Much-needed victory

Abhijeet Gupta (in pic) garnered nine points from 11 rounds and tied with Holland’s Sergei Tiviakov and Ukraine’s Sergey Fedochuk for the top slot. He won the gold as per the Buchholz system.

For former world junior champion Abhijeet Gupta, 23, the triumph at the Commonwealth chess championship in Port Elizabeth (South Africa) was a big consolation as he was off colour since his individual silver medal effort at the Chess Olympiad in Istanbul (Turkey) in 2012.

Though the Rajasthan boy’s medal at the Olympiad ended a 22-year drought in the Open section for India, Abhijeet saw his rating plummet from an all-time high of 2667 (October 2012) to the present 2543 owing to a series of lacklustre performances.

Abhijeet, considered a solid positional player, garnered nine points from 11 rounds and tied with Holland’s Sergei Tiviakov and Ukraine’s Sergey Fedochuk for the top slot. He won the coveted gold as per the Buchholz system.

However, the organisers handed over the silver and bronze medals to the Indian duo of Dibyendu Barua and M. R. Lalith Babu instead of Tiviakov and Fedochuk as they were not from the Commonwealth countries. “The organisers, to present a strong field, had invited players from non-Commonwealth countries as well,” said M. R. Lalith Babu, who finished fifth in the ranking list, next only to Barua.

Lalith, who was defending his title, made Abhijeet’s life miserable in the sixth game by stretching it to over six hours. “In a see-saw battle, I moved the king to the centre instead of the corner at the endgame. Abhijeet capitalised on my blunder,” the Vijayawada GM said over telephone.

Abhijeet hailed the tussle with Lalith as the best game of the tournament and said his rival had a chance to draw the game with some precise play.

For both Abhijeet and Lalith that particular day was taxing as they, along with others, had two games scheduled. “Though we had a break of two hours, the day was exhausting and it did reflect in my performance,” Lalith added.

Abhijeet, a native of Bhilwara, became an International Master in 2005 and a Grandmaster in 2008.

Veteran GM Dibyendu Barua, who has come out of a hiatus, won the silver, finishing joint second (8.5 points), with M. R. Lalith Babu and five others including India’s G. Akash and Soumya Swamithanan.

International Master Jovanka Housak of England won the gold medal in the women’s section. Soumya Swaminathan and Mary Ann Gomes won the silver and bronze respectively.

The Indians also swept the junior section. G. Akash won the gold medal while Sahaj Grover and Rakesh Kulkarni took the silver and bronze medals respectively. Incidentally, Rakesh Kulkarni also won the South African Open blitz event held during the championship.

“The next edition will be held in Glasgow, Scotland in 2014. The tournament will be held a few months before the Commonwealth Games (CWG) which is also scheduled in Glasgow,” said the Commonwealth Chess Association chairman, Bharat Singh, from Delhi.

Much to the surprise of the participants, former world champion Garry Kasparov of Russia attended the prize distribution function along with Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa.

The rankings

1-3. Abhijeet Gupta (India) 9, Fedorchuk Sergey (Ukraine) 9, Tiviakov Sergei (Holland) 9; 4-10. Dibyendu Barua (India) 8.5, M. R. Lalith Babu (India) 8.5, Tkachiev Vladislav 8.5, G. Akash (India) 8.5, Houska Jovanka (England) 8.5, Soumya Swaminathan (India) 8.5, Elijah Emojog (Uganda) 8.5.

J. R. Shridharan