The 14 Players

Rakesh Rao

1. R. B. Ramesh: Seeded 1; Rating 2464; Performance of 2601 against opponents with an average rating of 2350; A gain of 19 rating points.

PLAYED like a champion throughout and was a worthy winner. Nearly flawless opening preparations saw him cruise through to advantageous positions in the 10 games he played seriously. Looked motivated and determined not to let the title slip away. He was still careful not to spoil the chances of those who played in the last three rounds.

2. Diwakar Prasad Singh: Seeded 62; Rating 2247; Performance of 2505 against opponents with an average rating of 2330; A gain of 66 rating points.

THIS Jharkhand lad was the biggest surprise of the event. He scored 7.5 points off higher-rated players. Defeated fellow qualifiers such as B. S. Shivanandan, Arghyadip Das, Abhijeet Gupta (besides former National champion P. Konguvel) and drew with M. S. Thej Kumar, Lanka Ravi, P. D. S. Girinath and Vikramaditya Kamble. Barring the last game, he did not settle for any pre-agreed draws. Showed a positive approach and attitude to make it to his first National `A'.

3. Vikramaditya Kamble: Seeded 20; Rating 2383; Performance of 2470 against opponents with an average rating of 2295; A gain of 22 rating points.

HAS come a long way since his junior days with the likes of K. Sasikiran, P. Harikrishna and S. Kidambi. Had stunned Surya Shekhar Ganguly in the last National team championship at Pune. After four straight victories and a draw, lost to Ramesh and S. Arun Prasad during the mid-phase of his campaign and achieved his maiden qualification to National `A' by scoring 2.5 points in the last three rounds.

4. B. S. Shivanandan: Seeded 3; Rating 2464; Performance of 2474 against opponents with an average rating of 2316; A gain of one rating point.

ANOTHER first-time qualifier. Very consistent performer in the open tournaments. The country's highest rated non-titled player. A rare `professional' in domestic chess with average winnings of around Rs. 2.50 lakhs in each of the last two years. Not known to agree to quick draws. Considered by many as a sure bet for International Master norms provided he plays in norm-tournaments. Progress slowed down by financial constraints.

5. P. D. S. Girinath: Seeded 18; Rating 2383; Performance of 2444 against opponents with an average rating of 2269. A gain of nine rating points.

THIS soft-spoken and humble man from Andhra Pradesh is known to be most dangerous when in time-pressure. He takes his time to nail his rivals. What made his return to National `A' possible was his somewhat lucky victory over youngster Lalith Babu in the 10th round. In the remaining three rounds, he did not have to stretch much to draw. Remained unbeaten with six wins and seven draws. Victory over Karnataka's N. Sanjay in the ninth round brought him back into contention. Qualification was a just reward for his perseverance.

6. Himanshu Sharma: Seeded 26; Rating 2373; Performance of 2448 against opponents with an average rating of 2273. A gain of 18 rating points.

MUCH in the mould of Diwakar, Himanshu played with a lot of heart and justified his place among the qualifiers. This Haryana player, perhaps, the first from his State to make it to the National `A', recovered from the ninth-round loss to Lalith Babu by drawing with Deepan Chakkravarthy and beating former qualifiers, V. Hariharan and D. Harika, before shaking hands with Shivanandan. Earned a fine draw against Ramesh in the seventh round.

7. M. S. Thej Kumar: Seeded 15; Rating 2386; Performance of 2426 against opponents with an average rating of 2251; A gain of 11 rating points.

THIS Post Graduate in Commerce from Mysore earned his maiden qualification with some tidy results. Three draws in the first six games kept this former National under-25 champion away from the more illustrious contenders. Following his lone loss, to B. T. Muralikrishna in the eighth round, he made his move by scoring two straight victories. A draw with Deep Sengupta earned him a meeting with Nisha Mohota whom he beat for his best showing of the competition. Finally made it with an agreed draw with Girinath.

8. Lanka Ravi: Seeded 7; Rating 2414; Performance of 2448 against opponents with an average rating of 2273. A gain of five rating points.

THE oldest qualifier at 41. Twice member of the Indian team to Olympiads, Lanka Ravi qualified for the 17th time since 1984. This Senior Personal and Administration Officer with ONGC treaded carefully to reach 5.5 points from seven rounds before going down to Vikramaditya Kamble. But experience kept him on the track as he managed four points from the last five rounds, during which the penultimate-round victory over R. R. Laxman set up his qualification.

9. Sriram Jha: Seeded 4; Rating 2437; Performance of 2506 against opponents with an average rating of 2295. A gain of nine rating points.

ARRIVED a round late to defend his title and strung together six straight victories. Reinforced the belief that when it comes to Swiss league format, his chances can never be written off. In between his draws with Valay Parikh and Dinesh Kumar Sharma, Jha lost to Ramesh. But he bounced back to score over N. Sanjay and Lalith Babu to make it with a friendly finish against Arun Prasad.

10. S. Arun Prasad: Seeded 25; Rating 2374; Performance of 2410 against opponents with an average rating of 2235. A gain of eight rating points.

THE reigning Asian junior boys' champion came up with a fine unbeaten showing to earn his maiden qualification. After a slow start, Arun's campaign gained momentum from the seventh round with victories over M. K. Panigrahi, Tanmoy Patnayak, K. Ratnakaran and Vikramaditya Kamble. Three friendly draws with fellow qualifiers saw the youngster make it with deserving ease.

11. Deepan Chakkravarthy: Seeded 2; Rating 2465; Performance of 2451 against opponents with an average rating of 2276. A loss of three rating points.

THIS former Asian junior boys' champion was on the verge of being out of the qualifying race after drawing with V. Saravanan to reach 7.5 points from 11 rounds. But he produced two victories, over T. Purushothaman and B. T. Muralikrishna, to retain his place in the National `A'. Did not play to his potential but showed determination when required.

12. Arghyadip Das: Seeded 5; Rating 2431; Performance of 2411 against opponents with an average rating of 2253. A loss of three rating points.

NOT in serious contention after scoring just five points from eight rounds. But this youngster from Kolkata raised his level dramatically by scoring 4.5 points from the last five rounds to make the grade. Victories in the last three rounds made Das realise his goal. Though extremely lucky to win against V. Saravanan in the final round, none could grudge his place among the qualifiers for the second time in three years.

13. Dinesh Kumar Sharma: Seeded 27; Rating 2369; Performance of 2408 against opponents with an average rating of 2233. A gain of seven rating points.

ANOTHER qualifier who remained undefeated. Dinesh was never among the front-runners after drawing three of the first four games. In fact, he started to look serious only after he beat K. Nikhilesh Kumar and drew with LIC teammate Sriram Jha. In the last three rounds, he overpowered fellow-IM Roktim Bandyopadhyay, drew with K. Ratnakaran and defeated Deep Sengupta to qualify.

14. Abhijeet Gupta: Seeded 21; Rating 2380; Performance of 2396 against opponents with an average rating of 2221. A gain of three rating points.

THIS hardworking Bhilwara-boy from ONGC made it by winning the last three rounds. He is also the only qualifier to prove that it is possible to qualify even after losing three games. Fiercely competitive, this former National junior champion won nine games and drew just one, against Tanmoy Patnaik in the sixth round. More of a positional player, Abhijeet showed a lot of heart during his campaign.