Abhijit Kunte and Chess in Mumbai

by Sagar Shah
1/30/2014 – A couple of weeks ago the Indian GM broke the national record in a sumultaneous exhibition. Especially noteworthy was that of the 155 opponents at least 30 were proper players with international ratings. Our reporter Sagar Shah described the event in the first part of his report, interviewed the grandmaster for the second. He reveals at least one secret of his preparation: Surya Namaskara.

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Abhijit Kunte breaks the Indian Simul Record (2)

Report by Sagar Shah

The Indian record for playing the most number of opponents in a simultaneous exhibition was set by the very dynamic GM Abhijit Kunte when he played 155 opponents on 5th January 2014, thereby breaking the previously set record of playing 150 players by Dhyani Dave.

Kunte was at his sheer best in the record simul as he scored a whooping 149 points (145 wins, 8 draws and 2 losses) out of 155. That amounts to a meritorious score of almost 96%! Abhijit, who had the white pieces in all the games, played for eight and a half hours and as per the calculations he nearly walked twelve kms in completing this simultaneous event! The event started round around 3 p.m. and ended at 11:30 in the night!

Part one of this report appeared here.

Interview with GM Abhijit Kunte

I think people are always inquisitive to know the thought process of a person who has done something special. So I decided to ask the man of the moment, GM Abhijit Kunte, a few questions so that we can understand better how such great feats are achieved.

Sagar Shah: How was the overall experience of the record breaking simul?

Abhijit Kunte: The experience was tiring. There were around 30 rated players, and the rest were also resonably players. Actually there were no non chess players. That means everyone was playing at least some decent chess. Around 45-50 games were tough and about 50 games were easy – the rest were somewhere in between.

What do you think about your play? Was it good.

I made around eight to ten blunders. In a game I lost my queen but soon I won the game as there were many pieces still left on the board! [Laughs] In another one I got checkmated in a four-move sequence. It was not so difficult, but yeah I missed it. So that game I lost and another one I made a piece blunder from which it was difficult to recover. [Both games were analysed in Part one].

What was your main intention behind playing this simul?

It was just a promotional activity. I wanted to promote chess. Of course a simul is nothing new for seasoned chess players, but for people who are new to the game, seeing one man battling against 155 can really make them attracted to the game of chess. 155 was a huge number. Initially when I spoke with Praful Zaveri, the plan was to just do a simultaneous exhibition, but later the plan became to hold a really huge one. I was very happy with the arrangements and branding and overall the way the event was conducted. The rectangular arrangement excellent for the spectators. They could get a great view of this exhibition. However, for me it was a huge challenge. Even after many games were over, I had to travel the same amount to distance to complete each round. As a result I walked nearly twelve kms!

What is the main benefit from a simultaneous exhibition?

Apart from the obvious fact that it popularizes the game of chess, the simul can also be a good exercise for spotting gifted players. There were two or three kids who were very talented and who pressed me really hard for the entire duration of nearly eight hours. One of them was a little girl called Pia Saxena and the other was Kabir Belgikar. If properly trained they can have a great future.

The cute and adorable Pia Saxena (rated 1272) cannot be taken lightly. She proved it
when she took Kunte right upto the end but finally made a mistake to lose the game.

[Event "Abhijit Kunte v/s Indian Chess School "] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.01.05"] [Round "1.34"] [White "Kunte, Abhijit"] [Black "Saxena, Piya"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E01"] [WhiteElo "2439"] [BlackElo "1272"] [PlyCount "77"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [SourceDate "2014.01.07"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 d5 4. Nf3 c5 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg2 Bd6 7. O-O O-O 8. Nc3 Be6 9. Bg5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. dxc5 Bxc3 12. bxc3 Na6 13. Nd4 Nxc5 14. Rc1 Rc8 15. Nxe6 fxe6 16. c4 dxc4 17. Rxc4 b6 18. Qc2 Nd7 19. Qe4 Qe7 20. Bh3 Nc5 21. Qe3 Rcd8 22. Bg4 Rd6 23. Bf3 Rfd8 24. Kg2 Rd1 25. Rxd1 Rxd1 26. Qe5 h6 27. Rg4 Nd7 28. Qc7 Qa3 29. e3 Rd2 30. Rd4 Rxd4 31. exd4 Nf6 32. Qc8+ Kf7 33. Qb7+ Kg8 34. Qc6 Qxa2 35. h4 Kh7 36. g4 {[#]She is doing fine and should draw this game. But then disaster struck:} Nd5 $2 37. Be4+ ({Young Pia probably only saw that the GM cannot take the pawn:} 37. Qxe6 $4 Nf4+) 37... g6 {Any other move is mate in one.} 38. Qd7+ Kh8 39. Qe8+ 1-0

Off the board its easy to miss this little Kabir Belgikar (rated 1381), but on the board he stamped his authority when he was completely winning against the GM. But he took a threefold repetition in the end. I think with right training and guidance, the day wont be far when he would be beating GMs in one on one encounter!

[Event "Abhijit Kunte v/s Indian Chess School ("] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.01.05"] [Round "?"] [White "Kunte, Abhijit"] [Black "Belgikar, Kabir"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D38"] [WhiteElo "2439"] [BlackElo "1381"] [PlyCount "90"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [SourceDate "2014.01.07"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 d5 5. Qa4+ Nc6 6. Nf3 Bd7 7. Qc2 O-O 8. Bd3 Qe7 9. O-O Bxc3 10. bxc3 Rfd8 11. Rb1 b6 12. Bd2 Na5 13. cxd5 exd5 14. Ne5 c5 15. f3 Nc6 16. Nxd7 Rxd7 17. Rbe1 Qd8 18. Qa4 Qc7 19. Bb5 Rc8 20. e4 dxe4 21. fxe4 cxd4 22. cxd4 Rxd4 23. Qc2 Ne5 24. Qxc7 Rxc7 25. Bf4 Re7 26. Rd1 Rxd1 27. Rxd1 h6 28. h3 g5 29. Be3 Nxe4 30. Rd8+ Kg7 31. Bd4 f6 32. Ba4 Nf7 33. Rc8 Nfd6 34. Rc6 b5 35. Bb3 a5 36. g4 Kg6 37. Kg2 Re8 38. Bc2 Kf7 39. Bb3+ Kg7 40. Bd5 a4 41. a3 Kg6 42. Kf3 Nd2+ 43. Kf2 N2e4+ 44. Kg2 Re7 45. Kf3 Nd2+ 1/2-1/2

Playing 155 games for 8½ hours, walking 12 kms! Does this require some preparation before the event?

It was surely physically taxing, but for my fitness I hadn't done anything special. Everyday I do 24 surya-namaskars and 500 skippings. Maybe that helped me to keep myself in good stead for the 8.5 hour marathon.

Surya Namaskara also know as Sun Salutation is an excellent set of twelve
postures which helps you to exercise almost each and every part of your body!

While playing did you think that you will soon have your name in the Limca book of records?

Actually the Limca Record was to be set for playing against these players, not by winning! So once I had arrived there and was going to finish the simultaneous, the record was already going to be broken! But my main focus was on try to finish the game within the stipulated time. It was already 3 p.m. when I started, So I had to have a strategy in order to finish the game before it became too late in the night.

Kunte had a stiff task of finishing the games in the stipulated time.

So what was your strategy?

The main strategy therefore was to gain a material advantage and close to winning positions on 30-50 boards. That would mean that I didn't have to think on those boards. I would just have to make the moves to finish off the game. I was able to do that and hence I think I was successful. As for my opening selection, I would just look at the face and try to gauge how proficient they were at the game! [Laughs]. Mainly I chose e4 because I wanted to finish off the games early. Also I asked the organizer to put all the rated players in one row, so that I knew that I had to be careful when I played these guys.

Now that you have given a 155 player simul, what do you think about Ghaem Maghami's world record of 604 boards and nearly 25 hours of play?

Its really a great feat. But I must mention that, while the number of boards is essential, I don't think its the only factor. It is possible to give a 500 board simul or even a thousand, but what is important is also the level of opposition. I think that in this simul that I gave the level of opposition was pretty good. I faced nearly 30 rated players who were very tough to beat. That's nearly 20% of the opposition. It speaks for the quality of the event. But I think you have given me some food for thought now! [Smiles] I think I will start preparing myself to break that record!!

The chess journalist and his hightech tools

This we have got to share with you. Abhijit Kunte was at the World Championship in Chennai, reporting for a Marathi language newspaper. We sometimes met him in one of the restaurants in the, working feverishly at his report for the morning issue.

Abhijit would file his reports using some kind of writing device (a "pen"?!)...

...on very thin slices of tree ("paper"?!)

Finally – and this is the really clever part – Abhijit would photograph the pages using his Android smartphone, and press "Send" to transmit them to the newspaper. There an editor, using more traditional technology, would type the text into a layout system and have it ready for the nighttime printing run.

We can only say: if you haven't tried it, don't knock it. Incidentally, Abhijit is an old friend and a great sport. He explicitly gave me permission to record his technology and poke fun at it.

Frederic Friedel

Popularizing chess in Mumbai

True, this event broke many records. But I think it's the joy and experience that each and every little kid gained by playing against a great player of the country that made it truly worthwhile. Every little kid was excited, and so were the spectators. It was truly a memorable event.

Mumbai leads a fast-paced life, but the development of chess has been rather slow [photo Raskalov vit journal]

Mumbai is the financial capital of the country, and also one of the most advanced cities in the world. However chess wise the city has nothing much to boast about, except for its sole GM Pravin Thipsay. Lack of vision on the part of organizers can be attributed as the reason for such slow development in a city which otherwise leads an incredibly fast-paced life.

Organiser Praful Zaveri (yes, he's impossibly tall) with GM Abhijit Kunte

Praful Zaveri's efforts in such a scenario gives the city players a refreshing change. He is planning to hold a U13 Children's Chess Festival in the near future, at not at only the national level but for foreign children – by organising a large prize fund, 500,000 Rs. (approx US $8300). With such positive efforts and already 175 students in his chess school, one can already see a chess boom coming up in the city!

But as of now Abhijit Kunte, Praful Zaveri and the Indian Chess School team
can be proud for having conducted this event in a flawless manner!

About the author

Sagar Shah has an Elo of 2304 and two IM norms to his credit. His main aim is to become a grandmaster 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. A first version of this article appeared on his chess blog. Here is Sagar's comments on the match Anand vs Carlsen in Chennai:

Topics Kunte, simul

Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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