Another feather in Sasi's cap

KRISHNAN SASIKIRAN added another international title to his growing list of conquests.

RAKESH RAO

K. Sasikiran (right), who won the title, poses with the runner-up, Abhijit Kunte. — Pic. R. V. MOORTHY-

KRISHNAN SASIKIRAN added another international title to his growing list of conquests. Still one could not miss the disappointment writ large on Sasikiran's face after he had gained a draw needed to claim the honours in the third Parsvnath International Open chess tournament in New Delhi. He rued the opportunity to finish it off with a victory over young Uzbek Anton Fillipov.

Indeed, Sasikiran is not the one to be satisfied with winning titles alone. At this stage of his career, he is looking to raise his international rating points. More than the fact that the missed opportunity in the final round was worth Rs. 25,000, Sasikiran lamented the loss of the chance to gain a couple of rating points.

Eventually, Sasikiran and Abhijit Kunte, the top two seeds, tied with nine points before the Chennai-based Grandmaster took the winner's trophy with a superior progressive score. The prize-money was shared with the players taking Rs. 1.25 lakhs each.

The field for the third edition of the event was affected by the postponement of the Asian championship in Kochi due to Tsunami strike. Many GMs who had confirmed their participation in New Delhi, as a warm-up exercise before the Asian meet, stayed away.

But credit to Sasikiran that he honoured his commitment and saved the organisers an awkward situation. Following the withdrawals, the number of GMs slipped to just six, with only Russian Alexander Fominyh and Uzbek Dmitry Kayumov being the overseas challengers. Sasikiran, Kunte, Dibyendu Barua and former champion R. B. Ramesh completed the list.

Even as Sasikiran and Kunte justified their seedings, Barua turned out to be the biggest disappointment of the event. He lost twice and drew three games to finish a distant 31st with 7.5 points. Ramesh, after his second round loss to Bangladesh's Mohammad Javed, bounced right back into contention before surrendering to Sasikiran in the penultimate round. Ramesh, despite finishing 11th, managed to marginally increase his rating from this event.

Kayumov, after starting his campaign with a draw against Lucknow-based Junaid Ahmad, never really threatened the front-runners. He lost to K. Ratnakaran and drew two other matches but won the last three rounds for a creditable eighth-place finish.

Fominyh's customary late-charge never came as he was put down firmly by Filippov in the 10th round and the veteran Russian settled for the 12th spot.

In fact, the overseas International Masters gave a much better account of themselves. Bangladesh's Enamul Hossain came third while Filippov settled for the fifth place. Hossain proved the biggest surprise of the event. Before finishing his campaign with friendly draws against Kunte and Ramesh, he had held Sasikiran, Asian junior champion S. Arun Prasad and the seasoned Varugeese Koshy during his unbeaten run.

Filippov, with five draws and six victories, put behind his poor show in the recently concluded Asian junior championship at Bikaner. Rated at 2483, Filippov performed at 2567 and gained 11 rating points.

Coming back to Sasikiran and Kunte, the performances came on expected lines. Sasikiran was a wee bit lucky to win the second round against Chaitanya Vaidya after the youngster had overlooked a drawing possibility following the Grandmaster's last move and resigned. Later in the afternoon, K. Visweswaran had Sasikiran in a spot of bother but made a draw-offer to end all excitement. In the remainder of the event, Sasikiran cruised along without being in danger of losing.

Kunte played true to his happy-go-lucky image. Unlike Sasikiran, Kunte was involved in four short draws after winning the first three rounds. Eventually, it was Kunte's ability to strike with white pieces — 5.5 points from six games — that made his tally look impressive.

S. Satyapragyan, the mild-mannered man from Indian Airlines, moved to the fourth spot almost unnoticed. One of the leaders after the fourth round, Satyapragyan drew five of the next six matches before winning against M. S. Thej Kumar in the longest final-round match.

The event also saw R. Balasubramaniam accomplish a rare feat on way to his International Master title-norm. The humble man from Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, defeated M. B. Muralidharan in the 10th round to gain the coveted title. Interestingly, Balasubramanium's earlier two norms had come in the two previous editions of the championship.

Kolkata's Mary Ann Gomes achieved the only other norm from the event. The youngster, playing her first open event, collected 7.5 points for a maiden Woman International Master norm. Armed with a modest rating of 2207, Mary faced opposition with an average rating of 2303 and performed like a 2375 player for a whopping 35-point gain.

In terms of gain in rating, Uzbek Bahodir Holmirzaev benefited the most. Rated at 2161, Holmiraev scored 7.5 points while performing at 2447 and earned 57 points.

On the organisation front, the event received compliments from all quarters. In a commendable gesture, the Delhi Chess Association returned the entry fees of Rs. 3000 and Rs. 2,000 paid by norm-makers Mary and Balasubramaniam.

However, the prize-giving ceremony witnessed some unpleasant scenes when the All India Chess Federation secretary P. T. Ummer Koya staged a walkout following Kunte's plea that the 10 per cent of prize-money collected from the players between June 1, 2004 and December 31, 2004 be reimbursed. In his speech, Bharat Singh Chauhan, one of the joint secretaries of the AICF went on to describe the now-withdrawn 10 per cent "cut" as a "black law" and justified the players' demands.

The majority of country's Grandmasters and International Masters have come together under the banner of "Chess Players' Association of India" to fight for players' rights. So far, the AICF has brushed aside players' charges as baseless. CPAI president Dibyendu Barua and Nisha Mohota were served show cause notices for the statements made to the media during the launch of CPAI in Kolkata in December. The CPAI has raised the issue of Nisha's exclusion from the list of those who represented India in the Asian women's chess championship in Beirut.

With both sides firmly on a collision course, the last word on the subject is yet to be heard.

Final placings

1-2. K. Sasikiran and Abhijit Kunte (9 points); 3-7. Enamul Hossain, S. Satyapragyan, Anton Filippov (Uzb), Dmitry Kayumov (Uzb) and K. Ratnakaran (8.5); 8-15. Deep Sengupta, R. R. Laxman, Himanshu Sharma, R. B. Ramesh, Alexander Fominyh (Rus), Saptarshi Roy, S. Arun Prasad and Saptarshi Roy Choudhury.

Other prize-winners: Mary Ann Gomes (Best Woman Player); Sanjoy Singh and Shakespeare (under-10), M. R. Lalit Babu and Sethuraman (under-12); B. Adhiban and I. Ramya Krishna (under-14); Abhijeet Gupta and Arun Kartick (under-16); Sankalp Modwal (best Delhi junior); Pallavi Dutta (best Delhi woman player); Sahaj Grover and Sanchit Chauhan (Best Delhi under-2000 rated players).