But now, having completed the event this evening after a marathon 7-hour, 90-move epic win against an Israeli Grandmaster, he has not only gained his final International Master norm, but he has also achieved his first Grandmaster norm!
Alan (rated 2269 at the start of the tournament) finished the event on 6 points out of 9. Having been seeded 57th out of 73 competitors, he finished in equal 6th place, alongside four GMs including top seed Michael Adams! He played five GMs and four IMs, losing only two games, both to GMs. Just look at the ratings (and titles) of his opponents:
Round 2 - 2370 IM +
Round 3 - 2528 GM +
Round 4 - 2583 GM -
Round 5 - 2713 GM -
Round 6 - 2492 IM =
Round 7 - 2424 IM +
Round 8 - 2453 GM +
Round 9 - 2501 GM +
Some of you may remember a precocious 8-year old, when he qualified for the UK Chess Challenge Terafinal and nearly beat Sarah Hegarty. Now, nearly ten years on (he celebrates his 18th birthday in a few weeks' time), Alan now has a vital Grandmaster norm to his name. He earned an amazing 79 rating points from the tournament, taking his current 'live' rating to 2348. He will achieve the IM title when his rating reaches 2400, even if this is part way through an event.
It seems many years ago that two young players from Ipswich achieved their undoubted potential when, under the tutelage of Kevin O'Connell, twins Nick and Richard Pert both became International Masters. Nick of course since went on to become a Grandmaster. Nick and Richard were the first 'home-grown' children from Suffolk to reach these heights. Now, some 12 years later, Alan Merry from Great Barton, near Bury St Edmunds, is on the verge of equalling their feat.
To finish a strong tournament such as this with three consecutive wins, against an IM and two GMs, is stupendous. His Round 7 win against Israeli IM Eylon Nakar was extraordinary. I recommend you play through the game below and marvel at some of Alan's moves and the position, especially as the game approaches its conclusion.