Individuals who did the country proud

TEN individual medals to go with three team medals. India never had it this good in the Asian team chess championship.

RAKESH RAO

TEN individual medals to go with three team medals. India never had it this good in the Asian team chess championship. Often, in chess, individual contributions go unnoticed in team events. Here is an attempt to give these champion performers their due.

Men:

Pravin Thipsay (Gold, second board): A score of 5.5 from seven rounds must have done a world of good to the confidence of the nation's oldest Grandmaster. With the focus largely on much younger performers these days, Thipsay needed to show that he still had it in him to beat someone like Zhang Zhong whose rating stands at a whopping 2666. Unbeaten, unshaken but eventually unsung, Thipsay showed that experience can never be an outdated asset.

Pravin Thipsay ... showed that experience is never an outdated asset. — Pic. R. V. MOORTHY-

Lanka Ravi (Gold, third board): What a performance ! Called in as a replacement, Lanka Ravi enjoyed one of the finest moments of his long career. In the past year, this ONGC officer has shown that he still has ample fuel to outrun some of the better known names of the game. A creditable draw with twice Asian champion Xu Jun and a second successive win over Dibyendu Barua led him to his first GM-norm — 15 years after becoming an International Master. His tally of 7.5 points from nine rounds, with an unbeaten record to boot, was easily the envy of many.

Dinesh Kumar Sharma (Silver, fourth board): This happy-go-lucky International Master from Kanpur covered the distance almost unnoticed. An undefeated streak gave him 6.5 points from eight rounds. He had the tough job of preparing against nearly unknown rivals. But Dinesh stuck to his job. He joined hands with Lanka Ravi to guide India `C' to the team bronze. He should use this performance as a benchmark and strive harder for greater success.

Abhijit Kunte (Silver, reserve): He took off on the wrong foot by losing the opener to Kyrgyzstan's IM N. Zilberman but landed safely in the end with a consolatory board prize. He returned to action in the fourth round and won four straight matches and drew the next two. With an aggregate of five points from seven games, Kunte salvaged his reputation and ended the campaign on a somewhat satisfying note.

K. Sasikiran (Bronze, top board): A small consolation for someone who is capable of bigger feats. The only one to beat China's vastly experienced Ye Jiangchuan, Sasikiran scored 5.5 points from eight outings. However, he regretted having allowed Koneru Humpy to get away with a draw in spite of enjoying a two-pawn advantage. A rare loss with white pieces to Vietnam's Dao Thein Hai shook him a bit more. But he did not allow these aberrations to come in way of his commitment to the team's cause. Despite having his `off-days', this tireless worker did a fairly good job.

Women:

Dronavalli Harika (Gold, reserve): Winning the top prize on debut in the team championship is itself a record of sorts. Still to reach her teens, Harika performed like a seasoned player. It was a fine reward for Harika's brand of positive chess, which saw her tally six points from seven games. Clearly, Harika's consistency was the most pleasant feature of the campaign of India `A'.

Swati Ghate (Silver, second board): For a long time, Swati showed signs of performing to her vast potential. Following her third round defeat, Swati pulled off five straight victories to keep India `B' in contention for a medal. Just when the `muscles' seem to show in her game, too, Swati cracked and crashed to an unexpected defeat in the last round. As a result, Swati lost the gold and India `B' missed a chance to share the third place with India `A'. Looking at Swati's modest form in the past year and half, she should not be too unhappy with her tally of 6.5 points from nine rounds.

Anupama Gokhale (Silver, third board): Champion of yesteryear, Anupama performed above expectations. Past her prime, the five-time National champion proved good enough to score five points from seven rounds. Gold winner Vietnam's Le Kiev Thien Kim also had a similar tally but was placed ahead because the average rating of her rivals was 2185 as against 2166 of Anupama's. Due to family commitments, Anupama is unable to devote enough time to resurrect her chess career. But at Jodhpur, she surely did enough to regain some ground.

S. Meenakshi (Bronze, top board): Here is an example of one lacking in terms of inherent talent but making up through sheer intelligence and hard-work. After making waves in the World Cup, Meenakshi was surprisingly out of the Indian squad following the National `A' this January. At Jodhpur, she spearheaded India `B' to a respectable finish. More significant than the bronze medal was Meenakshi's nine-game Woman Grandmaster norm. Her maiden norm had come in the last British championship, where she also made an International Master norm. Arbiter R. C. Chatterjee could not confirm whether Meenakshi had made her second IM-norm, as well. Lost only to World champion Zhu Chen and scored five victories while scoring 6.5 from nine rounds. .

Saimeera Ravi (Bronze, reserve): Well after the championship was inaugurated, Saimeera received the call to reach Jodhpur while attending office in Chennai. A last-minute substitute for Y. Pratibha, Saimeera made her first appearance in the fourth round and scored 4.5 points from six rounds. With the focus firmly on the leading teams, Saimeera, like Anupama, went about her job in a business-like manner and helped India `C' become the only team to perform better than its seeding.