Consistency pays

B. Adhiban proved his mettle by remaining undefeated in the 13 rounds of the Swiss League where he logged 10.5 points to claim to the trophy.-PICS: S. PATRONOBISH

Adhiban, the most accomplished player in the tournament, outran a field of 248 contestants to lift the title. Amitabha Das Sharma reports.

A small change in the format brought about a big transformation in the National ‘B’ chess championship, which was rechristened the National Challenger this year. A group of young players emerged on top, setting up a new hierarchy in the second most important chess tournament in the country.

B. Adhiban, one of the most promising juniors in India, displayed his ability in fair measure as he overcame a field of 248 players to retain the title.

In a bid to make the tournament a very useful one, the AICF (All India Chess Federation) decided to keep the Grandmasters away and turn it into an event for International Masters and below. Adhiban, who is also the world youth under-16 champion, was definitely the most accomplished player among a group of young achievers in international chess. The 17-year-old IM from Chennai, representing the Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) in the tournament, proved his mettle by remaining undefeated in the 13 rounds of the Swiss League where he logged 10.5 points to claim to the trophy.

The other prominent youngsters in the fray were Adhiban’s compatriots who won the gold in the lesser age-group categories of the World Championships last year — Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (the under-14 champion) and Sayantan Das (the under-12 champion). The field also included the talented WGM Mary Ann Gomes, Asian junior girls champion Padmini Rout, GM norm holders Deep Sengupta and M. S. Thejkumar and Himanshu Sharma, the eventual runner-up and the only other player in the tournament not to drop a game.

Having a longer span unlike the usual chess events, the National Challenger championship saw different leaders, but the one to stay on top the longest was Deep Sengupta of PSPB. The soft-spoken IM from Kolkata, having the highest Elo rating of 2488, was given the top billing.

A former world junior champion, Deep had not been performing consistently in the recent past. The tournament, thus, provided him the opportunity to prove himself, which he did in good measure though he missed out on the title in the last lap.

Creditable finish... Deep Sengupta.-

As the top seed Deep started at the top board, slipped up a bit after the second round, where he drew against a relatively unknown Puneet Jaiswal, and then roared back to the top by the sixth round. He defeated the seasoned Railways player and fifth round leader P. D. S. Girinath to take the lead. He remained the sole leader for the next five rounds during the course of which he beat the likes of world under-16 runner-up S. P. Sethuraman and the very promising Vidit Gujrathi, aged 15, before falling to the guiles of Himanshu Sharma in the 11th round.

Deep, who had shown good confidence by playing the right openings and defences so far, faltered for the first time in the 11th round. Following a minor lapse in the middle game, Deep let go an excellent chance to attack on the king-side, which he gained by opting for the Stonewall variation of Dutch Defence. He lost a pawn thereafter and his position crumbled.

Despite the loss Deep led the field with nine points, but another loss in the following round, against his one-time practice partner Mary Ann Gomes, dashed all his hopes of winning the title.

Looking to make it big in the open category Mary Ann, who picked up her maiden IM norm in a tournament in Paris recently, showed flair and imagination, winning four games in succession from the ninth round. Deep was the last big name she conquered before setting up a clash with Adhiban on the top board in the final round.

Congratulating long time friend and competitor Mary Ann for her win, Deep said he lost focus in the last three rounds as he had fever. In fact he had played against the advice of the doctor who had asked him to stay away from the tournament.

A win would have made Mary Ann the first woman National Challenger champion, but she found the white pieces of Adhiban too strong and eventually lost the battle and the chance to make history.

“I really started seeing the title after Deep lost to Himanshu,” said a beaming Adhiban.

Himanshu Sharma.-

A lot of players tied for the second place and the Buchholz system of tiebreak was applied following which Himanshu Sharma (Haryana), with the best tie-break points, took the second spot. Deep had to be content with the third position, while Mary Ann finished a creditable fourth, ahead of M. S. Thejkumar of Railways.

The top 30 players of the tournament qualified for the National ‘A’ championship.

TOP POSITIONS

1. B. Adhiban (PSPB) 10.5; 2. Himanshu Sharma (Haryana) 9.5 (Buchholz tie-break points - 97); 3. Deep Sengupta (PSPB) 9.5 (94); 4. Mary Ann Gomes 9.5 (87.5); 5. M. S. Thejkumar (RSPB) 9.5 (83); 6. Sapatarshi Roy Chowdhury (RSPB) 9 (93); 7. P. D. S. Girinath (RSPB) 9 (91.5); 8. Swapnil Dhopade (Maharashtra) 9 (89.5-74); 9. Padmini Rout (Orissa) 9 (89.5-73.5); 10. Somak Palit (Bengal) 9 (89.5-73); 11. Joydeep Dutta (Bengal) 9 (89); 12. T. Abhay (TN) 9 (88.5-73.5); 13. B. T. Murali Krishnan (RSPB) 9 (88.5-73); 14. Anwesh Upadhyay (Orissa) 9 (88.5-72); 15. Arvind Shastry (Karnataka) 9 (87.5); 16. Narayanan Srinath (TN) 9 (87); 17. K. Priyadharshan (TN) 9 (82.5); 18. R. Balasubramaniam (RSPB) 9 (82); 19. D. P. Singh (RSPB) 9 (79.5); 20. Vidit Gujrathi (Maharashtra) 8.5 (94.5); 21. Rahul Sangma (Delhi) 8.5 (90.5); 22. M. Shaymsundar (TN) 8.5 (89-73.5-64.75); 23. R. Ramnath Bhuvanesh (TN) 8.5 (89-73.5-64); 24. P. Maheswaran (TN) 8.5 (89-73); 25. P. Shyam Nikil (TN) 8.5 (88); 26. Anurag Mhamal (Goa) 8.5 (86.5); 27. Varugeese Koshy (TN) 8.5 (86-71); 28. N. Sudhakar Babu (IB) 8.5 (86-70.5-65); 29. Syed Anwar Shazuli (RSPB) 8.5 (86-70.5-63.25); 30. Matta Vinay Kumar (AB) 8.5 (85.5).