t I?’ ”


Rapid Fire

Who’s your chess idol?

Magnus Carlsen.

Your favorite ChessMood course.

I like the opening courses from White; tough to choose which ones.

What’s the best investment you have made in your chess?

I have spent quite well on training. I cannot say it's an investment. It's like adding to your knowledge.

How much time do you spend on chess in a day?

I spend 8-9 hours when I'm working intensely.

Before I start rigorous training, I do the daily puzzles. Of course, they’re easy for me. But it feels like your day is starting on a good note😀

If goddess Caissa could give you a chess superpower, what would you prefer it to be?

If I could get the lost time on the clock, it would be nice😀

It’s better than reading the opponent’s mind, as it would only create chaos in your head.

Advice to ambitious chess players.

Start following the game and grab as many opportunities as you can.

The problem with my generation of players, like Karthikeyan, Arvind, Abhimanyu, was that we were strong, but the resources were not there in India at the time. It was difficult to find sponsors and all.

Now the environment is conducive. Many young players have sponsors and support.

It would’ve been much easier if we got opportunities a bit earlier. 

But I’ve nothing to complain about my journey…


We would like to thank Patricia Aguilar Claros for the picture used on the cover.

You can send your congratulations and well wishes to GM SL Narayanan under this forum thread.

Originally published Oct 30, 2023

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