Delhi International Open Chess: Naidistch starts favourite; Abhijeet leads Indian challenge

Despite a hike in prize money, none of the top-eight Indian players have signed up for the Delhi International Open while World number 41, Arkadij Naiditsch, heads the field.

World No. 41 Arkadij Naiditsch of Azerbaijan heads the field in the Delhi International Open chess tournament that begins in New Delhi on Tuesday.   -  Special Arrangement

Ironical as it appears, most of the leading Indian names continue to shun the cash-rich Delhi International Open chess tournament even when World No. 41, Azerbaijan’s Arkadij Naiditsch deems it fit to lead the formidable field.

The steep hike in prize-money – that stands at Rs. 77,77,777 – better venue and playing conditions have not impressed the top-eight players from the Indian list.

READ: Country’s richest chess event becomes richer

Although no one expects names like Viswanathan Anand and P. Hari Krishna to be even remotely interested in this event, the rest have consistently stayed away. In fact, only nine out of 50 Indian GMs have shown interest.

As a result, former champion Abhijeet Gupta, ranked ninth, heads the Indian challenge. Deep Sengupta, two-time former National champion M. Karthikeyan, Diptayan Ghosh, reigning National champion M. R. Lalit Babu and Vaibhav Suri are other Indians with a rating of over 2500 in the 10-round contest.

Asked for the plausible reason behind the less-than-formidable home challenge, All India Chess Federation secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan said, “I can think of only one reason: They are scared to face some of the lesser-rated players of the country. These little-known players are capable of pulling off upsets without thinking about the reputations. Some of our GMs do not want to risk losing their rating in an event which boasts of good depth of talent.”

Going by the numbers, the field has 27 Grandmasters and 24 International Masters among 89 titled-players out of the estimated entry list of 260 players in the ‘A’ category. Among the IMs. P. Karthikeyan is the highest rated at 2497. Moreover, the only Woman
Grandmaster in the field is the three-time former National ladies champion Mary Ann Gomes.

In terms of reputation, Naiditsch 32, is the obvious favourite. Rated 2701, he has also become the highest-ranked player to play in an open event in the country. He touched 2700 for the first time in April 2009 and attained his career-high rating of 2737 in December 2013 to be ranked 18th in the world.

The prospects of defending champion and second seed Farrukh Amonatov looks bright. The progress of USA’s Timur Gareyev, the fourth seed who entered the Guinness Book of Records for simultaneously playing 48 games blindfold in December 2016, will be curiously watched.

Leading players:

1. Arkadij Naiditsch (Aze, 2701), 2. Farrukh Amonatov (Tjk, 2636), 3. Abhijeet Gupta (2610), 4. Timur Gareyev (USA, 2605), 5. Ivan Rozum (Rus, 2595), 6. Deep Sengupta (2586), 7. Sergei Tiviakov (Ned, 2584), 8. M. Karthikeyan (2580), 9. Yuri Solodovnichenko (Ukr, 2571), 10. Adam Tukhaev (Ukr, 2570)
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