Tuesday, December 31, 2013

SUPER SASI STEALS THE SHOW!

SASIKIRAN IS THE INDIAN NATIONAL CHAMPION.
India is one of the rapidly rising countries in the world when it comes to chess. It is obvious that the National Premier Championship which was a 14 player round robin event was very keenly followed by all the chess players in the Nation. The tournament was extremely strong category 10 event with an average rating of 2493. It was held in Jalgaon, Maharashtra from 16th-30th December.
The starting list of the tournament was extremely impressive. With two players Parimarjan Negi 2671 and Sasikiran Krishnan 2666, who are in the top 75 players in the world, playing this tournament, it gave this tournament an entirely different stature. Add to this list the two young and dangerous GMs of India, B Adhiban 2569 and Lalith Babu MR 2569, both who are just 20 years old and you get a very keenly contested event.

NATIONAL CHAMPION


Krishnan Sasikiran became the National champion by scoring 10.5/13 and thus pocketed the winner's purse of 2,50,000 Rs (approx 4200$). In Hindi, Sasi= moon and Kiran= ray of light. Sasikiran's play in this tournament was as soothing as the moonlight! Sasikiran won the championship with 9 wins , 3 draws and 1 loss at the hands of the runner up B Adhiban.  He played with strong determination and had some deadly opening preparation. After all he was Anand's second for the World championship match with Carlsen. Fearing some deep novelties, most of the players stayed clear off the main line openings but those who were brave enough to play the main lines, were in for some really tough time. Sasi would gain time on the clock with his excellent preparation and then finish off his opponent! Take for example his game against GM Debashis Das(2507)

SASIKIRAN vs DEBASHIS

In a well known position of the Catalan, Sasi unleashed the deep Novelty of Qd1-e2 in a position where 5 games by top players like Alekseev,Tomashevsky, Dzagnidze,Stohl and Yevseev had continued Nc3-d5. In fact Sasikiran had analysed the position in so much depth that his opponent Debashis Das had absolutely no chance. This example just about sums up how superior Sasikiran was amongst the field. The last time Sasikiran had become the National Champion was in 2003. So what happened in the intervening 10 years? Sasikiran didn't play the tournament! So even after a gap of 10 years, he proved that he is quite superior in India than the rest with his excellent performance. Here is a small video potraying what he had to say after his victory:


RUNNER UP

Born in 1992, this young lad from India had already stamped his authority as one of the best players from India when he played some amazing chess in the FIDE World Cup 2013 to reach the 4th round of the event beating players like Alekseev, Safarli etc on the way. Once again he proved that he is really one of the biggest hopes from India when he scored 10/13 and finished runner's up in the National Championship. In fact Adhiban was the only player in the tournament who could inflict defeat on the champion Sasikiran. However he himself lost to IM Ashwin Jayaram (2487) which jeopardized his chances of becoming the champion.
Adhiban is an extremely self confident player and backs himself to beat the best. In the above picture you can see him preparing himself for the game with listening to music just 5 minutes before the game. He has his own ways like sometimes wearing a cap, carrying energy drinks like gatorade, eating huge bars of chocolates during the game. But what's important is that he performs and India is proud of this young talent! Here is a small extract from his game with the eventual winner.

(58) Adhiban,B (2569) - Sasikiran,Krishnan (2666) [E15]
Bhavarlal and Kantabai Jain 51st Nationa Jalgoan (9.2), 26.12.2013
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.Qb3 Nc6 6.Nbd2 Bb7 7.e4 d5 8.cxd5 exd5 9.e5 Ne4 10.Bg2


In the very topical line of the Queen's Indian, Adhiban played his bishop to g2. You might ask what's the big deal about this move? Only that this position has been reached 33 times previously and great players like Morozevich, Navara, Sargissian, Riazantsev etc have all continued Bd3. The young Indian GM came up with this very natural move which turned out to be a theoretical novelty and thus ended in a superb win for him against the higher rated Sasikiran. Just shows that there is still a lot of scope for creativity in opening play. 1–0

2nd RUNNER UP

Lalith is one of the brightest talents in India. He is born in 1993 and was on fire in this tournament. He was neck to neck with Sasikiran till round 11. He scored heavily with 9 wins. However 3 losses was too much which relegated him to the 3rd spot with 9.5/13. You can understand how ambitious he is when you know that he was disappointed with his performance even after increasing 16 elo points from the tournament. With such hunger in his belly and ready to work hard for unending hours, my dear readers please make a note of this name. His name is sure to crop up again and again at the highest level soon!
Here is a small example of Lalith's resourcefulness in the tournament:

VISHNU PRASANNA (2523) vs LALITH BABU (2569)
Lalith as black was defending this inferior ending since many moves. It seems that black is almost lost here as the white bishops are too strong. The a6 pawn is about to fall. But here Lalith came up with an amazing idea! 1...Bb5!! 2.Bb5 ab5 3 Bb8 Kf7 4.Bd6
A truly brilliant concept by the 20 year old Talented GM. He has just one pawn for the bishop but the white bishop sits uselessly on d6 doing nothing and the white king has absolutely no entry squares! A draw was immediately agreed! Study like play, wouldn't you agree?!!


So with the 2,3,4 seeds of the tournament taking the first 3 spots of the event, What happened to the top seed of the event, Parimarjan Negi.
Sasikiran(left) with Parimarjan Negi are very good friends!

Parimarjan Negi who was the top seed of the event with an impressive elo of 2671, had the worst fortnight of his life as he scored just 5/13 and lost 38 elo in the tournament. Negi who was at one point the youngest Grandmaster in the world, just couldn't find his bearings in the tournament. After the event when asked about his experience, he said: " It was one of the better organized tournaments I have seen in India. Unfortunately for me, I was completely out of shape. Except 1 or 2 games, I was making huge blunders. With such calculation it was simply impossible for me to compete. Everytime I had good positions, I would spoil it with a single move. I think its time for me to go back and have a long think about what went wrong and try to change it in future."

These are the final  standings of the tournament. To get to know how an individual performed in the tournament, you can click on his name.

GM Sasikiran Krishnan 2666 10.5
GM B Adhiban 2569 10
GM Lalith Babu 2569 9.5
IM Thejkumar 2452 8
IM Ashwin Jayaram 2487 7
GM Deepan Chakravarthy 2462 7
IM Debashis Das 2507 5.5
IM Stany G A 2397 5.5
GM Vishnu Prasanna 2523 5.5
GM Parimarjan Negi 2671 5
IM Shyam Nikhil 2420 5
IM Akshat Khamparia 2409 4.5
IM K Rathnakaran 2411 4
IM G Akash 2343 4

The top 3 players of the tournament performed extremely well. But we must not forget IM Thejkumar MS. The man who finished 4th in this tournament.

32 year old IM Thejkumar is a very special player. He has an excellent positional style and likes to squeeze the minutest of advantages. However he is special for one more reason. He made all his 3 GM norms even when he was not an IM. In the past few years he has slowed down a little but with this strong 4th place finish and a GM norm performance in this tournament, I am sure we can see a resurgent Thejkumar pretty soon! He was the only one who had a chance to finish in the top 3 of the tournament. However a last round defeat at the hands of Adhiban ended that chance. Yet his game against Sasikiran is a must watch for the beautiful endgame trap!


(73) Thejkumar,M. S (2452) - Sasikiran,Krishnan (2666) [D23]
Bhavarlal and Kantabai Jain 51st Nationa Jalgoan (11.3), 28.12.2013

 (B)

Black is unconditionally winning. But Thejkumar's last move of Kg3-h4 was his last trap in the position offering the g2 pawn. The trap is so beautiful and subtle that even a strong player rated 2666 like Sasikiran fell for it!  48...Qxg2? 49.Qd8+ Kf7 50.Qd7+ Kg6 51.Qe8+ Kh6 52.Qg6+!!


What a stunning blow. As Sasikiran recalls after the game, he completely missed this move. All his attention was focussed on Qf8 Qg7 Qg8 but then he just starts pushing his queenside pawns.. So he had seen the idea of stalemate but not the move Qg6! The queen can be taken in 3 ways but unfortunately all of them end in a Stalemate! 52...hxg6 ½–½


The other players also played some exciting chess. The thing to note was that there were absolutely no grandmaster like draws except for a game or two. All the players fought tooth and nail and as Sasikiran rightly said after the tournament, playing uncompromising chess is the only way to improve. Here is one more gem of the event in which IM Akshat Khamparia made a Tal like sacrifice against Lalith Babu and won the game!


(54) Akshat,Khamparia (2409) - Lalith,Babu M.R (2569) [A50]
Bhavarlal and Kantabai Jain 51st Nationa Jalgoan (8.5), 25.12.2013


25.Qxe5!? A stunning queen sacrifice by Akshat who played in the style of Mikhail Tal. The 25...dxe5 26.R1xc5 Bb7 27.Rc7 Qd8 28.Bh3 g6 29.Rd7 Qb6 [29...Qf8 would have won for black.] 30.Rcc7 gxh5 31.Be6! the two rooks and bishop are good enough to weave a mating net around the black king. 31...Rb1+ 32.Kg2 e3 33.Rd8+ Kg7 34.Rxf7+ Kh6 35.Rf6+ Kg7 36.Rf7+ Kh6 37.Bf5 

A brilliant game by Akshat which was not hundred percent acccurate but was good enough to get him the game of the day prize. 1–0

Maybe for a day, the spirit of Tal entered IM Akshat Khamparia's body!

The average age of the tournament was 23.5 years, which is really young for such a strong tournament. I think it was precisely because of this reason we could see some great fights on the board and some exemplary camaraderie off it. The players would meet after the games were over and play a game of cricket or football. In the breakfast or dinner room the players would all be having fun and crack some great jokes! In fact sometimes even chess would be discussed seriously! It was really a great lot of 14 players!

All the 14 captured in 1 slide!
Bottom L-R Adhiban,Lalith,Debashis, Middle L-R Thejkumar,Akshat,Sasikiran,Deepan,Ashwin, 3rd Row L-R Stany, Parimarjan. Last row L-R Ratnakaran, Akash, Shyam, Vishnu.


THE VENUE
The venue for the championship was the Jain hills in Jalgaon. The place is away from the noise and hustle bustle of the city. It was such a serene and beautiful place that the players really felt relaxed and at ease. There was no pollution. Only fresh air, more oxygen and more oxygen means better brain functioning and better brain functioning means great games on the board! All in all a great selection of Venue by the Organizers.

A Beautiful view from the Jain hills in Jalgaon!

A huge thanks to Ashok Jain, Vice Chairman, Jain Irrigation: The company that owns the jain hills.

While I was at Jalgaon I decided to take a small video tour of the venue and to give you an idea as to what exactly were the conditions in which the players stayed, ate, analyzed and played. Here's the video:

Food

If you have been to India, you will know that the people of this country, cherish the food that they eat! Hence good food is extremely important for the players in order to show some great chess.
The food provided by the organisers was excellent and in general a meal would consist of the following items:

A full fledged lunch!
From top L-R Pickle and salt, Salad, Papad, 2nd row L-R Tomato soup, Rice, Rajma (beans), 3rd row L-R Cauliflower vegetable, Water gourd vegetable, Curd.


SOME PICTORIAL IMPRESSIONS FROM JALGAON:

A Maharashtrian couple statue dressed in their traditional wear, welcome you at the entrance of hall.

The Chief Arbiter of the tournament, Prof Anantharaman who is not only the best International Arbiter in India but is an extremely well educated man who was the Head of Chemistry department in the college where he used to teach a few years ago. Now Chess is his life! :)

Pravin Thakre: The chief co-ordinator of the event who was so kind and receptive. He would fulfill each and every wish of the players.


The organizers and Aribiters kept finding new ways of letting the players know how much time is left for the round to begin everyday! In this way, the zero tolerance rule didn't come to effect in any game!

One of the Participants in the tournament K Rathnakaran wears a typical south Indian Lungi which is supposed to be extremely comfortable.

There were lot of monkeys near the venue. You give them a banana, and you will have an extra supporter!!

Young boys who used to come from the city of Jalgaon in order to help the Organisers. In that process they too learnt a lot and became better players!

The Organizers kept high quality pens as the game of the day prize. This motivated the players to give a little extra to win the symbolic prize!

As I bid adieu to Jalgaon I will remember these beautiful sunrises each day, the cool breeze, the pollution free air, the sumptuous food and the wonderful hospitality of the organizers! 
But as they say all good things come to an end and so does this tournament!


WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Sasikiran, the winner of the tournament will represent India in the FIDE World cup 2015. Also the Olympiad team will be selected on the basis of this tournament. In order to increase the importance of National Challengers and National Premier, all the players who played these tournament will have 75 points added to their rating.(for caculation basis only). Thus, the National champion + 4 other players based on this new rating(as calcuted with addition of 75 pts) will be selected for the Olympiad.  But Harikrishna Pentala who didn't play this tournament, I think need not worry as at 2706 he will still find a spot in the Indian team.

Also the top 6 players from this tournament will get an exposure trip, the expenses of which will be paid by the Indian Government. 
About the Author:
Sagar Shah has an elo of 2304 and 2 IM norms to his credit. His main aim is to become a GM in chess as well as a professional chess journalist. He loves to cover chess tournaments as that helps him to understand the game of chess, that he loves so much, even better.
Sagar Shah's Blog: www.sagarteacheschess.blogspot.com

You can download the games of this tournament in PGN from this link:
http://chess-results.com/PartieSuche.aspx?lan=1&id=50023&tnr=119164&art=3

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