Gunasekaran, Sangeetha retain titles

K. Gunasekaran with the man's trophy.-

TAMIL NADU players never had it so good. The total prize money in P. Nachimuthu Gounder Centenary 51st Tamil Nadu State Championship for the V. J. Brahmiah Trophy was doubled from Rs. 50,000 to a lakh. And, in the Chellammal Palani Gounder 31st TN State women's championship for the Paruben Manilal Mehta Rolling trophy it was increased threefold from Rs. 10,000 of last year to Rs. 30,000. Both the events were hosted by the Dr. Mahalingam College of Engineering and Technology at Pollachi recently.

To encourage strong players who have avoided playing in the State Championships for fear of losing their FIDE Rating points, the Tamil Nadu State Chess Association removed the FIDE-Rating status of the tournament which has been in operation for the last three championships. This fact, plus the dramatic increase in the prize money offered by the TNSCA patron Dr. N. Mahalingam and his companies ensured that this time, six International Masters participated in the 11-round Swiss system State championship. This has never happened before.

Yet despite the presence of six IM's in the men's event and one Woman International Master (M. Kasturi) in the women's event, the state titles went to others. It was last year's champions, K. Gunasekaran (ICF) and M. R. Sangeetha who retained their titles. This shows that Gunasekaran and Sangeetha can soon expect to win their Master titles. It also proves that other top players in these two State championships are potential Master material and need the right opportunities and encouragement to achieve laurels.

Gunasekaran ran neck to neck for first place with International Master, P. Konguvel (ONGC). At the end of the 11th and final round, they were still tied for first, but the tie-break favoured Gunasekaran who took the first prize of Rs. 30,000. Gunasekaran was undefeated in this championship and finished ahead of International Masters, K. Murugan (NLC), Sundarajan Kidambi (Bharat Petroluem), whom he defeated, G.B. Prakash (Indian Bank). Deepan Chakravarthy (WIPRO) and T.S. Ravi (Indian Oil). He won against seven players and drew four, among them, two IM's, P. Konguvel and K. Murugan.

In the women's section, the only WIM was Kasturi. She put up a valiant fight for the first place, but Sangeetha, elder sister of M. R. Venkatesh, who is soon expected to become an IM, proved that she had enough talent and determination to tie with Kasturi. Like Gunasekaran in the men's section, Sangeetha had a better tie-break score to emerge champion for the fourth time. Sangeetha won eight games, lost to international Safira Shanaz of Virudhunagar district and drew against Kasturi and Nilavoli.

All the IM's were provided with good accommodation in Pollachi but Konguvel opted to stay in the hostel with the other players as he has nostalgic memories of having stayed in that hostel while playing in age limited state championships long ago.

After many years of absence from tournament chess, IM Murugan, who is an administrator in the Sports Department of NLC, did surprisingly well to finish just half a point behind the top two.

GM-elect G.B. Prakash, who is waiting for his rating to reach 2500 to claim his GM title and IM T.S. Ravi, are glad that this championship was not FIDE-rated. Prakash was seventh and Ravi 16th.

Arun Prasad of Salem who won the National sub-junior championship in Calicut, justifiably finished fourth. With a string of good performances in National championships, he is certain to become a Master in the next few years. A. Muthuswamy of Coimbatore followed up his second place performance in the previous State championship with an equally good display here, finishing sixth.

Gunasekaran, a sports recruit of ICF, is doing his M.A. by correspondence. This is his second State championship title. At 26, success is coming to him rather late. He is a calm, quiet player not given to extravagance.

M. R. Sangeetha, 22, has just finished her B.Com and is looking for either a job or a sponsor. Unlike Gunasekaran she has won quite a few State championships and represented the country abroad.

The climax of these two State championships was that former World champion V. Anand and his wife Aruna distributed the prizes to the winners at the closing function presided over by the doyen of Indian chess, Dr. N. Mahalingam. Anand said that "he came to this function as he wanted to greet Dr. N. Mahalingam, on his completion of 80 years and for all the great things that he has done for Tamil Nadu and Indian chess." Pollachi was not a new place for Anand, who has participated in an age-limited TN State championship some years back.

Top final standings:

Women: 1-2. M.R. Sangeetha, M. Kasturi 9; 3. Safira Shanaz (Vnr) 8.5; 4. Y. Prathiba (Kan) 8; 5-10. H. Nilavoli (Che), Saimeera Ravi (IB), Nabeela Farheen (Che), C.V. Rajalakshmi (Kan), H. Sowmya (Ero), K.E.R. Ranjitha (Che) 7; 11-17. L. Iswarya Shobana (Slm), S. Harini (Kan), S. Bharathi (Cud), P.K. Jayashree (Slm), Kiruba H. Arasu (Mdu), Aneeqha Tahseen (Che) 6.5 each. (45 players).

Men: 1-2. K. Gunasekaran, P. Konguvel 9; 3. K. Murugan 8.5; 4-7. S. Arun Prasad (Slm), S. Kidambi, A. Muthuswamy (Cbe), G.B. Prakash 8; 9-20. R. Balasubramanian (Tlr), Deepan Chakravarthy, C. Natarajan (ICF), T.J. Suresh Kumar (ICF), R. Siddharth (Che), Merryston Scanny (Tnv), P. Maheswaran (Vnr), T.S. Ravi, T. Abhay (Slm), S. Venkatasundaram (Kan), S. Anand Kumar (Cbe), M. Vinodh Kumar (Ero) 7.5. (136 players).—

Manuel Aaron