Chess Gurukul wins 1st Sukooon Resort Indian Chess.com League
The winning team of Chess Gurukul.

Chess Gurukul wins 1st Sukooon Resort Indian Chess.com League

Rakesh
IM Rakesh
|
10 | Chess Event Coverage

Team Chess Gurukul won the inaugural edition of the Sukooon Resort Indian Chess.com League by beating team Superkids in a thrilling Superfinal that lasted over four hours in a PRO Chess League elimination style match.

Two-time Indian champion GM Murali Karthikeyan was clearly the MVP of the Superfinal as he eliminated four of the five opposing players single-handedly. The last game of the event saw two of India's top prodigies face each other. GM Nihal Sarin took on GM Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu in a must-win situation. "Pragg" held the draw in a difficult game and provided the finishing touch to help Chess Gurukul to clinch the title.

Winning team members! GMs Karthikeyan, Aravindh & Praggnanandhaa (L-R) | Photo: Rakesh Rao/The Hindu.

The first league of its kind in India was held on Chess.com May 15-17, 2020. The event was inspired by Chess.com's featured PRO Chess League and the recently concluded FIDE Nations Cup played on Chess.com.

The organizing committee consisted of GM Priyadharshan Kannappan (League Commissioner), yours truly IM Rakesh Kulkarni (Chief Executive Officer) & FM Niranjan Navalgund (Chief Communications Officer), who planned and executed the event in under two weeks.

This novel league was extremely well received as 10 teams registered within a matter of days. Each team consisted of five players with no reserves. The team's average had to be above 2400 and include at least one woman and one under-16 player.

All 50 players were titled and featured 26 GMs. Considering the number of young talents India is producing, many teams fielded more than one under-16 player. Special mention should go to the losing finalist team Superkids: Their oldest player was their captain GM Srinath Narayanan at 26 years!

The runner-up team of the event.

The tournament was held in true PCL style featuring a league followed by a Superfinal. After a single round-robin among the 10 teams, the top two would qualify for Sunday's finals. The time control was 10 minutes plus two seconds increment per move for both players.

The organizers added an interesting twist for the board order. Every team had a chance to submit a random board order to be followed for all nine-rounds, meaning that a player could play on any of the five boards. Ironically, the two finalists used the traditional 'rating-wise' board order.

Day 1
Five rounds were played on Friday, and the SuperKids were off to a flyer. Their captain, GM Narayanan, lead from the front and had a perfect day to score 5/5.

Here is one of his wins on day one. He beat young IM Aditya Mittal in a fine game and checkmated white's king in the middle of the board without a queen.


Day 2
Apart from the two finalists, some other teams that were in contention to qualify for the finals were Desi Boys, United India, and Undercover Agents. But, in the end, the strongest teams on paper pulled through and clinched their berths in Sunday's Superfinal.

There were some fun games from this day. The second youngest grandmaster in history, GM Gukesh D, scored a scintillating win over GM Abhimanyu Puranik. Gukesh launched a decisive attack on white's king and won in only 18 moves.

The highest-rated player in the field, GM Sethuraman SP of team Chess Pathshala, scored a thumping victory over the captain of the United India team, IM Nubairshah Sheikh. This win gave Sethuraman a fun and unique prize.

Superfinal
The top two teams Superkids and Chess Gurukul would face each other in an elimination ladder match. This meant that board five plays board five, and the winner of that game plays board four of the opposing team, and so on. This goes on until one team has eliminated the board one of the opponent's team. The winner stays on the board and in case of a draw, both players would be eliminated.

The Superfinal was inaugurated by five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand. When asked about a possible over-the-board Indian chess league, he replied: "I think it's high time it happens! And I think this is a very good development for India when it happens."

Viswanathan Anand opened the finals for the first Indian Chess.com League.

The board order was fixed according to ratings, meaning that the two lowest-rated players faced each other on board five. WIM Divya Deshmukh of the Superkids team had a field day as she beat WGM Vaishali R on board five in a time-scramble but then completely outplayed the young IM Aditya Mittal to give the Superkids a two-person lead after just an hour of play.

WIM Divya Deshmukh played a big role in the final. Photo: Rakesh Kulkarni/Chess.com.

She now faced board three of the Chess Gurukul Team, GM Karthikeyan. This game was a nail-biting affair where both players had only three seconds on the clock at one point before the grandmaster kept his nerve and smoothly converted in the end. 

GM Karthikeyan then went on a rampage. He eliminated the Superkids captain GM Narayanan first and then, in another time-scramble, he beat GM Raunak Sadhwani with Black. Then, in kamikaze style, he went all out while taking GM Arjun Erigiasi along with him as their game ended in a draw.

The stage was set. A mouth-watering clash between two of India's top prodigies was every viewer's dream come true. Sarin took on Praggnanandhaa knowing that he was the last player remaining on his team and knew that he had to win at all costs.  The latter's team still had reigning Indian national champion GM Aravindh Chithambaram Vr. waiting in the wings if things went south.

"Pragg" lost a pawn in the middlegame but he defended stoutly. He kept things difficult for white and just wouldn't give up. Like all the games from the finals, event this one went to the wire.

In severe time-trouble, he blundered. Sarin was close to a win and could have forced a board-one vs. board-one pairing. But, Black somehow survived miraculously and drew the knight endgame where he was two pawns down!

Thanks to Karthikeyan and Praggnanandhaa's heroics, the Chess Gurukul team clinched the title.
The captain of the winning team, GM Ramesh RB, was thrilled to win the event and praised the idea of the league and the overall event.

GM RB Ramesh, captain of the Chess Gurukul team

The tournament wouldn't have been possible without the support of the sponsors.
Title sponsor: Sukooon Resort
Media sponsor & slaying platform: Chess.com
Broadcast partners: Desi Boys
Final day sponsor: Goan Chess Trio
Under-16 prizes: Maestro Chess Academy
Woman prize: ChessLang

The prize winners of the event.
All the results related to the event can be found here.


The live broadcast of the Superfinal featuring GMs Anand, Vidit, Karthikeyan, Gupta, Priyadharshan, Mhamal, Ramesh, IM Kulkarni, and FM Navalgund.

All games of the event for replay/download

More from IM Rakesh
Chess For Charity: Chess for West Bengal, India

Chess For Charity: Chess for West Bengal, India

Today: ChessKid India's Speed Chess Championship Finals With Anand Cameo Appearance

Today: ChessKid India's Speed Chess Championship Finals With Anand Cameo Appearance