Commonwealth Chess C’ship: Abhijeet Gupta eyeing hat-trick as Indians look to dominate

The tournament, which begins on Monday, has a field of 116 players.

Abhijeet Gupta is currently ranked eighth among Indians.   -  C. V. Subrahmanyam

Three-time champion Abhijeet Gupta will be looking for a hat-trick in the Commonwealth chess championship that begins at the luxurious Leela Ambience Convention hotel here on Monday.

Currently ranked eighth in the country with a rating of 2625, Abhijeet will be seeking a record fourth title that will take him past the tally he shares with England’s Nigel Short. The former World junior champion was victorious in Port Elizabeth in 2013, here in 2015 and in Kalutara, Sri Lanka in 2016. In a field of 116 players that includes 16 Grandmasters, 14 International Masters and four Woman Grandmasters, Abhijeet could be tested by two young GMs – Arvindh Chithambaram and local Vaibhav Suri, seeded two and three.

Among the overseas contenders, the GMs from Bangladesh Ziaur Rahman, Abdullah Al-Rakib Mollah and Enamul Hossain, seeded four, 10 and 13, could pose a semblance of challenge to the host’s bid to keep the title.

Interestingly, Pravin Thipsay, the first Indian winner of the Commonwealth title in 1985, returns to the event. Similarly, Niaz Murshed, who became Bangladesh’s first Grandmaster in 1987, will also be seen in action. However, these two seasoned campaigners are not among the serious contenders.

The event also offers opportunity for those looking for GM, WGM, IM and WIM norms. Meanwhile, should M. S. Thej Kumar (rated 2491) gain nine more rating points in the coming days, he will become a Grandmaster having already met the norm-requirements. The host is set to dominate the battle for the ladies crown.

International Masters Tania Sachdev and National champion Padmini Rout, along with WGMs Soumya Swaminathan and Mary Ann Gomes, IM Nisha Mohota and WGM Swati Ghate can be expected to make it difficult for the lower-rated defending champion P. V. Nandhidhaa. With competitions also scheduled in seven age-groups, separately for boys and girls, India is eyeing a total medal sweep. Unlike the last edition when only seven gold medals were offered in the age-groups, this time the tally stands at 14.

Shardul Gagare, a GM seeded 12th in the open section, will be taking part in the open under-20 category as the top seed.

In all, a record 562 entries from 13 countries indicate plenty of action. But the host, offering both quality and quantity, are likely to virtually monopolise the medals at stake.

Top-20 players (Indian unless stated): 1. Abhijeet Gupta (2625), Aravindh Chithambaram (2693), 3. Vaibhav Suri (2558), 4. Ziaur Rahman (Ban, 2527), 5. Swapnil Dhopade (2517), 6. Abhijit Kunte (2504), 7. M. S. Thej Kumar (2491), 8. Sahaj Grover (2484), 9. Deepan Chakravarthy (2482), 10. Abdullah Al Rakib Mollah (Ban, 2480), 11. Ankit Rajpara (2474), 12. Shardul Gagare (2472), 13. Enamul Hossain (Ban, 2455), 14. P. Shyam Nikhil (2450), 15. Tejas Bakre (2449), 16. Pravin Thipsay (2419), 17. Tania Sachdev (2404), 18. Niaz Murshed (Ban, 2399), 19. C. R. G. Krishna (2399), 20. Mohammad Nubairshah Shaikh (2392).