Two strong International Events have become part of India’s Chess Calendar in January. One of them is the Parsvnath International Chess tournament. This year’s edition attracted 24 GMs and 19 IMs, several of them being foreigners. As far as I can remember this year’s tournament was one of the strongest. The organisers decided to employ the accelerated system of pairing for the first two rounds. This would ensure that the norm seekers could play high rated players in the initial games to facilitate their chances for IM and GM norms. Most of the Indian opens attract a lot of entries (this tournament had close to 400 players!) and this was one of the reason why this system of pairing was introduced. But there are pros and cons to every approach and the negative side to this system became evident after the first two rounds where norm seekers had to constantly battle with much lower rated players for the next 3-4 rounds, and if they had lost one of their first two games it meant that they would not face titled players until the very end of the tournament thereby making the norm possibility very bleak. Sadly there were no GM norms made in this year’s event (normally at least one or two Indians have been achieving GM norms in this event in recent years).
Ukrainian Grandmaster Areschenko with a 2671 rating started the tournament as a slight favourite. The other 2600s Ni Hua, Kuzubov, Lenic and Parimarjan Negi were expected to put up a stiff challenge. The first round went smoothly for the Grandmasters except for a few draws. Here is one interesting one:
Round 2 saw quite a few upsets. Notably the second seed and Chinese Grandmaster Ni Hua lost as white to the young and talented Indian IM Sahaj Grover. What was more fascinating was the fact that Sahaj outplayed him with the French Defence- an opening in which Ni Hua is considered to be a specialist. Sahaj also showed his confidence when he refused a draw offer en route his splendid victory. Take a look at the impressive game Ni Hua-Sahaj Grover:
The other big upset result of the second round was Nebolsina Vera of Russia defeating Grandmaster Zharebukh of Ukraine. The game started as a Petroff and then Zharebukh got an advantage after some inaccurate moves in the opening by black, but White failed to capitalize on his advantage and fell into a tactical trap. Once the former World Junior Girl’s Champion got the opportunity she efficiently finished the higher-rated Grandmaster. The fact that there were two games on the very first day of the tournament could have worked against the seeded players as they have to face reasonable strong opposition without having time to warm up.
With the accelerated pairings coming to an end, the pairing card for the third round looked a bit funny. On the First board the rating difference between the two players was more than a whopping 600 points! As expected the higher rated players coasted through.
A similar trend continued till the 5th round with a mismatch in ratings of the paired opponents. At the end of 5 rounds 4 GMs and 2 IMs led the table with a 100 percent score.
As expected the fight got fiercer from the 6th round. Former World Junior Champion Abhijeet Gupta drew with top seed Areschenko on board 1. The budding talent Sahaj Grover drew against Slovenian GM Lenic. This allowed National Champion Parimarjan Negi to take the lead with a well contested victory over IM Rahul Sangma.
Parimarjan confidently held his own against the top seed with the black pieces in the next round. Grandmasters Lenic and Oleksienko joined him on 6.5/7.
All three leaders drew their 8th round games. This gave three other grandmasters a chance to join the leaders with 7/8. Among them were Kuzubov, Areschenko and yours truly. I had a lucky victory against Icelandic Grandmaster Stefansson. He was marginally better in a Semislav Anti Meran variation, but slowly I had equalised and in an equal Queen and Bishop endgame, I offered him a draw. To my surprise he rejected the offer. I think this was partly due to my time trouble and partly due to my low rating of 2449! Anyway he tried to push too hard and wrongly fixed the pawns on the same colour of his bishop and lost a pure bishop endgame.
The 9th round saw the top seed reassert his supremacy with a well carved-out victory over Grandmaster Oleksiekno. The other 4 leaders drew amongst themselves after a good fight, and this meant that Areschenko gained the sole lead after 9 rounds.
The next round saw Kuzubov joining the leader Areschenko with a victory over me. I had him under a bit of pressure from a Neo Gruenfeld opening. He was taking a long time over his opening moves, and it made me overconfident. Later he showed why he is considered to be such a strong player by going in for a tactical sequence where despite being a pawn down, his position seems easier to handle and probably for all practical purposes he held the advantage as it is too difficult to produce computer-like defences with ebbing time. A well deserved victory for him, but quite a disappointment for me as this was a game which decided my chances for the championship.
I should also like to mention a big upset that happened in this round. C.R.G Krishna rated around 2280 defeated Grandmaster Zharebukh with the black pieces, and that too in a fantastic fashion.
I guess his opening preparation in the Winawer variation was quite good, and also it was not a wise decision on the part of a strong Grandmaster to play the risky poisoned pawn variation against a much lower ranked player. Ideally he would have liked to play something solid and hope to win the game on the basis of sheer understanding of the game. But this takes nothing away from the fantastic victory of the hitherto unheard of Indian lad. In fact he had lost his first two games and won the next 8 games on the trot! Grandmasters planning to play in Indian tournaments beware; there are a lot of under-rated Indians out there! This upset result led to nasty computer cheating allegations. I do not know who made the complaint, but the top ten board players had to undergo frisking before the final round began.
I feel that the use of external help during a chess game has become a major threat to the royal game. I would say that this is much more dangerous than an athlete taking dope. As in the case of physical sports there are clear ways to prove a person is cheating, whereas in the case of chess, it is very difficult to understand what sort of technology is being used for transmitting and relaying the moves to a player. The idea of delaying the live coverage looked like one way to stop this, but I am not sure if it can eradicate the problem completely. For example people could use some technology to relay the move that is being made to their operator (I know this is difficult but I can’t say that this is altogether impossible!) But personally I feel that C.R.G Krishna just played a great game on that particular day and came out the victor and in my opinion played entirely on his own!
I am reminded of an old Tamil song which goes thus Thirudanay Paarthu Thirundha Vittal Thiruttai Ozhikka Mudiyadhu. It means that unless the thief decides to stop stealing, it is impossible to stop theft in general. Maybe this is the only solution for our sport to be totally clean.
Let us get back to the final round results. As expected the leaders Areschenko and Kuzubov made a quick draw. Ni Hua, Markus Ragger and Parimarjan Negi joined the leaders and tied for first place by defeating Abhijit Gupta, Stefansson and C.R.G. Krishna respectively. All of them deservedly shared top honours and won around 2500$ each with Areschenko winning the title on account of his better tiebreak.
Finally I would like to say a word about the sponsors. Parsvnath group of builders have contributed a great deal to Indian Chess by sponsoring the tournament for the 9th year in succession. Though none of the players made GM norms this particular year, it was still a grand success. Zeng Chongsheng of China made an IM norm. He had a fantastic tournament. He started with a win over Markus Ragger and ended the tournament by defeating yours truly. Probably he must have finished lots of IM norms, but has not really applied for the title! I remember during one World Junior championship the arbiter announced that Ni Hua had completed an IM norm when his rating was already close to 2600 . I have a feeling that some Chinese players do not waste their money by applying for the IM title as they are pretty sure that they will become GMs soon.
Important theoretical games and interesting positions will follow in the next part. Until then.......................