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Friday, November 6, 2015

Welcome to the 42nd National Women Premier 2015

It is the biggest women event in the country. 12 women players from different parts of the country will meet in Kolkata from the 12th to 24th of November 2015 to participate in the 42nd National Premier Chess Championships. So let's first straight get to know who are the players in the event:

1. IM Padmini Rout (2437)

After Humpy and Harika we can say that currently she is the third strongest female player in the country. She is the reigning national champion and the bad news for her opponents is that she is in excellent form. Recently she was the joint champion at the Malaysian Open where a lot of strong grandmasters had taken part. I would say Padmini is a favourite to win the title once again this year because she is rated nearly 50 points more than the second seed. I asked Padmini about the pressure of being the defending champion and she replied, "I can either take the pressure or not. Right now I am not thinking about it, I hope I will continue doing the same during the tournament too." 

And what are her main aims in the event? Like an experienced campaigner Padmini says, "I just want to play good games. That will be my aim." And who does she think is her biggest competitor? "I am my biggest competitor. I hope to do better than last year." When you receive such level headed answers from a player, you see a battle hardened sportsperson who is confident about her abilities, but makes sure to think about things that are in her control. We can looks forward to some high quality chess from the princess of Orissa.

2. IM Tania Sachdev (2385)

At the end of 2013, Tania had a rating of 2441. Since then her rating has dropped consistently and she is now down to 2385. Tania has become an important member in the international chess community as she is called to many top events as a commentator or a host like Gibraltar 2015 or Millionaire Chess 2015. But when asked whether she is into full time commentary, Tania replies, "Ha! Not yet, I quite enjoy commentating but playing is still my #1 priority." With this National Premier Tania would be aiming to get back some of her lost rating points and also prove that she is very much one of the top female players in the country.

3. WGM Soumya Swaminathan (2341)

The former World Junior champion and 2011 National Champion is one of the strongest contenders to win the title. When Soumya was contacted and asked what is her aim in this National Premier, she replied, " My aim is to win the tournament of course. Looking forward to a well organized event and playing some good games!" 
The best part about Soumya is her attacking style of play. She loves to aim at her opponent's king and is one of the reasons why spectators would enjoy watching her games.

4. WFM R. Vaishali (2298)

She is the fourth seed in this event and I would dare to say that one of the biggest threats to all the seasoned players mentioned above. Even R. Vaishali is not sure what she is capable of doing at this point of time. Just yesterday, she won the under-14 World title. She was also the National Challengers champion, a tournament that had all the players who will be playing in the premier apart from Padmini. True that she lost to Soumya and Tania in that event scoring 9.0/11, but she will looking out for a revenge in the National Premier.

Vaishali is a free soul when it comes to the chess board. Opening theory does not bind her. She has a keen sense of psychological factors in chess. For example: if she thinks that her opponent is a positional player who doesn't like to be attacked, she is ready to make bold moves even if they are objectively weaker. Her confidence can be gauged from the fact that at the recently concluded National under-17, she played in the boys section and was leading right until the last round before finishing third. Somewhere I already see the signs of another Judit Polgar in her.

5. WGM Bhakti Kulkarni (2257)

One of the top women players in the country now for quite some time, Bhakti had a career high rating of 2339 in the year 2011. Her rating has dipped a bit in the recent past but she is very much a force to be reckoned with. The thing which separates her from the rest is her subtle positional play. She likes to play quite openings, sometimes even boring, but what's important is that she gets the job done. With lot of attacking players in the line up like Padmini, Soumya, Vaishali, Swati it will be interesting to have a player with a completely different style of play.

6. WIM Pratyusha Bodda (2248)

This player from Andhra Pradesh has, in my opinion, one of the most fluctuating rating charts that I have ever seen. In July 2013 she was rated 2180. One year later in August 2014 she had a rating of 2033! She then pumped it up to 2270 (Yes a 240 point gain!) in February 2015 and then slid down to 2128 in a few months. The story doesn't end her. Thanks to a brilliant performance at the Asian Continental she gained 132 points and reached a career high rating of 2326. But then dropped 28 points at the World Juniors and is now down to 2248. As is clearly apparent, if she is in form she can even become the champion. But if she is not then we can expect her to finish at the bottom of the table.

7. WIM Michelle Catherina (2242)

This year 19-year-old girl has gained 200 Elo points this year. She is a solid performer and capable of beating anyone on the best of her days. She starts off as the 7th seed in the event.

8. WGM Swati Ghate (2230)

A epitome of a true manager - Swati is a wife and a mother to a little kid. She manages all her roles and that the same plays some enterprisingly brilliant chess. She is known as one of the fiercest attackers in Indian chess circles. However, her incapability of maintaining her nerves has led her to lose many a winning positions. If she is in her best playing form she can beat the best.

9. WFM V.Varshini (2163)

2163 is not her real rating. Make it 2297! How you may ask? Well, Varshini won the silver medal at the World Youth under -18 which finished yesterday thereby gaining 134 Elo points! She also won the under 17 national title recently. The form she is in, her opponents will surely have to take her as a very serious threat to the title.

From left to right: Priyanka Nutakki (1994), K.Priyanka (2011), Neha Singh (2024)

I wouldn't consider these three players as serious contenders for winning the title. But it can be a very good exposure for them to play against the top players , especially for both the young Priyankas!
Neha Singh, wife of IM D.P.Singh, played a good event at the National Challengers to book a berth at this premier event. It would be interesting to see if she can cause a few upsets here. 

The participants at a glance:
1. IM Padmini Rout (2437)
2. IM Tania Sachdev (2385)
3. WGM Soumya Swaminathan (2357)
4. WFM R.Vaishali (2298)
5. WGM Bhakti Kulkarni (2257)
6. WIM Pratyusha Bodda (2248)
7. WIM Michelle Catherina (2242)
8. WGM Swati Ghate (2230)
9. V. Varshini (2163)
10. Neha Singh (2024)
11. Priyanka. K (2011)
12. Priyanka Nutakki (1994)

The tournament is being organized by Diaspora Times under the aegis of AICF and Bengal Chess Association. It must be said that Diaspora Times were also the organizers of the National Challengers 2015 and they did a commendable job. Hence, the players can expect some high quality arrangements for this event.

The tournament will be held at the Bengal Gallery, Kolkata.


The prizes are pretty decent with the first place winning nearly US $3,000

One round a day along with a rest day in between is every chess players delight

The zero tolerance rule will be applied at the event and the time control will be one hour thirty minutes with an addition of thirty minutes after move forty and an increment of thirty seconds from move one.

As I was writing this article, I realized that this is a wonderful National Premier. There are seasoned campaigners like Padmini, Tania, Soumya, Bhakti, Swati who have proved themselves on numerous occasions for winning loads of laurels for our country. And then there are upcoming, young and talented players like Vaishali, Varshini, Michelle, Pratyusha who will give the experienced guys a run for their money. Besides, there are bottom three seeds who would be waiting to catch one of the big fishes at the event.

Who will win the event? I think as of now Padmini is a clear favourite to win the title based on her rating and also the recent performances at the Malaysian Open. Tania is a little bit out of practice but Soumya is currently competing with the best players in India at the inter PSPB championships. So she might be in good form. As for Vaishali I can only think of one word : Giant Killer! Let's see if she can become the youngest National Premier Champion of our country!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Day two of the World Rapids 2015

Day two of the World Rapids and we witnessed five more exciting rounds. After ten rounds we have two leaders. One is the expected world number one and reigning World Champion, Magnus Carlsen, and the other is the totally unexpected Sergei Zhigalko from Belarus. Both of them are on 8.0/10.

Always in limelight, the reigning World Champion in all formats of the game, Magnus Carlsen

Although Magnus is playing the entire tournament in excellent style not having lost a single game, he was very close to defeat against the young talented Russian Danii Dubov. Let's have a look at the golden opportunity missed by Danii to beat the World number one:

"Want a draw?"

"You missed an easy win, now wait a bit!"

Ok, I don't see anything let's split the point!

The surprise package of the tournament has been Sergei Zhigalko who has set the tournament on fire with scintillating performance

At a rating of 2698 Sergei is already gaining 50 Elo points and has already beaten players like Gelfand and Nepomniachtchi.

Two of the thinnest people in the chess world: Amruta is cheering for Sergei in this tournament!

The two leaders are being followed by a pack of three players on 7.5/10 - Kovalenko, Kramnik and Ivanchuk.

Igor Kovalenko has earned the respect of many with his accurate play in this format

Old is gold: Vladimir Kramnik on 7.5/10

Old is gold 2: Vasily Ivanchuk doing well in the tournament

After acquainting ourselves with the leaders, let's have a look at how the Indians fared yesterday.

Vidit who started superbly with 4.0/5 yesterday was slowed down yesterday with three draws and two losses to Mamedyarov (above) and Bacrot

Although Vidit slowed down a bit, his performance of 5.5/10 is still commendable. He has played all players higher than his rating and is gaining 60 Elo points....

....but one would expect a solid player like Vidit to hold this position with black against anyone in the world.

Vishy Anand has not been able to impress at the World Rapids and currently is on 5.5/10

After 2.5/5 yesterday, Anand picked up speed by beating Belov and Volokitin. But then he lost to Mamedov in a crazily complicated game. He won in the ninth round against Bologan. But tenth round turned into a heartbreak. After playing an opening which completely went his way, Vishy simply faltered.

Khismatulin - Anand
Black to play. What would you do?

Vishy has sacrificed a piece and has a dnagerous initiative. Here the strongest would have been to simply take the pawn on h3 with 14...Bxh3. Now a mate is threatened on g2 and if 15.Ng3 then after Qh4, there are threats like Bf5 or Bf1 which simply cannot be controlled. Instead Vishy chose 14...Qh4 and then Khismatullin could save himself with 15.Nf4! The neat point being that Bxf4 exf4 introduces a weak back rank in black's position. The position was still complicated but Vishy had lost his chance and went on to lose the game.

The man of day two for India is definitely B.Adhiban! He played some excellent chess to be on 6.0/10 at the end of day two.

One of the biggest assets of Adhiban is his fighting spirit. After finishing day one on 3.0/5, he lost the first two games on day two. But he came back strongly to beat Mikhalevksi, Morozevich and Ivansevic in the last three rounds. The fact that he declined the three fold repetition against Morozevich and went for a win shows how ambitious he really is!

Surya Shekhar Ganguly is on 5.0/10 but he scored a huge upset beating....

....Ruslan Ponomariov, who is sporting an extremely weird hair-cut!

Black to play

Ponomariov thought he was in complete control at this point. But Ganguly struck back with the highly orginal tactic 24...Bxd3! The point of this combination is that 25.Nxd3 can be met with Qd7! when one of the knights will fall. To see this tactic in a short time control is really commendable. Ponomariov didn't accept the piece and went 25.Ka1 but after Be4! the bishop had found an ideal location.

Sasikiran is doing pretty well with 5.5/10. He drew against MVL and beat the talented Spaniard Anton Guijarro David. Yet, more is expected of him.

Sethuraman is currently struggling in the tournament with 3.5/10. He mananged to score only one point out of five on day two.

As we go into the last day, it doesn't seem that any Indian has any chances of a medal, but with a finish like 5.0/5 you never know! Till then, I leave you with some of the nice pictorial impressions from Berlin:

Some day I will be like him!

A German, Armenian and two Russians following different games captured in one frame!

That's what dedication is all about

Battle of generations - Fedoseev vs Gelfand

Vishy Anand going out of his way to kibitz the game of his friend Boris Gelfand

" I am the only one who has had Magnus Carlsen on the ropes!"

Chess can be a serious game sometimes....

....and sometimes a lot of fun!

A jam packed playing hall

You can follow the live action from the comfort of your home, but the best place is definitely on your father's shoulders!

A huge thanks to Elena Kashirskaya, Gregor Anthes, Nailya Bikmurzina for these wonderful pictures.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Vidit flawless at the World Rapids

It's a tournament with 158 players where 125 of them are above 2500 Elo! The World Rapid and Blitz championships are here and it is one of the biggest chess extravaganza that we can witness as a chess fan! The 15 round rapid event with a time control of 15 minutes + 10 seconds increment began on Saturday. Five rounds took place on day one. Before we get to the chess part and how the Indians fared, here's a picture gallery just to give you an idea as to how strong this tournament really is!

The World Champion is here to defend his Rapid and Blitz title that he won in Dubai 2014

India's Vishy Anand, five time World Champion, proving that age is just a number!

Push the h-pawn, sac, sac, mate! The stylish Levon Aronian rehearsing the ideas before the games begin

In a league of his very own is Vasily Ivanchuk

Arguably one of the best blitz players in the world - Ian Nepomniachtchi

Is this guy a chess machine? After 25 days of relentless games at the World Cup in Baku Sergey Karjakin is back on the chess board!

"Let's call it a day!" Boris Gelfand proposes a truce!

The Shak attack!

Always a force to reckon with: Teimour Radjabov

The Polish team of Bartel, Gajewski, Wojtaszek and Swiercz

The Russians have sent their best guys - Nepo, Karjakin, Rublevsky, Kramnik

One of my favourite authors and the lovely commentator Yasser Seirawan. But he was not the only legend in the playing hall...

....the tenth World Champion Boris Spassky speaks with his old friend Fridrik Olafsson

Now that you are aware of the stars participating in the event, you would be in a better position to appreciate the performance of the 21-year-old Indian youngster Vidit Gujrathi!

Vidit is currently on 4.0/5 and in the second position

At 2534 rapid rating, Vidit is clearly under-rated. Thanks to his great calculating abilities, he is already gaining 57 Elo points. So let's have a look as to how he performed in the first five rounds.

Round 1 Gadir Guseinov vs Vidit
White to play, how should White regain his pawn?

It's Gadir's turn to move. He played the atrocious move 13.h3? After 13...Nxe4 14.Rxe4 Bxg5 15.Ng5 Bf5 Black was just a pawn up and clearly better. So what should have White played in the above position? There was a very nice tactical variation starting with 13.Nxf6! Bxf6 14.Nxe5! So why did White give up his bishop on g5? Because after 14...Bxg5 15.Nxf7! Rxf7 16.Qxg5! and the queen on g5 is taboo as Re8 is a mate. Of course here Black can go 16...Qf8 and the position is round about equal. But you can understand how tactically alert White had to be in order to maintain the balance. Once 13.h3 was played, Vidit had very little difficulty in converting this into a win.

Round 2 Vidit vs Andrei Volokitin 
Black to play, what do you think about 50...Rd5?

Volokitin is a piece down but has excellent drawing chances because of the reduced material. All he needs to do is exchange the rooks. But the Ukrainian was in great hurry and played the move 50...Rd5?? Vidit was extremely alert as he went 51.Ng7+! Ke5 52.Ng4+ Kd4 (Ke4 loses to Nf6+) 53.Nf5+ Ke4 (Kc4 would lose to the nice trick any knight to e3 check!) 54.Nf6+ and the rook was lost and so was the game!

With this win Vidit was on 2.0/2. Of course Gadir Guseinov and Andrei Volokitin were strong, but nowhere near his next opponent's strength. Vidit now faced the formidable Alexander Grischuk with the black pieces.

With a rating of 2846, Grischuk is the second seed in the event

Vidit played a fantastic game to beat the top Russian player. Here's the entire game with some express analysis:

After a sparkling start with 3.0/3, Vidit showed that he is class act by not losing any of his next two games. He drew with white against Nepomniachtchi and with black against Peter Leko.

A screen capture from Vidit's fourth round game against Ian Nepomniachtchi

Vidit's performance was simply amazing, but what about India's ace player Viswanathan Anand? How did he fare? Things started pretty well for Vishy. He beat Kateryna Lagno in the first round and followed it up with a win against Alexander Onischuk. In the third round he drew his game against Salem Saleh in a completely crazy battle. Here's the last part of the game annotated by Albert Silver taken from the ChessBase report.

2.5/3 was not all a bad start. But then things started to fall apart for the Indian. In the fourth round he was caught by some excellent preparation done by Russian Danii Dubov.

Round 4, Dubov - Anand 
In the above position which has been seen many time in tournament praxis, Dubov came up with the novelty 12.a3!? It did not seem to deter Anand as he played quickly. After 15 moves we reach the follwing position.

How should White continue?

Dubov was clearly in his preparation as he blitzed out the move 16.g4! This created some big problems for Anand with g5 coming up. He tried to stop it with 16...f6 but the g6 square had been weakened terribly and he ended up with a bad position after 17.Nd6

Danii Dubov showed some amazing preparation to beat Vishy

In the fith round Vishy faced another Russian Pavel Ponkratov with the white pieces. In a French defence, Black got a very comfortable position in the early middlegame. Although the evaluation fluctuated a bit, by the time we reached the endgame Ponkratov was clearly better. 

 Round 5, Anand - Ponkratov
How should Black increase his advantage?

With such a dominating knight on e4, it's time to open up the position and Pavel did just that with the move 44...f4!

White to play. How do you evaluate 48.Nxd5

Vishy was already in big trouble and tried to complicate matter with 48.Nxd5 but after Kxd5 49.Rxe4 Rh3+ 50.Kg4 Kxe4 51.Kxh3 Rxf4. All the pawns remained on one side and the white king was sidelined on h3.

When the following position was reached, Vishy found nothing better but to throw in the towel

So a bad day for Vishy Anand who is now on 2.5/5 but Vidit more than made it up with his sizzling 4.0/5 performance. This is how the other Indians stand right now:

B.Adhiban: 3.0/5
Surya Shekhar Ganguly: 3.0/5 
(It must be mentioned that Surya has drawn with two very strong players: Kramnik and Andreikin)
Krishnan Sasikiran: 2.5/5
S.P. Sethuraman 2.5/5

Check out Adhiban's interesting video inside the confession box over here

In the sixth round Vidit faces Wojtaszek on the seventh board.
You can find the pairings and standings on chess-results website.

Karjakin, who is seen here with his friend Kateryna Lagno, is the sole leader with 4.5/5

There were so many top level contests taking place at the same time that...

... you could simply feel lost!

We look forward to five more exciting rounds on the day two of the World Rapid 2015

The beautiful pictures that you saw in this report have been taken from the official website. The photographers are Elena Kashirskaya, Gregor Anthes, Nailya Bikmurzina.