I became national champion in 1979, at the age of 13. In the same year, Bangladesh obtained the membership of FIDE [World Chess Federation]. That opened the path for me.
In the same year, I played my first international tournament in Kolkata. Later that year, I became 2nd in the Asian zonal chess competition and earned my International Master title. After receiving IM title, I started playing in European competitions. From 1982, I started competing in countries like Denmark, Switzerland, Russia, the United Kingdom, former Yugoslavia and many other countries.
The second edition of Commonwealth Chess Championship took place in Hong Kong. I participated in that competition and became second. Many grandmasters, mainly from the UK and Canada, played in that tournament. With this result I earned my first GM norm, consisting of 10 games.
As per FIDE regulations, I needed to complete 24 games in norms to become a Grand Master. Although I did well in the first half of 1984, the remaining part of 1984 and entire 1985 went dull for me. But in the beginning of 1986, I had my big chance. In February 1986, Tata steel sponsored a big chess tournament in Kolkata. I came second in the tournament securing a 13 game norm.
After that there was a decline in my performance but I recovered promptly. In a competition in Kolkata I again found my winning streak. At that time, there was a big chess tournament in Dhaka too where I succeeded.
Altogether I had completed 23 games. The Asian Zone-9, where Bangladesh belongs, includes countries from the entire South and west Asia. I was the first chess player to apply for GM title from Zone-9, therefore the FIDE authority decided to award me the Grand Master title after 23 games, sparing the last one.
At that time, FIDE used to hold their congress in every two years. So, basically I fulfilled my norm in 1986, but by the time the next congress happened, the title announcement was delayed to March, 1987.
When the declaration was made, I was not in Bangladesh. I was studying in the University of Pennsylvania. I was in my room in the dormitory, suddenly the warden called me in his office and said that I have achieved the GM title.
As you can imagine, in 1987 there was no internet or websites, only telephones. So the federation called the warden’s office to inform me. That was one of the biggest moments of my life!
After that, the federation sent me tickets to come back to Dhaka. I arrived, received a grand reception. I was on the front page of every newspapers in the country.
Samiur Rahman writes the interview
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