Scaling new heights

THE Commonwealth chess championship offers a good opportunity for the norm-seeking players to realise their goal.

RAKESH RAO

THE Commonwealth chess championship offers a good opportunity for the norm-seeking players to realise their goal. This year, eight Indians gained norms and somewhat made up for the absence of a men's medallist in the championship.

S. Meenakshi:

She was surely the biggest gainer. She became the country's fourth Woman Grandmaster (WGM) and went on to achieve her third International Master norm. Like most of the women players in the country, Meenakshi, too, has been inconsistent. But there was never any doubt over her potential. Younger sibling of S. Vijayalakshmi, the country's first WGM, Meenakshi can be expected to produce better results in times to come. With all the IM-norms under her belt, Meenakshi now needs to touch the rating of 2400 to claim her International Master title.

Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury:

This Kolkata-based player became an International Master by getting his final norm. In the last two National `A' championships, Saptarshi had gained two norms of 16 and 19 games to meet the stipulation of norms totalling 27 games. However, it was pointed out that he needed to make one norm in an international event as well. Saptarshi lost no time in getting it straight in the Commonwealth championship. A steady player, who lost just seven of the 106 matches he had played in 2003, this former National under-25 champion needs to improve his percentage of victories. The IM title should see him play more aggressively.

M. R. Venkatesh:

Like Saptarshi, Ventakesh, too, had two International Master norms from the last two National `A' championships. Venkatesh's first norm outside the National championship helped him meet the stipulation and join Saptarshi. Another fine colt from Chennai's stable, Venkatesh has been seen as a Grandmaster material. Winner of the National junior championship in November 2003, Venkatesh is organised and surely possesses the right attitude to cross more important landmarks in times to come.

Dronavalli Harika

THIS 13-year-old sensation never ceases to surprise. The youngest ever to make the National women's team, Harika completed her Woman Grandmaster title requirements but missed out on her final International Master norm. In the past two years, she has been scaling new heights and her performance in the Commonwealth meet was no different. Also, Harika's elevation to the WGM level has given the Indian team for the Olympiad an all-WGM look.

Vishal Sareen

IF there was one player for whom the IM-norm did not really matter, it was Vishal. A fifth IM-norm did not make any difference to Vishal. This former National sub-junior champion needs to take his rating to 2400 in order to join the country's ever-growing list of IMs. Currently enjoying his best rating of 2371, Sareen defeated Sandipan Chanda and drew with K. Sasikiran and Abhijit Kunte - all members of the Indian Olympiad team - to show that he pays far more attention to his chess than most believed.

Abhijeet Gupta

THIS 14-year-old has been making news with remarkable consistency. Having gained a maiden IM-norm in October, this Bhilwara boy provided the biggest sensation of the Commonwealth championship by drawing with the top-seeded Nigel Short. He carried on the good work and gained a second nine-game IM norm with a round to spare. For someone who collected 98 rating points in three months, Abhijeet is gaining the admiration of all concerned with his modest ways and marvellous results.

K. Ratnakara

THIS Kerala player came up with the performance of his budding career. A man of few words, Ratnakaran let his results do the talking as he beat IMs such as George Michelakis, Neelotpal Das and Mehmood Lodhi and drew with Russian GM Sergey Iskusnyh, Uzbek GM Saidali Iuldachev, IMs Tejas Bakre and Varugeese Koshy. He has gained a lot from attending the GM-coaching camps held in his hometown Kozhikode. With a little more self-belief, this bronze-medallist in the 2001 Asian junior championship can show improved results.

R.R. Laxman

AFTER making his maiden IMnorm in 1998, Laxman took his time to get another one. Known to pay more attention to academics, this student of psychology started with a victory over Koneru Humpy and ended with a norm in the Commonwealth championship. He plays faster than most players on the circuit and that sometimes lands him into trouble. Better time management and preparation should see this intelligent player do justice to his talent.