A depleted field

THREE National chess tournaments were held at Vijayawada recently — the National junior girls, the Immortal Five FIDE-rating and the National Cities championships.

A. JOSEPH ANTONYA. JOSEPH ANTONY

The winners in the National junior girls' event. From right: N. Raghavi (gold), Y. Pratibha (silver) and N. Sandhya (bronze). The three girls thus made it to the Indian squad for the Asian and World junior girls' championships. -- Pic. CH. VIJAYA BHASKAR-

THREE National chess tournaments were held at Vijayawada recently — the National junior girls, the Immortal Five FIDE-rating and the National Cities championships.

Coming as they did close on the heels of the September 19-25 Piloo Mody tournament at Lucknow, clashing head on with the Rs. 5 lakhs international championship at Saharanpur and before the Parsvnath international tourney at Delhi, the field at Vijayawada looked depleted. The considerable prize money on offer at these top events attracted the leading players, crippling participation in the Vijayawada competitions.

While a packed calendar and events offering sizeable cash prizes will be a matter of pride for the All India Chess Federation (AICF), the cause of these so-called `National' events is hardly served when they are scheduled along with or so close to these `attractive' tournaments. The National Cities championship was most seriously hit, in that Kanchipuram was the only team from outside the State.

This was cause for much concern and the organisers obtained the AICF's approval to allow participation of teams from smaller towns and corporations. And so it transpired that sides in the fray included Guntur, Tenali and Rajahmundry, all of them quite close to Vijayawada.

Lest someone should sneer, the competition may not have been high-profile but was definitely not sub-standard in that the Andhra region has become a fertile ground for producing players of prodigious talent with assembly-line regularity. The host side for instance had Ch. Kesavananda Krishna, a former under-14 National champion, who had taken on Vladimir Kramnik in the world under-14 championships at Puerto Rico in 1989.

There was also G. V. Srinivasa Rao, who's sought after like Krishna in Pune, by parents keen to have their children coached by these players, although there are Grandmasters right there in that city. The spotlight has finally been turned on Krishna's calibre, since he's been chosen as the coach to accompany the Indian teams for the World Youth Championships in Greece.

The world meet had captivated Dronavalli Harika so much that the Guntur lass decided to give the National junior girls' championships the skip, although she could have had a hat-trick were she to compete this time round and win.

Mari Arul, winner of the Immortal Five Open. -- Pic. CH. VIJAYA BHASKAR-

The players who took part included Asian junior champion Y. Prathiba, runner-up J. E. Kavitha and bronze medal winner Saheli Nath. Also featuring in the eight-day meet were National under-18 girls' champion P. Priya, internationals Eesha Karvade of Pune and Kruttika Nadig of Maharashtra, National `A' players Baisakhi Das and Koneru Chandrahawsa besides Asian under-10 champion Lakshmi Sahiti, former National sub-junior champion N. Vinutna and National under-12 winner, Lakshmi Praneetha.

Amidst all these popular names, the player who stole the thunder was the low profile and soft-spoken N. Raghavi. The Capa Chess Academy lass from Chennai, who recorded an outright win in the ninth and last round over K. Chandrahawsa, not only quelled the latter's challenge for the crown, but also from Prathiba and Karvade.

N. Sandhya surfaced as another surprise package, easing out Karvade for the third slot, after Prathiba finished second on a higher progressive score. The trio of Raghavi, Prathiba and Sandhya thus made the Indian squad for the Asian and World junior girls' championships.

S. Mari Arul claimed the title in the Immortal Five all India open FIDE-rating tournament with eight points after 11 rounds. Tied with eight points along with K. N. Gopal and A. Sankar, Arul's half-point progressive score margin saw him emerge the winner. The Southern Railway enquiry-cum-reservation clerk faced the stiffest challenge from Raj Kumar in one of the early rounds but otherwise found the going easy.

The Kanchipuram team which won the National Cities championship. -- Pic. CH. VIJAYA BHASKAR-

Earlier, Arul clinched the board prize as a member of the Kanchipuram squad that retained the National Cities championship title. The Tamil Nadu side was always a cut above the rest although it had only 2.5 points more than Hyderabad. That difference, equivalent to two wins and a draw or five draws, was enough indication of the competition being keen, despite the absence of some of the leading sides.

The final placings (progressive scores in brackets):

National junior girls: 1. N. Raghavi 7.5, 2. Y. Prathiba (38.5), N. Sandhya (35.5), Eesha Karvade (33.5) 7 each, 5. P. Priya 6.5 (37.5).

Immortal Five Open: 1. S. Mari Arul (54), K. N. Gopal (53.5), A. Sankar (50) 8 each, 4. Sankar Roy (51), Praveen Prasad (48.5) 7.5.

National Cities: 1. Kanchipuram 17 (T. Krishnan, Mari Arul, A. Sankar, G. Lakshmi Narayanan), 2. Hyderabad 14.5 (J. Ramakrishna, P. Praveen Prasad, M.V. Ramdas, V. Kameswara Rao), 3. Vijayawada 13.5 (J. Malleswara Rao, Ch. Kesavananda Krishna, M. Srinivasa Rao, Sk. Khasim).