The country’s richest prize-money chess tournament is back with bigger prize-money on offer. The 18th edition of the Delhi International Open Grandmasters chess tournament has attracted more Grandmasters than before and promises a thrilling fare over 10 rounds, beginning at the Indira Gandhi Stadium here on Thursday.

The event, divided into three categories, offers a prize-money of ₹1.11 crore — an increase of ₹10 lakh from last year.

The magnitude and the stature of the event could be gauged from the fact that the two preceding International Opens — in Bhopal and Mumbai — offered prize-funds of ₹14.14 lakh and ₹17 lakh respectively. The one to follow in Chennai from January 18 offers ₹15 lakh.

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A record 38 Grandmasters will be seen in action in Category ‘A’ that alone offers ₹39 lakh. Categories ‘B’ and ‘C’, meant for those rated below 1899 and 1499, respectively, have a prize-fund of ₹36 lakh each.

Like last year, 2017 champion Tajikistan’s Farrukh Amanatov heads the elite field. Presence of 25 players, with rating of over 2500, reflects the strength of the field.

Five-year title drought

Among the Indian title-contenders, twice National champion Murali Karthikeyan and former champion Abhijeet Gupta, seeded three and five, can be expected to give the large presence of overseas GMs a tough fight.

In fact, only four Indians — R. B. Ramesh (2003), K. Sasikiran (2005), Abhijeet Gupta (2008 and 2014) and Surya Shekhar Ganguly (2009) — have won the title here. It remains to be seen whether the five-year title-drought of Indian contenders ends this time.


Abhijeet Gupta finished seventh in the Mumbai International Open. He is seeded fifth for this competition. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty


Going by the form of the leading Indians in the fray, it looks difficult. On Tuesday, Abhijeet finished seventh after being the top seed of the Mumbai International Open. Karthikeyan, too, is looking to regain his form.

With the rules of accelerated pairings for the first two rounds in force, it is good news for those seeking various norms. In another welcome move, the tournament rules stipulate that players cannot agree for a draw before black’s 30th move.

So far, the entries in the two lower categories are less than last year’s tally owing to intense cold wave conditions and the sporadic anti-CAA protests in the Capital.

In Category ‘A’, as compared to last year’s figures of 322, the figure has touched 347. In ‘B’, which also starts on Thursday, the figure stands at 722. For ‘C’, scheduled to begin on January 13th, already 1008 entries have been received.

Progression of increase in prize-money of country’s richest International Open chess event (last five years):