Consistency pays off

India proved to be a favourite hunting ground for Oliver Barbosa, as the Filipino GM claimed his second title in three appearances in the country. Amitabha Das Sharma has the details.

Oliver Barbosa’s successful run in India continued, as the Grandmaster won his second crown in three appearances in the country after he outperformed a strong field of Indian and East European GMs in the sixth edition of the Kolkata Open International chess recently.

“Frankly, I never expected to win the title till the penultimate round. But my consistency paid off in the end,” said the soft-spoken Filipino after surviving the rigours of the 10-round Swiss League format.

The young Indian Grandmaster, Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, the leader at the end of the ninth round, was the favourite for the title. He needed only a draw in the final round to claim the crown, but playing with white, Vidit suffered a shock defeat against compatriot GM Lalith Babu, who won in a Queen’s Indian Defence.

“Vidit was the perceived champion, but I managed to hold my nerves in the final round and that ensured the title,” said Oliver, who drew his final round match against the Bangladesh GM, Ziaur Rahman, and won Rs. 4 lakh as prize money.

According to Oliver, 27, the victory against Konstantin Landa of Russia was his best in the tournament. “It was a tough match and I could take advantage of the slight edge I enjoyed in the middle-game,” he said.

“There were a good number of players above the 2600-mark. The field got even tougher with the presence of the former World Championship contender, Nigel Short. It feels nice that I could play my game and got the required points for the victory,” added the champion (rating: 2564) after claiming the title with 7.5 points.

The Filipino GM pipped Lalith Babu to the title on better tiebreak score.

“I have preferred to stay in my own country and play the game though most of my countrymen who play chess at the professional level have preferred to migrate to Europe or the USA,” said Oliver, ranked No. 3 in the Philippines.

“There is a special reason for me to like India as this is my second title since I started playing tournaments here two years ago,” said Oliver, who won the 10th Parsvnath International Open Chess in New Delhi in 2012 in his maiden appearance.

Nigel Short, the celebrated English GM, was the main attraction at the start of the tournament. The Englishman, with a rating of 2674, was seeded No. 1 in the tournament, but he failed to show his class as the younger generation of GMs put up a better showing.

“India is definitely a chess superpower and it is nice to see so many talented players coming up each year,” observed Short on seeing seven Indian GMs finish in the top-10.

Short, incidentally, finished 12th. Final Rankings 1. Barbosa Oliver (The Philippines) 7.5 2. M. R. Lalith Babu (India) 7.5 3. Abhijit Kunte (India) 7 4. Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (India) 7 5. Ziaur Rahman (Bangladesh) 7 6. B. Adhiban (India) 7 7. J. Deepan Chakkravarthy (India) 6.5 8. Konstantin Landa (Russia) 6.5 9. S. P. Sethuraman (India) 6.5 10. Deep Sengupta (India) 6.5 11. Avetik Grigoryan (Armenia) 6.5 12. Nigel Short (England) 6.5 13. G. N. Gopal (India) 6.5 14. Mikheil Mchedlishvili (Georgia) 6.5 15. Sergey Fedorchuk (Ukraine) 6.5.