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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Debashis holds Veselin Topalov!

28th January 2015 was my 25th birthday. Many people asked me, "Why haven't you written something on your blog?" My reason was simple. Being born on a specific day doesn't warrant an article to be written on the blog, you have to do something special!
And something special was exactly what a young 21-year-old grandmaster from India did yesterday!

Veselin Topalov made it to the history books as the first player ever above 2800 to participate in any open tournament. We are talking about the Gibraltar Chess Festival 2015!

In the second round Debashis played against the former world champion

The game was extremely complicated and interesting

And our young hero was able to hold the Bulgarian number one!

Here is the game played by Debashis with analysis by GM Alejandro Ramirez and taken from the ChessBase website.

This draw would have been very special for Debashis because just a few months ago he played another great player and Topalov's arch rival...

....GM Vladimir Kramnik at the Qatar Open in November 2014

Kramnik tries to see what his opponent's name is which means that he came to the game without any preparation. Look at Debashis! I think mentally he had decided that the next time he plays a World class player he would not let him off easy!

This is a brilliant feat for the young Orissa lad who according to me is one of the most hard-working players in the country. Debashis is extremely dedicated towards the game of chess and this can be seen from the fact that he lives in Orissa away from his parents just so that he could focus more on his practice. Apart from his hard working nature, there is one quality of Debashis which I simply admire- his self confidence!

Back in December 2012 when Debashis was 2464 and had just 1 GM norm, he promised in front of a huge crowd in Bhubaneshwar that he would soon become Orissa's first grandmaster

That was my reaction on December 2012 to Debashis's post and it is still the same!

The road to the GM title was not easy but Debashis's attitude was simply perfect!

He achieved the title around a year later in November 2013 and fulfilled his promise of becoming Orissa's first grandmaster.

Receiving an award from Orissa's chief minister Naveen Patnaik

Debashis is a huge celebrity in his state and it wouldn't be an overstatement if I said that he is much more popular among the common masses in his state than some of the cricket players. This was attested by the following anecdote:
" Around a year ago my laptop had crashed. I called an engineer home and he was trying to repair it. When the computer restarted he saw a lot of chess icons on my desktop. He asked, "Aap chess khelto ho?" (do you play chess?). I replied, "haan kya aap bhi khelto ho?" (yes, do you also play the game?) And then he said something which I remember till date, "Chess to mein nahi khelta but TV pe hamesha news mein Debashis Das ko dekhta hoon!" (I do not follow chess but always see Debashis Das in the news!) Not Vishy Anand, or Harikrishna or Sasikiran, the man followed Debashis Das. I immediately realized that he was from Orissa. In December 2013 when I was travelling in the train with the young Orissa GM, I called the computer engineer and gave the phone to Debashis. Maybe those were the best two minutes of the engineer's life! When I next met him he thanked me for making a chat with Debashis possible! This is how popular Debashis is in his state!"

Such unnecessary publicity is the only thing that might come between Debashis and his dream of becoming a world class player. (picture taken from Rakesh KumarJena's blog)

Debashis is currently 2503 but I think with the right approach, attitude and self confidence that he possesses I am sure that he will break into 2600 by the end of this year! 

Debashis and Akshat Khamparia at my place in December 2013.
Debashis has a special bond with me. He is the first GM who has come and stayed at my residence ! :) 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A "blinder" of a game!

Blindfold games are always very interesting. For non chess players it is a spectacle showcasing the power of the human mind. How on earth can two players play a game of chess that has so many possibilities on each and every move without seeing the chess board! 
Seasoned chess players know better. Daily practice and work on the chess board makes them used to the 64 squares and pieces which makes playing blindfold quite possible.
As Vishy Anand had rightly said, " Chess is like a language, the top players are very fluent at it."
But still blindfold games are very interesting for regular players of the game because such games happen quite rarely and it is always possible to make huge mistakes which otherwise strong players wouldn't make if they could see the chess board.

On 10th of January IM Nisha Mohota took on WGM Padmini Rout in an exhibition blindfold game at the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Sri City, Andhra Pradesh. 

The poster of the game

It was a rapid game with a time control of 25 minutes + 10 second increment per move. All the details of the game along with what the players felt prior to the match were covered in my previous blogpost.

The game began with a blindfold cloth around the player's eyes. Both of them sat next to each other and called out the moves which was then made on a giant computerized chess board. As you can see both players look pretty calm and relaxed as Nisha began the game with an English Opening

But as the game progressed, players started to get a bit worried!

Look at Nisha! Trying to eke out every last bit of her mental power. And Padmini, as cool as a cucumber!

The crowd which consisted of girls with around the same age as Padmini and Nisha had a hard time to get to grips with the amazing mental power shown by the two girls.

Nisha repeats the position for the third time by moving her bishop to e7 and Padmini has to decide whether she will take a draw or not.

Padmini makes the move Ke4- d4 and that means its a three fold repetition! Nisha who cannot see anything is trying to claim for a draw. If you watch carefully, you can see Padmini has a small smile on her face. She knows its a draw but sits calmly!

Finally the blindfold is off and a huge relief for both the players and more so for Nisha as she was had just a minute left on her clock!

This exciting game was excellently commented upon by IM Saravanan who not only had to explain the game but also the very basic rules of chess to the spectators. He covered a wide range of topics and going over his commentary can help you to learn a lot about how a good chess player thinks.

Here is the game with a few comments by WGM Nisha Mohota:

The video of the entire game can be viewed over here.

The blindfold game was followed by tandem simul in which both the players played against 13 opponents and made moves one after another in every game. They won on all the boards.

No, this was not the prize they received for playing the blindfold game!

Guess whether this was the lunch before the game or dinner after it? More than the daylight, it is Padmini's expression that can give you the answer! :)

Now this one is definitely after the game! A relaxed Nisha!

Padmini in front of a Christmas tree

Both the players stayed in a hotel that looks magnificient!

Nisha and Padmini show their love towards the cavalry. This makes me wonder why did Nisha part away with her knight in the endgame with Ne5+? It has been long known that chess players mind starts working differently once they are in front of the 64 squared chess board! :)

I would personally like to congratulate both the players Padmini and Nisha on their excellent performance. I consider myself to be a decent blindfold player. But if I had to perform in front of so many people with a pressure of the clock ticking by I would have surely made a blunder! It's a big achievement by both of them to play a nearly flawless game! Both the girls have popularized the game of chess, in their own little way!
Pictures by Nisha, Saravanan's twitter and 
screen captures from the live video feed

Friday, January 9, 2015

Blindfold battle between Nisha and Padmini

It has been generally accepted that chess is the most intellectual game ever played by humans. But somehow the classical time control of one and half hour each does not make it a spectator sport. In a bid to make chess more of a spectator sport, people have tried many ideas. Truncating the time control is one idea. Blitz is interesting for the spectators but the quality of the game deteriorates by quite some extent. Simultaneous displays look like a very interesting idea to catch the fancy of the observers.

The little Nigel Short giving a simultaneous display to people who are five times his age!

Then people found a more interesting way! The person giving a simultaneous would not be able to see the chess board. In the above picture you see 13-year-old Parimarjan Negi giving a blind fold simul to four participants. (He scored 3:1)

Then there came a man who did something simply unbelievable. 

Timur Gareev made the world record for playing blindfold against 33 opponents and scored 29 wins and 4 draws! Simply amazing!

Though blindfold simultaneous displays were interesting and showcased the powers of human mind, it did not contain the sporting flavour. The competitive feeling which comes when two equal opponents are seated opposite each other. And that is the reason why one on one blindfold games according to me are the most interesting from a spectator and sporting point of view.

Veselin Topalov takes on Judit Polgar in Bilbao. The funny thing is why have they kept the board in front of the players when their eyes are blindfolded? Either remove the board or remove the blindfold!

Here's the reason: The blindfold was worn just as a representation that the players were going to play without seeing the board. It was removed as soon as the games began.

According to me this is the best method to play blindfold chess with both players sitting next to each other and calling out moves, while the moves are executed by someone else on a chess board.

The reason why I am going into the intricacies of blindfold chess is because, two of India's most prominent women players, IM Nisha Mohota (2278) and WGM Padmini Rout (2388) are going to play a blindfold exhibition match tomorrow i.e the 10 of January 2015. The venue of the match is Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Sri City, Andhra Pradesh.

Padmini Rout who is seen here with her mother is the 2014 National Premier (A) champion of India...

...While Nisha Mohota (right) seen here with her sister is the current National Challengers (B) champion! 

The IIIT college faculty have come up with some interesting posters for this event:

Virat is powerless when he is blindfolded...

....And so is Lionel Messi.

But the blindfold doesn't really affect these two champions! They can still play the sport that they expertise in to their fullest potential!

Vision is important. Not sight!

It is so wonderful that the college is using the game of chess in order to promote their college as an "institute with a vision". The two players will be playing in front of an august gathering. Most of the people will be highly educated and distinguished personalities in the field of science and education.

I was able to ask a few questions to the two players before this crucial game:

1. So how have you prepared for this blindfold game?
Nisha :I played four blind games against my mother who is a beginner just knowing the moves. I just wanted to see whether I am able to visualise the position on the board.

Padmini: I solved some positions blindly and also played a blindfold game with my father which was a good way to prepare!

2. What is your strategy for the game tomorrow?

Nisha: This is a completely different experience than a normal game. Here I am not concerned about how my opponent will play but more so it's a battle against myself. I am more concerned about how good I will be able to focus in front of an August gathering of elite people outside the familiar chess circle.

Padmini: Strategy is to play a good game. :)

3. Are you afraid that you will make an illegal move?

Nisha: I hope I won't make illegal moves. ..but you never know

Padmini: I am pretty sure I wont make an illegal move!

4. Do you have any previous experience of playing blindfold chess?

Nisha: I played in the fantastic match of maharashtra vs rest of India conducted by the player who I believe makes the most novelties out of the chess board: Abhijit Kunte.

Padmini: Once played a blindfold match in Maharashtra vs Rest of India.

So who is the favourite in this match? It is said the young players usually can visualize better, so that advantage lies with Padmini. Also in their past encounters, Padmini has scored heavily against Nisha.

Both of them have played each other 11 times and the score is 7.5-4,5 in Padmini's favour with four wins and seven draws. The last two games in 2014 however ended in draws.

So the age and past results are in favour of Padmini but Nisha is approaching this game with a very positive frame of mind. Says Nisha: "This event is for my non chess playing friends - I will be happy if they watch it. My friends always had the curiosity of how we do it blind. I want them to see and fall in love with the game which I have loved for 27 years of my life!"

The time control will be 25 minutes + 10 seconds increment. It is going to be a cracker of a match. And to add to the excitement, the organizers have roped in one of India's best commentators to give his expert opinion on the match!

International Master V Saravanan will be the official commentator of the game.

Saravanan is known for his philosophical approach towards the game and always has wonderful anecdotes and analysis to share with the viewers. What is Saravanan's take on the match?
"It's going to be a match of generations between an ambitious and experienced player and an ambitious up comer. But playing blind will be new territory. So we don't know what to expect and that makes it all the more fun to look forward to it. And thank God the commentator won't be blinfolded! :)"

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I recommend that you finish all your work by 4pm tomorrow (10th Jan 2015) and tune into the official website:  to watch the match between WGM Padmini Rout and Nisha Mohota which will be broadcasted live from 4.15 pm onwards.

Whatever be the result of this game, one thing is certain, the game of chess is going to be the ultimate winner!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Wall of Indian Chess: Sasikiran Krishnan

I take birthdays as a good occasion to acquaint you with the most talented and gifted players of Indian chess. However, the player who was born on 7th January, 1981 needs absolutely no introduction. He is the backbone of Indian chess and maybe the most popular player in India after Viswanathan Anand.

Krishnan Sasikiran (2682)

I call Sasikiran the "Wall" of Indian chess because I see absolutely no weaknesses in his game. His opening preparation is phenomenal. His positional sense is high class. Tactically, he is up there with the best and he is beaten the best in the world with his excellent endgame technique! Some of you may ask, then why isn't he in the top 10 players of the world. And that is exactly my question! I simply don't know why! According to me, Sasikiran has all the qualities for breaking into the top ten. He turned 34 years today and if we take a leaf out of Anand's book then I guess he has still a good number of years left to make this possible, 

Currently Sasikiran is ranked number three in India and 57th in the world. His peak rating was 2720 in May 2012. He was the second Indian after Anand to break into the 2700 club in January 2007 when he was ranked as high as 21st in the world. (subsequently Harikrishna also achieved the feat).

Of course Sasikiran's list of achievements are humongous. He has won the Hastings tournament, Politiken cup, Asian Individual, Corsican Open and so many more strong tournaments. But what I would like to do here is to write about my personal experiences when I met Sasikiran.

I observed Sasikiran very closely in the National Premier Championships 2013 which were held in Jalgaon. I was present there and the thing which impressed me most about him was his ability to concentrate on chess board. Have a look at some of his postures.

Extreme concentration


Totally focussed!

Where's the concentration in this picture? The game hasn't begun yet! :)

The other quality that I loved was the seriousness with which he would answer any question that was posed to him. There are almost no statements that he makes without thinking. And his answers are usually clear, crisp and to the point. Have a look at this interview which I took after he won the National A 2013.

Sasi's dedication towards chess is unparalleled. In Jalgaon while all the players stayed in the same complex where the organizers had provided accommodation, he stayed a few kilometers away just so that he could focus better and add that little extra mile to his preparation. 
While Sasi was totally dedicated and focused during the tournament, on the rest day as well as after the tournament you could see his real, smiling and lively self!

The two gems of Indian chess

Who said chess players do not smile!

Sincere, not serious!

Just as an example of Sasikiran's phenomenal opening preparation I would like to show you his game against Debashis Das:

Post game analysis between Sasikiran and Debashis was serious....

....Soon all the GMs joined in and made it a very enjoyable session.

I have a special book in which I take autograph and ask two questions to the top chess players of the world. In November 2013, Sasikiran had come to Hyderabad in order to give a simultaneous display at the end of the grandmaster open. I was lucky enough to get his answers in my book.

Thinking carefully over the last question!

Here is the page from the book

Sasikiran believes the Analysis of your own games is the best way in which a player can improve. I know that he truly believes in this method and spends a lot of time analyzing his own games. The tricky part for an improving student is what exactly is the process for analyzing one's own games. I was able to ask this question to Sasikiran when he elaborated on his technique of analyzing his own games:

"Usually in the games we play there are 4-5 critical moments. (critical moments are the junctures in the game when you need to make a very important decision) You must identify them and then sit with them at home on a chess board without an engine and try to figure out whats going on. Usually you can sit with one such position for 30 minutes. In this way you can analyse your game in 2-3 hours and then check what you have seen with the help of an engine. This can really help you to improve.
He also mentioned that though computer is usually superior to human mind, sometimes we are able to come up with better solutions than the computer."

When asked about his favourite game, he thinks it is his game against Krasenkow from the Calvia Olympiad in 2004. Truly it is a gem of a game and I recommend each and every chess player to have a look at it. The game had a brilliant combination that made it to one of my favourite chess books called "Perfect your chess" by Andrei Volokitin, Have a look at the position below...

Take some time and have a think. Only then will you be able to understand the depth of Sasikiran's brilliant idea.

Here is the answer. But you can see only the first move! Of course I wanted you to see the entire game and hence I have embedded it below.

Here is the game from the Mega Database with the analysis of Ramirez Alvarez and Michael Roiz. 

After reading this article, I am sure you agree with me that Sasikiran has a special and unmatched chess talent. Let us all wish him a very happy birthday and hope that he soon breaks into not only 2700 Elo range but also into the top ten players of the world!