Marat Dzhumaev, one of the six players from Uzbekistan, was understandably delighted after he beat compatriot Saidali Iuldachev in the final round. The win gave him the title.P. K. AJITH KUMAR
IN a field of 83, 12 were Grandmasters. Then there were 21 International Masters, six Woman Grandmasters and three Woman International Masters. And there was just one unrated player. The International Open tournament, held at Le Royale Residency Club in Pune in September, was indeed a huge event. But it was dwarfed, predictably, by a 10-player event held elsewhere in the same hall — the Category 16 Super GM tourney.
The super tournament — the biggest of its kind in India ever — wasn't the only thing that overshadowed the Open though. A controversy regarding the norms also came up, as one of the strongest open chess tournaments held in India of late drew to a close.
"It's definitely the toughest event I've played in recent times," said K. Ratnakaran, the Kerala player who failed to keep momentum after joining the leaders with a shock victory over GM R. B. Ramesh in the fifth round. "There simply was no easy point, unlike in many open tournaments."Delighted
Marat Dzhumaev, one of the six players from Uzbekistan, was understandably delighted after he beat compatriot Saidali Iuldachev in the final round. The win gave him the title.
It was a career-best performance for the young Uzbek, a familiar face in international tournaments over the last few years. He finished with 7.5 points from 10 rounds, half-a-point ahead of top seed Evgeny Vladimirov of Kazakhstan, Alexander Fominyh of Russia and the three Indians, Sundarrajan Kidambi, Pravin Thipsay and Tejas Bakre, who tied for the second to sixth places, in that order.
Kidambi indeed was the pick of the Indians. The 21-year-old IM from Chennai, fresh from his triumph at the Olomuc Open in the Czech Republic, drew his final round encounter with Fominyh, only to be told immediately by another Indian player, S. Satyapragyan, that he was actually winning the game. "I was under time pressure, and had just a minute left," said Kidambi, who had shocked ninth seed Alexei Barsov of Uzbekistan in the penultimate round. "Yes, it would've been nice to finish with one more victory against a GM rival. But it's been a good tournament for me otherwise."
Arghyadip Das was another youngster who impressed. The Kolkatan finished 12th, a creditable effort for someone seeded 43rd.
It was an interesting tournament as many of the higher seeds suffered unexpected defeats at the hands of young Indians. Most of them, however, were disappointed that they couldn't make their norms. Some of them did score enough points to secure a norm, but couldn't meet the required number of foreign rivals. "That condition could've been waived only if there were 20 rated players from abroad, but since there weren't that many here, I could issue only certificates stating that they had otherwise fulfilled the requirements," said the Chief Arbiter Abdul Majid Hamid from Malaysia. "But we should remember that the organisers didn't advertise this as a norm tournament."
The players and their parents felt the organisers should have ensured the participation of at least 20 foreigners. "We were under the impression that this was very much a norm tournament, with so many GMs and IMs playing," they said. "We wouldn't have paid huge entry fees, like Rs. 12,000 or Rs. 10,000, just to play in an open tournament with little chances of norms."
The organisers said that they weren't aware of the rule about 20 foreigners till it was too late. "I'm disappointed that the tournament ended in such a controversy," said Joseph D'Souza, secretary, Pune District Chess Association, which hosted both the Open and Category 16 tournaments. "We will insure that such things would not happen in the future. We have plans to conduct more open tournaments, and we are also thinking of staging the World Cup or a big event with Viswanathan Anand next year."
The All India Chess Federation (AICF) secretary P. T. Ummer Koya said that the issue had been blown out of proportions. "It was created by certain `anti-chess elements' and it was given undue prominence by certain sections of the media," he said. "Eesha Karvade in fact met the requirements to make a WGM norm, and that shows it was possible to get a norm. If a player performed well in this tournament, he or she could've got the opportunity to meet players of different nationalities."Chances slim
The players, though, said that since there were very few foreigners, most of whom were GMs, playing on the top boards, the chances to meet them were very slim. They however expressed hopes that the AICF would take a lenient stance in the matter, as players such as Tania Sachdev, Kruttika Nadig, G. N. Gopal and Arghyadip have made the required number of points for norms (Tania for WGM, Kruttika for WIM and Gopal and Arghyadip for IM), besides Eesha.
There's another thing the organisers of international tournaments could bear in mind when they invite foreign players: to have more players from different countries, rather than having many from the same country. That would increase the norm possibilities, at least.The standings (Indians unless stated)
1. Marat Dzhumaev (Uzb) 7.5/10; 2-6. Evgeny Vladimirov (Kaz), Alexander Fominyh (Rus), Sundarrajan Kidambi, Praveen Thipsay and Tejas Bakre 7; 7-13. Alexei Barsov (Uzb), Saidali Iuldachev (Uzb), Ruslan Scherbakov (Rus), Dibyendu Barua, Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury, Arghyadip Das and Atanu Lahiri 6.5; 14-24. B. S. Sivanandan, Sriram Jha, S. Vijayalakshmi, Tahir Vakhidov (Uzb), M. R. Venkatesh, Sharad Tilak, R. B. Ramesh, Shukhrat Safin (Uzb), Himanshu Sharma, G. N. Gopal and S. Satyapragyan 6.