Sandipan is the champion

V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

ONE of the best young talents in India, Sandipan Chanda, had a perfect start to the new year, clinching the honours in the GTB All India FIDE-rated chess tournament in Hyderabad by virtue of better progressive score. He was involved in a three-way tie with B. T. Muralikrishnan and Anup Deshmukh with nine points at the end of the last round.

-H. SATISH

The winner was richer by Rs. 64,000 while second-placed Muralikrishnan and Anup Deshmukh, who finished third, collected Rs. 30,000 and Rs. 20,000 respectively.

Sandipan, an 18-year-old product of the Goodricke National Chess Academy in Kolkata, was a predictable winner as he maintained a clean slate with seven wins and four draws in the event. "This should be the right beginning for me this year," he remarked. Apparently, he feels that this win would boost his morale ahead of the Goodricke Grandmasters tournament to be held in Kolkata. He is also in search of the third and final norm to get the coveted Grandmaster title. He got both his GM norms in the Goodricke events in the previous two years and is keen to make the norm in front of his home crowd.

Once he emerged joint-leader at the end of fifth round after outwitting K. V. Shantaram it was obvious that he was the front-runner for the title. In that game he showed his class in no uncertain terms. Playing white, Sandipan played Bb5 in his third move to confuse his opponent who in turn made a pawn sacrifice without any compensation. The highly talented Kolkata boy took advantage of that extra pawn and converted the game into a winning one after the 25th move. On the 31st move, Shantaram had no other option but to appreciate the brilliance of his rival and resign.

Though Sandipan was held to a draw by S. Mari Arul in the sixth round, he was quick to bounce back by outplaying R. R. Laxman on the top board. After opting for an e4 opening the Bengal youngster displayed a rare line playing Bb5 on the sixth move which put black under pressure. Sandipan felt that his opponent blundered by playing Bb7 in the beginning after which things became much easier for him to wrap up the issue.

Sandipan also demonstrated the art of conserving one's energy by not pressing for wins when they were not in sight and preferred to settle for simple draws as he did against IM Jayant Gokhale in the eighth round after just 23 moves. Even in the last round game, he opted for an eight-move draw against Anup Deshmukh obviously aware that a draw would be enough to get him the title.

Rather strangely, GM-elect and top-seeded G. B. Prakash, who had a convincing start with a 13-move win over Jwalamukhi, couldn't figure in the top 10 positions and had to be content with 8.5 points. He even suffered a shock defeat at the hands of R. R. Laxman in the eighth round.

However, for the host, it was good to see veteran and IM-elect P. D. S. Girinath back in action after the tragic road accident in which five chess players were killed near Puri on their way to an All-India FIDE-rated tournament with himself as the coach. A badly injured Girinath proved that it was not all over yet as he finished with a creditable eight points in his first come-back tournament with five wins and six draws.

G. V. Srinivas Rao of Guntur, the former National Rapid champion, caused a major upset outwitting IM Sekhar Sahu in just 29 moves in a third round game. However, known for his erratic form, he succumbed to the guiles of Anupama Gokhale in the seventh round, his first defeat, after which he never looked the same. After Anupama opted for d4 opening, Srinivas opted for Dutch Defence and seemed to have a slight advantage in the beginning. However, he miscalculated on the 22nd move by going for an exchange for d2 knight instead of Ndf6. This saw him lose a pawn and enter into a minus ending. Predictably, the more famous rival clinched the contest in 36 moves.

Some of the major upsets included unrated Alankar Bhavgade shocking IM N. Sudhakar Babu in the second round, K. N. Gopal surprising IM T. S. Ravi and J. Malleswara Rao outwitting IM Ravi Hegde in sixth round games.

It was an event which also demonstrated that players such as Dronavalli Harika, two-time silver medallist in the World age group championship, and debutant Koneru Chandrahasa (8 points), sister of World junior champion Koneru Humpy, still have a long way to go in this level of competition. But they were happy to gain 'valuable' experience.

Final placings: 1. Sandipan Chanda, 2. B. T. Muralikrishnan, 3. Anup Deshmukh, 4. Aravinda Sastry, 5. C. Natarajan, 6. Somak Palit, 7. Roktim Bandopadhyaya, 8. Jayanth Gokhale, 9. K. Ratnakaran.