Creditable show

Ivana Maria Furtado has joined a select band of Indian chess players such as Anand, Hari Krishna, Humpy and Harika who have won at least two world chess Championships.-

The narrow misses indicate that the future is bright for our youngsters, writes Manuel Aaron.

Indian youngsters had a few successes and many near misses in the U-8, 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18 categories at the World Youth Chess Championships held at Antalya, Turkey, in November.

Ivana Maria Furtado of Goa is a name that we will hear more in the future. She has joined a select band of Indian chess players such as Anand, Hari Krishna, Humpy and Harika who have won at least two World Chess Championships.

Ivana became the World Under-8 girls’ champion in Turkey in a calm manner, with no show of emotion. Born on March 16, 1999, Ivana is a child who does not realise the greatness of her achievement. She had won the same World title at Batuumi, Georgia, in 2006 for the first time at the age of seven.

It would be no big surprise, if Ivana breaks the records for becoming the youngest master and Grandmaster.

In this category, two other Indians played well too, but were over-shadowed by the euphoria surrounding Ivana’s triumph. P. Preethy of Pondicherry (8th) and Ivana’s conqueror in the fifth round, C. H. Megna of Kochi (10th), could be expected to win laurels for India in the future. India will look forward to triumphs at various levels by Ivana and these two girls.

In the boys’ Under-10, Prince Bajaj of Ghaziabad, won the bronze. He is no stranger to winning titles as he had won the Asian U-8 gold in 2006. He played so well in the early rounds that it was enough for him to draw his last game to claim the bronze. Born in 1998, he has the advantage of being eligible to play in the World U-10 again, and aim for victory.

Shalmali Gagare, who won the World U-14 girls’ bronze, is India’s reigning National U-15 girls’ champion and runner-up in the National U-13. A fighter over the board, Shalmali who lives near Shirdi in Maharasthra with her doctor parents and younger brother Shardul, hopes to win the gold medal next year in the same age group. The U-14 girls’ category should be India’s best bet in 2008 as Orissa’s Padmini Rout and Chennai’s J. Mohanapriya are both 1994 born. They finished sixth and 10th in Turkey. Mohanapriya’s performance in the girls’ U-14 earned her an unexpected Woman International Master norm!

The first two of the trio of Mary Ann Gomes (Kolkata), Kiran Manisha Mohanty (Bhubaneswar) and R. Preethi (Madurai) who shook up the girls’ U-18 section in the first-half would be age-barred for the U-18 event next year. But Preethi, a bold and aggressive player, is India’s medal hope in 2008 as she has qualified from the National U-17 girls’ championship in Cuttack a few months ago.

M. Mahalakshmi, the girls’ World U-8 bronze medallist in 2006, finished 11th in the girls’ U-10 event. She is eligible to play in next year’s U-10 again which gives the hope of a medal in Vung Tau, Vietnam, 2008.

In girls’ U-12, Priyanka Kumari from Jamshedpur scored eight points but missed the bronze by half a point. Next year, Priyanka is eligible to play in the U-14.

In the U-8, Harshal Shahi (10th), Arjun Bharat (15th) and G. V. Revanth Reddy (17th) finished on 7.5 points. With good preparation, physical fitness and developing adaptability to foreign conditions, these youngsters should be India’s new generation of medal winners. Harshal, for example, was throwing up and running temperature during the last few rounds in Turkey.

Sahaj Grover, Shiven Khosla, G. V. Sai Krishna and Fenil Shah in the U-12 and Vidit Gujarathi, N. Srinath and International Master S. P. Sethuraman in the U-14 should have got the nation at least two medals between them. But there is every reason to feel that their result was an aberration and 2008 would be different.

In the U-16, Asian U-14 champion S. Nitin from Salem, scoring 7.5 points, was only one point behind the champion. As Nitin can again play in the U-16 in 2008, he is a medal prospect.

In four of the 12 categories, the world champions scored only 8.5 points from 11 rounds. Shalmali Gagare’s bronze medal winning score was 7.5. There were 10 other Indian boys and girls who scored 7.5 or 8.0 points in other categories but still went without medals. And 16 Indians scored seven points each. The narrow misses indicate that the future is bright for our youngsters. They should go for gold.