Sriram Jha emerges champion

V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

TWENTY-seven-year-old Sriram Jha of Life Insurance Corporation emerged champion of the Maganti Ravindranath Choudhary All India FIDE-rated Open chess tournament, organised by the AP Chess Association (Telangana Division), in Hyderabad. Despite being tied with six others for the top slot with eight points each, the second-seeded Sriram (ELO 2386) won the title by virtue of better progressive score.

Sriram Jha with the Maganti Ravindranath Choudhary All India FIDE-rated trophy. — Pic. H. SATISH-

By his own confession, thanks to the indifferent form of India's first WGM Subbaraman Vijayalakshmi, who was top-seeded here and finished 10th in final placings, Sriram never really expected to be the champion. But, once he outwitted IM S. C. Sahu in the seventh round game in 55 moves in Ruy Lopez Worral attack, he felt that he had a good chance. In the final round, all that he needed to realise his objective was a draw, which he earned in just 10 moves against local hero and IM P. D. S. Girinath. Interestingly, he was also involved in a quick draw against Vijayalakshmi in the ninth round.

The Delhi-based player, who had a career-best showing of fourth place recently in the Delhi Grandmasters tournament in which 12 GMs and more than 40 IMs took part, says that the win in Hyderabad will only give him the necessary confidence and help him sustain the good run he had last year winning five All India Open titles. And the tournament had it's own share of upsets with K. N. Gopal of Andhra Bank shocking S. Meenakshi of Tamil Nadu in the seventh round in Queen's Gambit Accepted Variation.

Once the WGM faltered on the 23rd move by playing Na5 which saw her lose an important pawn, Gopal seized on the chance by taking another pawn in the middle-game with a neat combination. In a knight and two pawns ending, Meenakshi had little choice but to resign after 60 moves. That she had finished 15th in the final placings might not have done any good to her reputation.

But the biggest upset was caused by L. V. Siva Kumar of Nellore who recorded his first win against a Grandmaster when he outsmarted S.Vijayalakshmi in a fifth round game. With his 18th move — a5 — giving him the vital pawn-break after his opponent blundered by playing Ng3 leading to her position being cramped, Siva Kumar was equal to the task as he soon found himself materially up with six pawns to the five and also a rook and knight ending to Vijayalakshmi's bishop and knight ending. And expectedly, the WGM resigned after 51 moves.

In fact, Siva Kumar upset IM Sekhar Sahu in a third round game in Queen's Gambit Accepted Variation. By all means, it was a perfect warm-up event for the National `B' championship, which gave a chance for players like Vijayalakshmi to try out new lines of attack and variations. "Honestly, I used this event to experiment with novelties in eight rounds. No doubt, I am not happy with the 10th placing. But it gave me a hint of where I might go wrong,'' said Vijayalakshmi later. But for players like Sriram Jha a win is as good as anything and is visibly pleased with the final result as he was also richer by Rs.30,000. J. Ramakrishna and P. D. S. Girinath finished second and third respectively to pick cash prizes of Rs.20,000 and Rs.10,000 each.

Final placings: 1. Sriram Jha (LIC) 8 points, 2. J. Ramakrishna (AP) 8, 3. P. D. S. Girinath (SCR) 8, 4. Sowmya Ranjan Mishra 8, 5. P. Praveen Prasad 8, 6. Balasubrahmanyam 8, 7. Amitpal Singh 8, 8. Easha Karavade 7.5, 9. K. N. Gopal 7.5, 10. S.Vijayalakshmi 7.5.