Indians grab half the booty in Teheran

RAKESH RAO

TEHERAN once again turned out to be a 'home-away-from-home' for Indian medal hunters. In the last couple of years, every time the Iranian capital has hosted any Asian age-group chess championship, not to forget the World championship final, the 'guests' from India have had a feast.

Indian winners: From left: Front row: P. Lakshmi Sahithi (girls' under-10 gold), P. Negi (boys' under-10 gold), G. Madnasri (girls' under-10 bronze). Back row: V. K. Sindhu (girls' under-12 silver), K. Vijay Keerthi (boys' under-12 bronze), D. Sai Srinivas (boys' under-12 silver), K. Nikhilesh Kumar (boys' under-14 gold) and G. Rohit (boys' under-14 bronze).-R. V. MOORTHY

This time, too, it was no different in the Asian Youth Chess Championship. With four gold, two silver and four bronze medals out of the 24 at stake, India again illustrated its growing superiority in the age-group competition.

Parimarjan Negi (under-10), P. Lakshmi Sahithi (under-10), Harika Dronavalli (under-12) and K. Nikhilesh Kumar (under-14) provided the 'golden' embroidery to India's performance, with varying degrees of ease, by accounting for half the number of titles at stake.

Silver medals came from D. Sai Srinivas (under-12) and V. K. Sindhu (under-12) while those contributing to India's tally of bronze comprised G. Madnasri (girls under-10), K. Vijay Keerthi (under-12), G. Rohit (under-14) and Kruttika Nadig (under-14). However, there was disappointment in the under-16 section.

A never-before contingent of 36 players, the biggest for any overseas chess event, represented the country. Out of these only 15 players were India's 'official' entries. Rest were 'donor' or 'special' entries after paying Rs. 15,000 each to the All India Chess Federation for entry fee alone.

From India's point of view, interesting is the fact that three out of four gold-medallists and the two silver-medallists were all 'special' entries. This reflects the potential of those players who could not make the 'official' Indian team. In fact, but for these 'donor' entrants, the Indian tally may not have appeared so impressive.

Parimarjan Negi's performance in the boys' under-10 category was a revelation. Though he won his event by just one point, he remained unbeaten and was the first to bag a gold for India.-M. LAKSHMAN

Iran, with 42 entries, managed just two medals of each colour. A. Pourkashiyan was indeed the most impressive gold winner in the competition as she breezed past all challengers to score a 'Perfect-9' in the under-14 section. Shadi Pardar, a Woman International Master, won the girls under-16 gold for Iran. Mitra Hejazipour in the girls under-10 section and S. A. Akbarina in the boys under-16 collected silver medals while the bronze winners for the host were Forooz Seidi in the girls under-12 and A. Nasri in the boys under-16 categories.

Vietnam's N. Troung Son, who beat the field in the boys under-12 and Kazakhstan's A. Iskakov in the boys under-16 were the other gold medallists.

Among the Indian medallists, there have been quite a few revelations. Take for instance Parimarjan Negi, the 15th seed who claimed the honours in the under-10 section with a one-point margin. Since there were only unrated players in the under-10 category, the seedings were given alphabetically. Even as former champion Y. Sandeep and S. Ravi Teja struggled to get going, Negi remained undefeated. What more, this baby-faced nine-year-old student of New Delhi's Amity International, was the first to ensure a gold medal for the country.

A sequence of five victories, beginning from the fourth round, left Negi needing just a draw in the final round for the title. Vietnam's Duc Pham Min and Kazakhstan's Yerzhan Sapenov - both drew with Negi - finished in that order behind the champion.

The girls under-10 section, with just 14 players in the fray, saw a three-way tie involving Lakshmi Sahithi, Mitra Hejazipour and G. Madnasri. The tie was broken on the basis of the progressive scores of these players. Lakshmi (37.5 points) and Madnasri (35.5) were separated by Mitra (36.5). Though Lakshmi had lost to Mitra in the third round, the Andhra Pradesh girl won her next five rounds and drew the last to end up with a favourable progressive score. Mitra, meanwhile, lost to Madnasri and drew with another Indian, S. V. Sathyapriya. Another factor that helped Lakshmi keep alive her chances was the victory over Madnasri.

In the under-12 section, Harika Dronavalli never trailed and went on to justify her top billing with a fair amount of ease. In fact, she was the only 'official' entry from India to return with a gold. V. K. Sindhu, who shared the lead with Harika before losing to the eventual champion, thereafter, did not put a foot wrong and ensured India's 1-2 finish. The fact that Iran's bronze-medallist Forroz Seidi finished a point behind Sindhu exemplifies India's domination in the 16-player field.

Among the boys, D. Sai Srinivas matched the score of gold-winner Vietnam's N. Troung Son's tally of 7.5 points but had to settle for silver due to his inferior progressive score. In the eventual analysis, the draw in the opening round proved costly for Srinivas.

Nikhilesh Kumar was one player who surprised everyone, including himself, by winning the boys under-14 title. Till the final round, at best, Nikhilesh was hopeful of winning a medal. But the turn of events of the final round favoured the Indian. A. Sydykov and Nikhilesh were tied at 6.5 points after the penultimate round. Sydykov, who had beaten Nikhilesh, was better off on progressive count. In the final round, Nikhilesh drew with B. Davlyatshin but Sydykov crashed to a surprise loss to V. Ninth.

Interestingly, the top four seeds in this section were all Indians. Top seed G. Rohit, who eventually finished third, and second seed Abhijeet Gupta were expected to fight it out for honours. V. Subhasi, seeded four, was also in the fray. But it was Nikhilesh who was destined to win his first age-group title, and that too, on his first overseas trip.

D. Harika justified her top billing by winning the girls' under-12 event.-RAMESH KURUP

A. Pourkashiyan, the top seed in the girls under-14 category, spared none of her rivals in the 14-player field. Nine straight victories meant that her performance could not be bettered. She won with a two-point margin. India's Kruttika Nadig took the bronze with 6.5 points, half a point behind Kyrgyztan's J. Tilenbaeva.

What came as a disappointment was India's showing in the under-16 category. Deepan Chakkravarthy was the boys top seed while Tania Sachdev and Eesha Karavade were seeded two and three among the girls. But eventually, India drew a blank.

Chakkravarthy messed up his penultimate round and slipped to the fourth spot. Tania, winner of the bronze in the Asian under-20 on her previous visit to Teheran last year, was predictably out of sorts after returning to the game after five months due to her Class X exams. Tania, who finished sixth, could take heart from the fact that she remained undefeated - winning one and drawing eight matches. But what stood out was her inability to win from winning positions.

Eesha Karavade tallied 5.5 points to finish a creditable fourth. N. Vinuthna, the other Indian girl in the fray was eighth after matching Tania's aggregate of five points.

Standings: Boys:

Under-10: 1. Parimarjan Negi (Ind) 7.5; 2. Pham Min Duc (Vie) 6.5; 3. Yerzhan Sapemov (Kaz) 6.5; (Other Indians : 6. P. Prachura 6; 9. S. Raviteja 5; 12. Y. Sandeep 5; 20. Abhishek Kelkar 3.5; 26. G. Madhukiran 3).

Under-12 : 1. N. N. Troung Son (Vie) 7.5; 2. Sai Srinivas (Ind) 7.5; 3. K. Vijay Keerthi (Ind) 6; (Other Indians : 10. M. Gopikrishna 4.5; 19. Sankalp Modwal 4).

Under-14: 1. K. Nikhilesh Kumar (Ind) 7; 2. A. Sydykov (Kyr) 6.5; 3. G. Rohit (Ind) 6.5; (Other Indians : 4. Abhijeet Gupta 6.5; 9. Akshayraj Kore 4.5; 10. T. Shanmuganathan 4.5; 12. V. Subhasi 4.5; 18. N. Pandia 3).

Under-16: 1. A. Iskakov (Kaz) 7; 2. S. A. Akbarina (Ira) 7; 3. A. Nasri (Ira) 6; (Indians: 4. Deepan Chakkravarthy 6; 6. Saptarshi Roy 5; 7. Himanshu Kumar 5).

Girls:

Under-10: 1. P. Lakshmi Sahithi (Ind) 7.5; 2. Mitra Hejazipour (Ira) 7.5; 3. G. Madansri (Ind) 7.5; (Other Indians : 4. S. V. Sathyapriya 7; 5. M. Manogna 5.5).

Under-12: 1. Harika Dronavalli (Ind) 7.5; 2. V. K. Sindhu (Ind) 7; 3. Forooz Seidi (Ira) 6 (Other Indians : 5. Anjana N. Sowjanya 5.5; 8. Kajri Choksi 4.5; 9. Dhara Gupta 4.5; 10. Dhyani B. Dave 4.5).

Under-14: 1. A. Pourkashiyan (Ira) 9; 2. J. Tilenbaeva (Kyr) 7; 3. Kruttika Nadig (Ind) 6.5; (Other Indians : 6. Saheli Nath 5; 7. M. Rajadarshini 5).

Under-16: 1. Shadi Paridar (Ira) 7.5; 2. Dinaza Tuitebayva (Kaz) 6; 3. Minh Hue Luong (Vie) 6; (Indians : 4. Eesha Karavade 5.5; 6. Tania Sachdev 5; 8. N. Vinuthna 5).

Medals tally (Read as gold-silver-bronze) : India 4-2-4; Iran 2-2-2; Vietnam 1-1-1; Kazakhstan 1-1-1; Kyrgyztan 0-2-0.