Hardwork and determination pay

AMITABHA DAS SHARMA

LITHUANIAN Grandmaster Sarunas Sulskis emerged the new champion lifting the title in the Goodricke International Open chess tournament at Kolkata's Gorky Sadan, which saw an action packed 11 rounds in Swiss League pairing. Sulskis, with a nice mix of meticulousness and aggression, ruled as the sole leader for five continuous rounds before playing out a quick draw with his final round opponent - Russian GM Alexey Kuzmin - to annex the title in style.

Sarunas Sulskis, who won his maiden Goodricke Open title.-S. PATRONOBISH

Sulskis recorded six wins and five draws and remained unbeaten that helped him win his maiden title abroad and the winner's purse of $2700 in the championship, organised by the Goodricke National Chess Academy in cooperation with the Alekhine Chess Club.

Indian Grandmaster Krishnan Sasikiran - equalling the champion in remaining unbeaten all through - finished the final round with a fluent victory over Russian GM Andrey Shariyazdanov. This took his tally to eight points. An extra draw compared to Sulskis incurred a deficit of half a point as the Indian prodigy had to be content with the runner-up spot.

Beginning with a win against compatriot Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury in the first round, Sasikiran moved to the top by the third round and cemented his position there for the rest of the meet to confidently face the foreign GMs. He beat Bogdan Lalic (England), second seeded Aleksander Motylev (Russia), Arsen Yegiazarian (Armenia) and Shariyazdanov while drawing against Sulskis, Kuzmin, Maxim Sorokin (Argentina), top seeded Aleksei Aleksandrov (Belarus), Alexander Goloshchapov (Ukraine) and Drazen Sermek (Slovakia), to reach his final tally.

As far as the tournament record was concerned, Sasikiran's effort was the best by an Indian as he reached closest to the title and in the process outshone Viswanathan Anand's feat of gaining the third spot when the latter played in 1992. The Indian GM rued the tournament happening so late in the calendar as he appeared drained out touring for almost three months while following an exhaustive routine that earned him five titles. But even after arriving triumphant from an international rating meet at the Chhattisgarh capital Raipur just a day before, Sasikiran defied fatigue to come up with an outstanding performance, which contrasted with the generally dismal showing by the rest of his compatriots. The only other Indian who figured in the prize list was GM Dibyendu Barua, who managed a win in the final round to take the 15th spot.

Kuzmin was the only other player to maintain an unbeaten record and despite figuring in a five-way tie he won the third spot on a better tie-break. The final round results decided most of the positions as the tie-break had to be taken into consideration in deciding all the positions after Sasikiran. Sergei Ovsejevitsch of Ukraine drew with Sermek and was placed fourth. Playing in the fourth board, Pavel Kotsur of Kazakhstan tried desperately to win against Iranian GM Ehsan Ghaem Maghami but the latter held on to his white-piece advantage and forced a draw to ensure the fifth spot. Kotsur fell to the 11 spot with half-a-point deficit. The sixth and seventh places were taken by Sermek and Ruslan Sherbakov of Russia.

Commanding the heightened status and showcasing a large congregation of Grandmasters from all over the world, the tournament, over the years, has become a prized meet for the talented Indians who dream seriously about making a mark in the international scenario. The past editions have helped a lot of players from the country earn norms and titles but this edition recounted a virtual drought offering just two International Master norms.

Apart from Sasikiran's performance, the other fancied Indians such as Koneru Humpy failed to live up to the expectations. Humpy, who came to the venue with the hopes of earning her final GM norm and become the youngest woman ever to win the men's GM title, surprisingly performed well below her standards. Having the Woman Grandmaster title already under her belt, the 15-year-old stumbled on the first block, drawing against Fide Master Enamul Hossain of Bangladesh. She next lost against GM Kuzmin and was pushed to the middling boards from where she could hardly recover. Other GM title norm aspirants G.B. Prakash, R.B. Ramesh, Sandipan Chanda and Tejas Bakre returned empty handed. Similar was the case for those aiming for the WGM norms such as Aarthie Ramaswamy, Nisha Mohota and Saheli Dhar Barua. Most of the players argued that the performance chart dipped owing to a tight calendar that allows little rest between events. All reasoning apart, it was definitely the right opportunity for the Indians to improve their credentials, exploiting a field that saw such a big congregation of high-rated players.

Among the two Indians who gained are Indian Airlines employee S. Satyapragyan, who achieved his maiden IM norm and P. Magesh Chandran who confirmed his final IM norm, drawing with Yegiazarian in the penultimate round. Possessing a higher Elo rating than the required 2400, Chandran thus fulfilled all the requirements for the title. Another Indian Airlines player, Rahul Shetty confirmed a 12-game IM norm with a win against the National boys' champion Sundararajan Kidambi. But Shetty needs another 10 points to touch 2400 to ensure the title.

The results (final round):

Alexey Kuzmin (Rus) 7 drew with Sarunas Sulskis (Ltu) 8.5; Krishnan Sasikiran (Ind) 8 bt Andrey Shariyazdanov (Rus) 6.5; Sergei Ovsejevitsch (Ukr) 7 drew with Drazen Sermek (Slo) 7; Ehsan Ghaem Maghami (Iri) 7 drew with Pavel Kotsur (Kaz) 6.5; Maxim Sorokin (Arg) 6.5 drew with Aleksei Aleksandrov (Blr) 6.5; Alexander Fominyh (Rus) 6.5 drew with Aleksander Motylev (Rus) 6.5; Ruslan Sherbakov (Rus) 7 bt Arsen Yegiazarian (Arm) 6; Abhijit Kunte (Ind) 6 drew with Alexander Goloshchapov (Ukr) 6.5; Evgeny Gleizerov (Rus) 6 drew with S. Satyapragyan (Ind) 6; Lanka Ravi (Ind) 6 drew with Bogdan Lalic (Eng) 6; Dibyendu Barua (Ind) 6.5 bt Wong Zi Jing (Mas) 5.5; P. Magesh Chandran (Ind) 6 drew with Sandipan Chanda (Ind) 6; Koneru Humpy (Ind) 5.5 drew with Joerg Blauert (Ger) 5.5; R.B. Ramesh (Ind) 6 bt Dinesh Kumar Sharma (Ind) 5; Tejas Bakre (Ind) 6 bt T.S. Ravi (Ind) 5; Enamul Hossain (Ban) 5 lost to G.B. Prakash (Ind) 6; Sundararajan Kidambi (Ind) 5 lost to Rahul Shetty (Ind) 6; Sriram Jha (Ind) 5 lost to Mohamad Al Sayed (Qat) 5.5; S. Vikramjit Singh (Ind) 4.5 lost to Suvrajit Saha (Ind) 5.5; K. Visweswaran (Ind) 5.5 bt Yogesh Gore (Ind) 4.5; V. Saravanan (Ind) 5 bt Somak Palit (Ind) 4; Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury (Ind) 4 lost to Deep Sengupta (Ind) 5; Aarthie Ramaswamy (Ind) 4 drew with Abdulla Al-Rakib (Ban) 4; Rahul Sangma (Ind) 4.5 bt Nisha Mohota (Ind) 3.5; Ponnuswamy Konguvel (Ind) 4.5 bt Shayeste Ghader Pour (Iri) 3; P.D.S. Girinath (Ind) 3.5 drew with Swati Ghate (Ind) 3.5; Krishna Thapa (Nep) 2 lost to Saheli Dhar Barua (Ind) 4.

Final standings: 1. Sarunas Sulskis (Ltu) 8.5 points; 2. Krishnan Sasikiran (Ind) 8 points; 3-7. Alexey Kuzmin (Rus), Sergey Ovsejevitsch (Ukr), Ehsan Ghaem Maghami (Iri), Drazen Sermek (Slo), Ruslan Sherbakov (Rus) 7 points; 8-15. Andrey Sheriyazdanov (Rus), Alexander Fominyh (Rus), Alexander Goloshchapov (Ukr), Pavel Kotsur (Kaz), Aleksei Aleksandrov (Blr), Maxim Sorokin (Arg), Aleksander Motylev (Rus), Dibyendu Barua (Ind) 6.5 points.

THE sinewy and tall National chess champion of Lithuania would have become a basketball player had not his proficiency in mathematics identified him to a chess coach, who came to his school on a talent hunt when he was just eight years old. Recounting his almost forceful initiation into chess, Sarunas Sulskis saw enough reasons to thank his first coach after winning the Goodricke International chess title at Kolkata. He presents the countenance of an intent mathematician and the grit of a general as he goes about his games calculating the scopes and combinations to vanquish his opponent during those cerebral wars over the 64 squares. The 29-year-old Grandmaster has not married to remain free and build his chess playing faculties. He is the reigning king of chess in his country with three national titles to boast and presents the philosophy of aggression as the chief element of success in his game. The title at Kolkata gave him the confidence to work on his game and aim at improving his Elo rating. Having already played the last World chess championship - where he lost in the first round tie-breakers - Sulskis sought to improve on his performance while qualifying for the world meet as many times as possible.

He has meticulously built his habits and hobbies with the purpose of stimulating his analytical faculties. His hobbies are fishing and reading and he also likes to spend his spare time outdoors in the countryside. He still plays basketball but that is to help his chess skills as he feels exercise is a must to keep the body fit and the mind agile. Keres is his idol and he feels that hardwork and determination are the two aspects that make a winner. Luck has little role in chess. Despite completing a degree in management from the university, he wants to devote the coming five years to enhancing his professional career in chess. He left for his country with fond memories of the city's ancient architecture and hopes of returning for further exploits.