Good show by the host

THE host at Nakhichevan in Azerbaijan had reasons to be happy at the end of the World junior chess championships.

ARVIND AARON

Shakhriyaz Mamedyarov, the boys' champion.-Pic. ARVIND AARON

THE host at Nakhichevan in Azerbaijan had reasons to be happy at the end of the World junior chess championships. Shakhriyaz Mamedyarov, the top-rated Grandmaster, won the boys' title with a quick final round draw, while in the girls' section, fourth-seeded Woman Grandmaster Zeinab Mamedyarova picked up the bronze medal by rallying in the final rounds. Nana Dzagnidze, 16, of Georgia, won the girls' title in a convincing manner, finishing ahead of others by a two-point margin.

The 50-player boys' section was a well-contested affair. Mamedyarov pulled back after a difficult start, which included a defeat to India's Magesh Chandran in the second round. The 17-year-old fought well after that defeat and never looked back.

India had a large representation in the event, consisting of 12 players — seven boys and five girls — but returned empty-handed. Dronavalli Harika played well and was in the second place for quite some time. Then she fell apart coming up with three draws and suffering a defeat in the last four rounds. Her fourth place finish was the best for the Indians in Azerbaijan. The other player who missed a medal in the final round was International Woman Master Tania Sachdev. She was sitting pretty and a victory would have left her in a tie for the silver-bronze medals. But she could not convert a queen and knight advantage against two rooks and messed up her chances.

However, Eesha Karavade of Pune made her final IWM norm from the event to become India's next International Woman Master. Indian women's chess has come a long way since Jayashree Khadilkar became the country's first IWM in 1979.

The girls' event was a clear one-horse race with Nana Dzagnidze of Georgia amassing a huge total of 9.5 points from her 11 games to win the title with a round to spare. She was lucky in two games, though. She won eight games and drew three for her career best result to become Georgia's next Woman Grandmaster. The news of this success should be welcome for the Georgians whose domination of women's chess ended when Xie Jun won the individual world women's title in 1991 and China clinched the Chess Olympiad in Elista 1998. Not long ago, Nino Khurtsidze of Georgia had won the World junior title at Kozhikode in 1993 and made it to the Georgian Olympic team. It should be good news that young Georgians are knocking at the door. Dzagnidze, born on January 1, 1987, is ranked No. 7 in the world among junior girls. She is listed as an IWM in the July 2003 rating list but in the October 1, 2003 list she would be upgraded as a Woman Grandmaster.

Harika started as the fifth seed and deserved a better finish. She appeared a bit tired in the final stages of the 11-round event. She started well (3.5/4) and was breathing down the neck of Dzagnidze for most part of the competition. Her medal hopes vanished in the last two rounds when she made costly draws. However, Harika showed signs of toughness and is a vastly improved player.

Tania Sachdev started as the eighth seed and finished sixth and it was not a big disappointment. Eesha Karvade, the 11th seed, finished seventh and held the winner Dzagnidze to a draw in the final round to complete her third IWM norm.

Saheli Nath, who started well, spoilt her chances in the end making just 1.5/5. She finished 13th, six places ahead of her rating expectancy. Mahima Rajmohan, the 15th seed, was in poor form and finished 24th.

The Indian girls performed better than the boys for the simple reason that the boys were expected to deliver more. In the boys' competition, it was a much closer contest and the fortunes fluctuated till the last round. Mamedyarov had the white pieces and a half-point lead. Azarov, in second place, also had white. Mamedyarov, who had a better tie-break score, agreed to a draw to take the title, which included the gold medal. Later, Azarov also played a draw to clinch the silver. For the bronze medal, three Indians — Surya Sekhar Ganguly, Pendyala Harikrishna and Gogineni Rohit had chances if they won their last round. Ganguly and Harikrishna only drew to finish on eight points while Rohit lost to stay on 7.5 points. The bronze medal went to Alexander Zubov of Ukraine, who scored 8.5 points.

Clearly, the result was a disappointment for both Ganguly and Harikrishna who finished behind their seeding. Ganguly makes an exit from the junior stage while Harikrishna will continue to make attempts to win this title in the future. The only Indian to win the title is Viswanathan Anand, who won this event in the Philippines in 1987. Koneru Humpy had won the World junior girls' crown in Greece in 2001. She was ranked No. 1 among junior girls but she preferred not to play.

Gogineni Rohit was a surprise from the Indian contingent. A last round victory would have ensured a medal but a blunder of king side pawns cost him dearly. He started as the 24th seed and finished 17th and one can expect good results from him in the future.

Magesh Chandran, the International Master from Chennai, downed the top-seed and ultimate champion Mamedyarov in the second round. But a weak run in the middle stages of the tournament fetched him only 2.5/7 and he could not finish among the top 10. He started as the 17th seed and finished 18th.

International Master Deepan Chakravarthy had problems with the black pieces at the start. However, in the last four rounds he scored three points from four games to finish 19th, two places above his start rank. India's new National sub-junior champion S. Arun Prasad finished 33rd, one place below his start rank (determined by Elo rating) by making draws towards the end of the competition. He did not win a game after round five. Abhijeet Gupta shocked Harikrishna in the second round but did not do well in the second half of the competition. He finished 35th, eight placings below his start rank.

Overall, the large Indian participation was a healthy sign. The Indians know what it costs to play in these events after the country hosted this annual event in 1993 and 1998 at Kozhikode and in 2002 at Goa. The low number of entries received was mainly attributed to the remote venue, since many Latin American and African nations could not make it.

The final placings:

Boys: 1. Shakhriyaz Mamedyarov (Aze) 10/13, 2. Sergei Azarov (Blr) 9.5, 3. Alexander Zubov (Ukr) 8.5, 4-7. Kadir Guseinov (Aze), Vugar Gashimov (Aze), Vitaly Bachin (Rus), Sergey Erenburg (Isr) 8.5 each, 8-10. S. S. Ganguly (Ind), P. Harikrishna (Ind), Levan Pantsulaia (Geo) 8 each, 17. Gogineni Rohit (Ind) 7.5, 18-19. P. Magesh Chandran (Ind), J. Deepan Chakravarthy (Ind) 7 each, 33. S. Arun Prasad (Ind) 6, 35. Abhijeet Gupta (Ind) 5.5.

Girls: 1. Nana Dzagnidze (Geo) 9.5/11, 2-3. Cristina Calotescu (Rom), Zeinab Mamedyarova (Aze) 7.5 each, 4-5. Dronavalli Harika (Ind), Ekaterina Ubiennykh (Rus) 7 each, 6-10. Tania Sachdev (Ind), Eesha Karavade (Ind), Maria Sergeeva (Kaz), Meihriban Shukurova (Aze), Ioulia Makka (Gre) 6.5 each, 13. Saheli Nath (Ind) 5.5, 24. Mahima Rajmohan (Ind) 4.

The moves: IM P. Magesh Chandran (Ind, 2419)-GM Shakhriyaz Mamedyarov (Aze, 2607), round two, Sicilian Sveshnikov, B33: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3 Ne7 12.Nxf6+ gxf6 13.g3 Bb7 14.Bg2 f5 15.Qe2 fxe4 16.Bxe4 d5 17.Bg2 Qd6 18.Nc2 0-0 19.0-0 f6 20.f4 Ng6 21.Qf2 Qc7 22.Rad1 Kh8 23.Nb4 d4 24.cxd4 exf4 25.d5 fxg3 26.hxg3 Qd6 27.Nd3 Bxd5 28.Nc5 Ne7 29.Rfe1 Rg8 30.Rxe7 Qxe7 31.Bxd5 Rad8 32.Re1 Rxg3+ 33.Kh2 Qd6 34.Qxg3 Qxd5 35.Ne4 Re8 36.Qh4 Qe5+ 37.Kh3 Qe6+ 38.Kg2 Rg8+ 39.Kf3 Rg6 40.Re2 Qc6 41.Qf4 Qe6 42.Ng3 Qc6+ 43.Qe4 Qd6 44.Nf5 Qd1 45.Ng3 Qd6 46.Qf4 Qd5+ 47.Kf2 Qc5+ 48.Qe3 Qd5 49.Rd2 Qxa2 50.Qe7 Qg8 51.Rd8 Rxg3 52.Qxf6+ Rg7 53.b4 1-0.