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!

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