Sunday, September 29, 2013

Justin Sarkar Overcomes Obstacles, Obtains GM Norm

International Master Justin Sarkar finished =2nd-5th at the 2013 U.S. Masters Championship with a score of 6.5/9. He gained 44 USCF rating points, putting him at 2531--just 18 points short of his career-high. In addition to that, he obtained his second Grandmaster norm. He now needs one more norm (plus 45 FIDE rating points) for his Grandmaster title to be confirmed. Grandmaster is the most prestigious title in chess other than World Champion. It is quite an accomplishment for anyone to achieve this goal but this is particularly true for Sarkar, who has battled both Asperger's syndrome and depression to reach the elite level in a highly demanding sport/art/science.

Sarkar recently wrote an article for Chess Life Online about his ongoing life and chess transformation. Here is an excerpt:

I attribute my success to working on myself as a person outside of the game more than chess work itself...

Let me next touch upon dealing with depression, not because it's the most stimulating topic but rather to fill a gap. Although I'm undoubtedly far from alone in this world in my struggles with it, I can tell from vast personal experience that it's one of the worst feelings ever and a problem with chemical (not character), thus a true handicap and even unfortunate source of misunderstanding at times with people...

When you really think about it, surprisingly often change is easy whereas it's the resistance to change that gets in one's way. Depressed or not, it’s important to do what we love. And this is the key point: my depression eases when I play chess. Naturally, I am one of the most active players in the country.

In August 2009, I described Sarkar's "perfect game." It is wonderful and inspirational that he continues to overcome obstacles to achieve success not just in the chess world but also in terms of his personal growth and happiness. His character is defined not by the challenges he is facing but by the way that he has confronted those challenges with courage and strength.

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