Kashelkar pips Laxman at the post

RAGHUNANDAN GOKHALE

RAMKRISHNA KASHELKAR, a 20-year-old post-graduate from Mulund Commerce College, Mumbai, was a surprise winner in the Rochess international rating chess tournament held at Thane, near Mumbai.

Ramkrishna Kashelkar of Mumbai, who won the Rochess international rating tournament in Thane.-VIVEK BENDRE

Kashelkar and fancied R. R. Laxman of Tamil Nadu garnered nine points out of the 10 rounds but the former won the title with a better progressive score.

With the likes of International Master Arun Vaidya, FIDE Master Sajandas Joshi, IM-elect Rahul Shetty and former National 'B' champion R. Balasubramanium in the fray, it was heartening to see youngsters Kashelkar and Laxman stealing the limelight.

The tournament, which attracted 180 entries, began on a sedate note as the first three rounds failed to produce any notable upset. However, the fourth round sprang a few surprises as the top-seeded Rahul Shetty (Indian Airlines), third-seeded IM Arun Vaidya and fourth-seeded Vikramaditya Kamble (both Maharashtra) were upset by their opponents.

Rahul was probably surprised by Kashelkar's choice of Sokolsky Opening. When Kashelkar opened with 1.b4, Rahul was visibly uncomfortable. He failed to counter the surprise effectively and lost the game in just 33 moves.

IM Arun Vaidya failed to notice N. Balaji's cunning trap in Sicilian Defence and lost his queen in the 12th move. Though the veteran IM continued till the 19th move, the outcome was never in doubt.

Vikramaditya, who had missed qualification to the premier National championship from the National 'B', fell victim to time shortage against Andhra teenager Pravin Prasad. Vikramaditya was in a very comfortable position to win but had to forfeit the game as he lost on time.

Laxman was cruising merrily collecting points at will against his opponents. His fourth win was against Mumbai University player Ashish Thatte. Ashish tried to rush Laxman in the Nimzo Indian Defence but the latter came up with a clever counter attack which turned the tables against the lanky Mumbai youngster.

Laxman continued his winning streak by outwitting N. Balaji and R. Balasubramanium on the fourth day and enjoyed a half-a-point lead over Kashelkar, Sushant Banerjee and Pravin Prasad at the end of the sixth round. Laxman's win against Balasubramanium (ICF, Chennai) was impressive as he played with the black pieces against the former National 'B' champion.

The clash between Kashelkar and Laxman proved to be a disappointing one as the overnight leader from Chennai wasted too many moves against Kashelkar's favourite Sokolsky Opening and surrendered the lead to the Bombay University captain. Kashelkar followed it up with a lucky win over an ambitious Vikramaditya Kamble who declined a peace offer from the leader and went down tamely. Laxman came back into the reckoning when he accounted for Rahul Shetty from the black side of the Sicilian Dragon defence. Rahul had nearly taken advantage of an enterprising pawn sacrifice from Laxman when the latter caught him with a cunning trap.

Thereafter it became a race between Kashelkar and Laxman for supremacy. Laxman caught up with Kashelkar in the final round with a resounding win over Vikramaditya Kamble but Kashelkar's higher progressive score helped him pip Laxman at the post.

Both the winner and the runner-up logged nine points out of 10 rounds, one full point behind the third placed Rahul Shetty. It was an amazing race as both of them had their share of luck and disappointment. However, both the youngsters had the satisfaction of defeating top-seeded Rahul Shetty, who accounted for the rest of the field to score eight points.

Ramkrishna Kashelkar had been training under the famous Mumbai coach, Dhanesh Shrikhande, for the last seven years. "He is an ideal student and is very hardworking," commented Shrikhande about Kashelkar.

Laxman is on a comeback trail after a long layoff from active play. The Rochess international rating chess tournament proved that he had not lost his touch over the years. R. Balasubramanium, Laxman's city-mate, however, exhibited his brilliance only in patches.

Pratik Shriwas, a teenager from Nagpur, impressed with his ability to withstand pressure. His win over fancied FIDE Master Sajandas Joshi was a good comeback after Sajandas outwitted him in the earlier stages of the game. Madhura Deshpande (Nagpur) and Mugdha Variar (Mumbai) were two girls who showed a lot of promise.

The seasoned campaigners failed to make a mark. IM Arun Vaidya was clearly out of touch while former National 'A' player N. Neelakantan struggled till he struck form to score a brilliant attacking win over D. Ravishankar in the last round. Sajandas Joshi, a former Maharashtra champion, got winning positions at will but squandered them in time trouble.

The Rotary Club of Thane was instrumental in organising the tournament. Mr. Agwan and his team of Rotarians worked hard to make it a great success. Chief Arbiter Praful Zaveri ran the show effectively.

The results and the pairings were posted daily on the website chesstrainer.com so that one could log on to the site to see whom he would be playing in the next round. "It saved us a lot of money on telephone," said one of the outstation participants.

The leading Marathi daily, Lokmat, was the sponsor and the Pharmaceutical company Bayer, the co-sponsor, for the tournament. Both of them promised to make it a regular feature in the calendar of All India Chess Federation.

Grandmaster Pravin Thipsay gave away the prizes to the winners in the presence of industrialist Ravindra Dongre, Chairman of the Maharashtra Chess Association. Blind player Sanjay Karandikar, who held internationally-rated Chaitanya Vaidya to a draw in the first round, was awarded a special prize.