The biggest Upset of Rd 8 has to be the loss of Lalith Babu at the hands of Akshat Khamparia. This means that Sasikiran got the green signal for leading the tournament all alone!
STANY vs THEJKUMAR 0.5.-0.5
ASHWIN vs ADHIBAN 1-0
AKSHAT vs LALITH 1-0
NEGI vs SHYAM 0.5-0.5
SASIKIRAN vs DEEPAN 0.5-0.5
DEBASHIS vs VISHNU 1-0
AKASH vs RATHNAKARAN 0.5-0.5
It doesnt matter who he is playing, Rathnakaran will not change his opening neither his playing style! Against Akash he employed his beloved French Defense. With a pawn sacrifice on d4 Rathnakaran followed the game of Karjakin vs Topalov. But not did Rathnakaran sacrifice the d4 pawn, he also sacrificed his knight on c2. This must have come as a shock for Akash who immediately went wrong taking the knight with the queen when he could have taken it with the bishop. The evaluation of the game swung vociferously and Akash missed several winning chances. But as he himself said, Rathnakaran feels at home in lost positions. He played actively and improved his position little by little and finally was able to scrap through with a draw! A truly entertaining struggle which could have been on the top board in any rating tournament but in this super strong National Premier it was on the last board.
ABHIJIT KUNTE ON NATIONAL PREMIER
Abhijit Kunte, One of the legends of Indian Chess is present at the tournament. Its always a pleasure to know his candid opinions and views. So I decided to take a small interview with him. The below interview is his opinion about the current National premier, prize structure, strength of the players etc. In the part II of the interview which will be published tomorrow, you will get to know more about his life and Abhijit Kunte as a chessplayer.
SS: How many times have you played National A (premier)?
AK: I have been playing National A since 96 upto 2012 leaving one in between. So I have played altogether 16 National Premiers. So I have spent almost 225 days in National A. (laughs)
SS: So how do you assess the strength of this National Premier?
AK: The average rating of this tournament is excellent i.e 2493 but I think there are clearly 2 groups of players in this National Premier. One group is much better than the other. So in that sense it is not a balanced National Premier.
SS: According to you Who is the favourite to win this tournament?
AK: Of course Sasi. And Negi was a favourite too but after the first half I dont think he has chances to win anymore.
SS: Why did Negi play so badly in the first half of that event?
AK: You have to ask that question to Negi! (smiles)
SS: How are the conditions given to the players in comparison to the previous National Premier?
AK: As far as I have seen, its one of the best National A in terms of organisation. Lodging, boarding and playing conditions are excellent and more importantly players are being given a lot of respect which is very important.
SS: What is your opinion about the prize structure of the tournament?
AK: (immediately answers) Its very poor! (smiles)
SS: So then what should be a decent prize fund?
AK: First I dont really understand why this National premier is being organised in this format. Only 6 GMs are playing. Hari, Ganguly, Sandipan, Humpy are not there. And many didnt play in National Challengers itself like Abhijeet Gupta, Gopal, Arun Prasad. The original idea was that all the GMs will be playing in National Premier and then it will be an extremely strong closed tournament. But it didnt work out that way. So the question is: Did this happen only because of prize money or something else, that is the key question.
SS: So you are questioning the reason why this tournament is held in this format?
AK: Yes, because if it was for making GM norms, then I think its extremely difficult to make a norm here. And if this tournament is held for choosing the best team, still I think this tournament doesnt serve that purpose. But coming back to your prize money question: From the point of view of National premier its a very less amount. According to me 5 lakh should be the first prize so atleast 20 lakh prize fund. But AICF has increased the fund from 5 lakh to 10 lakh so its a good improvement. Maybe in the coming years we can expect more.
SS: OK. So how should we attract players like Harikrishna and Ganguly to play this tournament?
AK: Well Ganguly wanted play but he is not in top 4 rating wise players in India, and definitely he wouldnt like to play the National challengers. As for Harikrishna I guess 10 lakh prize fund was too less to attract him. You see if he wins Biel he gets 10 lakh Rs and that too in less number of days. Also its possible that if he plays here and doesnt score heavily, he might lose rating points.So all in all its not such a huge gain for him to play in National Premier.
SS: I would like to ask you this final question as to how would you describe the top 4 players of this tournament in a word or a line.
Sasikiran : Grinder. He will grind you very will in the game.
Negi : I think I must speak about before this tournament Negi (laughs). I think he is a very good attacker. The next 2700 player from India.
Lalith: Fire at will. He can win at his will!
Adhiban: (pauses) He is a kid! He just plays everything!!
SS:Thanks a lot for your views on this National Premier!
Stay tuned for the report from round 9 tomorrow and also the interview with GM Abhijit Kunte as to how he developed as a chess player, How he plans to change the chess in India and what are his opinions on leading a balanced life!! An in depth interview coming your way!! :)