Plenty of gains for India

A silver for Humpy and a bronze for Ganguly, the Grandmaster in-waiting, were the tangible returns for India.

RAKESH RAO

KONERU HUMPY may have narrowly missed out on keeping the girls crown in the World junior chess championship. Perhaps, Surya Sekhar Ganguly could have emulated V. Anand's title-winning effort of 1987. Despite these near misses, there were plenty of gains for the host.

D. Harika (right) locked in a tussle with Sophie Millet. Harika took the tenth place. — Pic. R. V. Moorthy-

A silver for Humpy and a bronze for Ganguly, the Grandmaster in-waiting, were the tangible returns for India. For those interested in history and records, this was the first time that India won two medals in the premier event. If Humpy fell just short of regaining the title, Ganguly became only the second Indian to be among the medals in the boys section of this premier event.

Still, one has to go beyond the performances of Humpy and Ganguly to gauge the true rewards for the Indians from the championship.

Even before the first move was made in the event, Indians had, perhaps, set a record of sorts. In the boys section, 38 out of 88 participants were Indians. The percentage of host participation among the girls was even higher — 22 out of 51 entrants.

Since FIDE, the International Chess Federation, accepts `donor' or `special' entries for Rs. 15,000 each in its events, the number of Indians in World and Asian age-group championships has been rising steadily.

With the biggest junior event happening at home, an overwhelming response from our players was only to be expected. In fact, the final figure stood pruned after the All India Chess Federation had to discourage quite a few unrated players, obviously with misplaced confidence, from joining the fray.

In one way, this never-before response to the `pay-and-play' way reflects the changing mindset of players and their parents alike in the country. However, on the flip side, such a large host participation led to a virtual league among the Indian players, especially in the girls section. For example, Kerala-girl Nimmy George played 10 Indians in 11 days. Nimmy, for sure, had not bargained for anything like this.

On the brighter side, several Indian performances reinforced the belief that players are improving at a faster pace than noticed.

Dronavalli Harika, became eligible to replace Humpy as Asia's youngest Woman International Master. Harika, the reigning Asia under-18 champion as well as the Women's `B' title-holder, attained her title-norm to meet all technicalities.

It was also a memorable outing for the National under-18 champions, Poobesh Anand and P. Priya. Poobesh made his maiden International Master norm spread over 13 games. Priya, having accounted for Woman Grandmasters Eva Moser and Jana Jackova, seeded five and eight, too, looked set to stretch her maiden Woman International Master norm to 13 games but faltered in the closing phase.

The exploits of Poobesh and Priya was another confirmation of the belief that several talented players in the country are only waiting for the opportunities to showcase their worth. Ironically, these two Chennai-players neither have a coach, nor corporate support. They have reached this far only due to the undiminished support of their parents.

Among the leading Indian performers was Tania Sachdev, the Asian under-20 champion. Somehow, this Delhi-girl never ceases to amaze. Contrary to expectations, Tania collected eight points to finish eighth. What more, after Humpy, Tania was India's best performer in her category.

There were several other performers who narrowly missed out on norms. If Eesha Karavade came close to making her maiden WIM-norm, Neelotpal Das found himself within striking distance of a Grandmaster norm. Saptarishi Roy Chowdhury was a draw away from his first IM-norm just as Prathamesh Mokal was from his second.

S. Satyapragyan was another example of how limited exposure can come in the way of a talented player. This Indian Airlines recruit, barring his loss to Ganguly, gave a very good account of himself while collecting eight points and finishing 15th.

Asian junior champion Deepan Chakkravarthy matched Poobesh's efforts of 7.5 points and former National junior champion S. Kidambi found himself in the company of Neelotpal, apart from the reigning National sub-junior winner G. Rohit at seven points. Of the lot, only Kidambi could not live up to his seeding.

The biggest disappointment was Sandipan Chanda. This vastly talented Kolkata-lad, seeded 14th, lost his way after a decent start and never recovered. In the girls section, former Asian junior champion M. Kasturi suffered a more or less similar fate.

Indian performances (with standing and points):

Boys: 3. Surya Sekhar Ganguly (9 points), 7. P. Hari Krishna (8.5); 15. S. Satyapragyan (8); 25. Deepan Chakkravarthy, 26. Poobesh Anand (7.5 each); 28. S. Kidambi, 32. Neelotpal Das, 35. G. Rohit (7 each), 41. Saptarishi Roy Chowdhury, 43. Prathamesh Mokal, 45. Arghyadip Das, 46. Vikramaditya Kamble, 47. Preetham Sharma, 51. Sayantan Dutta, 52. Rishipal Singh, 54. P. Phoobalan, 56. Sriram Sarja (6.5 each); 60. Akshayraj Kore, 62. H. D. Jagadish, 64. T. S. Pradeep (6 each); 65-69. Sandipan Chanda, Akash Thakur, R. Siddharth, Rahul Sangma, Soumya Ranjan Mishra, 71. G. N. Gopal (5.5 each); 72. Nikhilesh Kumar, 74-80. Arjun Tiwari, Pratik Shriwas, Byomakesh Nayak, R. Naveen, Pranjal Phukan, Wilson Cruz, Swapnil Hoble (5 each); 82, Gurpreet Singh Maras, 84. Himanshu Kumar (4.5 each); 86. J.S.S. Phanikanth (3.5), 87. Sanchit Agarwal (3).

Girls: 2. Konery Humpy (10.5 points); 8. Tania Sachdev (8); 10. Dronavalli Harika, 11. Y. Pratibha, 14. C. Delphin (7.5 each) 19. Eesha Karavade, 20. K. Chandra Hawsa, 21. J. E. Kavitha, 22. C. V. Rajalakshmi (7 each); 26. M. Priyadarshini, 27. Soumya Swaminathan, 28. N. Vinuthna, 30. H. Nilavoli (6.5 each), 34. P. Priya, 35. Ketaki Kulkarni (6 each), 37. M. Kasturi, 38. Anoori Shah, 39. Anuprita Patil, 41. M. Rajadarshini (5.5 each); 46. Nabeela Farheen, 48. Nimmy George and 49. Jennitha Anto (5 each).

AFTER years of holding international events with varying degrees of efficiency, the All India Chess Federation (AICF) now seems committed to do a professional job of playing host.

With a firm resolve to raise the profile of chess in the country, the AICF has conducted some of the leading global events in recent times. If the World Cup at Hyderabad was a grand success, the World junior championship at Panaji was memorable for more reasons than one.

Right from the choice of venue to making available live games on the internet, the AICF went about its job in a business-like manner. The result was that compliments never stopped coming its way during the 12-day event at Panaji.

After Andhra Pradesh, it was the turn of Goa to patronise chess for a global audience. Cidade de Goa, a luxury five-star beach resort, provided the participants with just the right kind of ambience to give off their best.

Located far away from the hustle and bustle of a metropolis, the choice of venue was well and truly acknowledged by all concerned.

In a way, the playground of the rich became an ideal battlefield for the war of pieces.

The softly-lit playing hall was big enough to accommodate 88 boys and 51 girls from 40 countries. A team of dedicated arbiters did a wonderful job and ensured smooth conduct of the event. The only aberration was witnessed in the first-round pairings. But once the Chief Arbiter, Mr. Casto Abundo took control after the opening round, things were set right.

Significantly, it did not require any overseas help to ensure live transmission of the leading games on the net. In what was the first attempt of its kind, Mohammad Ishaq and K. P. Shihabudheen deserve all credit for successfully accomplishing what Soviet experts had achieved during the World Cup at Hyderabad. This was another big step forward for the AICF and its young team.

With a well-knit team in place, the AICF is now aiming to match the organising capabilities of some of the better-run sports bodies in the country.

"Give us a couple of years and you'll see that the events conducted by the AICF will be second to none," assured Mr. P. T. Ummer Koya, the federation secretary, who recently retained his post as the Vice President of the world body, FIDE.

"When we host international events in India, more and more of our players get an opportunity to participate in them. With our coaching programmes in place and performances for every one to see, the AICF is committed to make the sport attractive for the sponsors as well. I see a great marketing potential in chess and the AICF will make all attempts to realise it," declared Mr. Koya on the completion of what was, perhaps, the best organised chess event in the country.