Areshchenko wins the 3rd Porticcio Open 2016

by Sagar Shah
7/8/2016 – Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea located to the south of mainland France. It was home to an extremely strong tournament – the 3rd Porticcio Open 2016. Ten players above the rating of 2600 participated in the event, which ended in a six way tie. The winner was Alexander Areshchenko who went back home richer by €3000. ChessBase authors Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal were in Porticcio and they bring us a beautiful report rich in pictures, videos and detailed analysis.

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Areshchenko wins the 3rd Porticcio Open 2016

By Sagar Shah

Early in the year 2016, Amruta (my wife) and I were watching a Bollywood movie named Tamasha. Fascinated by the beautiful scenic backdrop of the shots, on coming back home we immediately googled the place where the movie was shot. Corsica! It was at that moment that we made up our minds that this little island with 320,000 inhabitants was the place that we wanted to visit sometime in the near future!

Check out the video showing Bollywood in Corsica

Our lucky stars aligned pretty soon as we came to know about the 3rd Porticcio Open, which was going to be held in Corsica from the 25th of June to 1st of July 2016. We wrote to Leo Battesti, President of the Corsican chess federation, and Marie Paul Tomasi, organizer of the tournament, and were extremely happy when they invited us to be a part of their tournament.

Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea belonging to France. It is located west of the Italian Peninsula, southeast of the French mainland, and north of the Italian island of Sardinia. Mountains make up two-thirds of the island, forming a single chain. Corsica is also famous for being the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The place where the tournament was going to take place was in Porticcio, located south west region of Corsica. The best way to reach Porticcio is to take a flight from either Paris or Nice to Ajaccio and then a half-hour drive. A flight from Nice to Ajaccio takes only 45 minutes.

Here’s a video taken from the flight that gives you an idea about the landscape of Corsica. By the way it is called a "propeller" and is like a big fan. It is used on some planes instead of the regular jet engines.

Pitou Antoni (mother of Fiona Steil-Antoni) and Marie Paul Tomasi, President of Ajaccio chess association
and main organizer of the tournament greeted us with their smiles and warmth at the airport.

Can you recognize three top French grandmasters? They are Etienne Bacrot (black shirt) and the two guys behind him Fabien Libiszewski and Sebastien Maze. The pretty ladies are wives of Bacrot and Maze. The young boy standing in front of Etienne is his son Alexandre, who is eleven years old and has an Elo of 1984.

Club Marina Viva, the tournament venue and also where the players stayed.
The beach was just a stone’s throw away!

An aerial view of the Club Marina Viva (near the swimming pool) and the sea [photo Hotel web site]

The blue waters and the sound of the waves was a perfect way to relax before and after the game

In case you don’t like the beach, the swimming pool was equally tempting!

And so were the table tennis tables…

…and tennis buffs were not to be disappointed!

Club Marina Viva has two types of properties: (1) normal hotel rooms, and (2) fully equipped apartments. All the invited players were given apartments to stay in. Above is the entrance to the area where all the apartments are located.

Outside our apartment. The greenery, the constant chirping of birds and the fresh air – the perfect place for a chess player to rest and prepare. If there was something missing then it was a fast Internet connection. The one we had was not the best.

The apartment had a bedroom, a living room with a sofa, fully equipped kitchen
with microwave and refrigerator and well-furnished washrooms.

Taking a break from these enticing pictures, let’s focus on the chess for a bit! The 3rd Porticcio Open was a strong Swiss tournament with the participation of 15 grandmasters and seven International Masters. In all 106 players from 16 countries took part. Nine rounds were played at the rate of 90 minutes for the entire game, with 30 seconds increment from move one. Rounds began at 15.30 hours = 3:30 in the afternoon. There were five days with single rounds and two days of double rounds. The tournament witnessed the participation of some very strong players: Etienne Bacrot (2702), Viktor Laznicka (2668), Alexander Areshchenko (2667), Gawain Jones (2657), Nils Grandelius (2649), Sergei Zhigalko (2647), Edouard Romain (2641), Daniel Naroditsky (2634), Yuri Kuzubov (2632) and Sebastien Maze (2614).

One of the most important rules in the tournament was that the players were not allowed to offer draws. Yes, no 20 or 30 move rule –the entire game. Many of you must be aware of the Sofia rules. In fact this rule of no draw offer was first implemented in Corsica nearly 20 years ago by Leo Battesti. Veselin Topalov and his manager Silvio Danailov came to Corsica in 2004 and were fascinated by this rule. They decided to apply it to the super tournament MTel Sofia Masters in 2005. This is why it is widely known as the Sofia rule, but in fact it would not be inappropriate to call it the Corsica rule.

The event was keenly contested and this is reflected by the final standings. It was a six way tie between Areshchenko, Naroditsky, Sengupta, Zhigalko, Romain and Jones. In the end Areshchenko was adjudged the winner thanks to the better tiebreak score.

The top three finishers of the event: Alexander Areshchenko (center),
Daniel Naroditsky (right) and Deep Sengupta (left)

Final Standings (after nine rounds)

Pl Ti Nom Elo Club
1 g Areshchenko Alexander 2654 Grasse Echecs
2 g Naroditsky Daniel 2634  
3 g Sengupta Deep 2543  
4 g Zhigalko Sergei 2653  
5 g Edouard Romain 2648 Bischwiller
6 g Jones Gawain C B 2650 Echecs Club Montpellier
7 g Grandelius Nils 2643  
8 g Bacrot Etienne 2695 Bischwiller
9 g Cornette Matthieu 2583 C.E. de Bois-Colombes
10 g Maze Sebastien 2627 C.E. de Bois-Colombes
11 g Laznicka Viktor 2654 Mulhouse Philidor
12 g Schroeder Jan-Christian 2507  
13 g Kuzubov Yuriy 2635 Grasse Echecs
14 g Lalith Babu M R 2579  
15 g Libiszewski Fabien 2537 Echecs Club Montpellier
16 m Bernard Christophe 2245 Echiquier de Franconville
17 m Sagar Shah 2433  
18 m Piscopo Pierluigi 2429 Echecs-Club Ajaccien
19 f Schnider Gert 2374  
20 gf Areshchenko Kateryna 2211  
21 f Dubessay Bastien 2304 C.E. de Rueil Malmaison
22 m Debray Christopher 2337 C.E. de Rueil Malmaison
23 m Bekker-Jensen Simon 2460  
24 m Zude Erik 2403  
25   Ariza Thomas 2074 C.E. de Bois-Colombes
26   Sanvoisin Corentin 2144 Echecs-Passion Yffiniac
27   Brethes Francois 2285 Scacchera 'llu Pazzu
28   Podvin Francois-Xavier 2165 Echiquier Niçois
29   Revo Tatiana 2068  

Alexander Areshchenko along with his wife Kateryna, were stranded at the Paris airport before the start of the event. His flight from Paris to Bastia had been cancelled. There was very little time left before the tournament began, so the Ukrainian grandmaster booked the next flight to Corsica. This meant that the Areshchenkos were set back by nearly 500 euros and came to the tournament in not such a great mood. But by the end of the tournament everything had changed. Alexander Areshchenko won the event and Kateryna won the best woman player award. Together they went back richer by € 3,300 (3000+300). Kateryna said after the tournament, “I love this place so much. I really don’t want to go back!”

Alexander and Kateryna Areshchenko made a clean sweep at the Porticcio Open. Areshchenko was also the winner in 2015, so he was successfully able to defend his title.

Areshchenko’s short and sweet speech on winning the title

Most of the grandmasters defeated their lower rated opponents. In order to accelerate ahead of others you had to win against fellow GMs. Areshchenko did this perfectly by beating the leader Nils Grandelius in the seventh round. One could say this was the most crucial game of the entire tournament as Grandelius was running away with the top spot with 5.5/6. The precision and perfection with which Alexander played this game is something to learn from.

[Event "2016"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.06.29"] [Round "7.1"] [White "Areshchenko, Alexander"] [Black "Grandelius, Nils"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C97"] [WhiteElo "2667"] [BlackElo "2649"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "91"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:01:33"] [BlackClock "0:02:49"] {Areshchenko is very strong with the white pieces and is very well updated with modern theory. It is especially useful to see how he plays the Ruy Lopez with the white pieces.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. d4 Qc7 12. Nbd2 {The Chigorin Variation in the Ruy Lopez has been played many times and all has been seen numerous times. cxd4 is one way for Black to play now. But instead Grandelius chooses for the other popular way to play with ...Bd7.} Bd7 13. Nf1 Nc4 14. b3 Nb6 15. Ne3 {Areshchenko follows the game between MVL-Grandelius which had ended in a quick draw for the Swedish GM. It was natural that Alexander had come with some new ideas.} c4 16. Ba3 Rfe8 (16... cxb3 17. axb3 Qxc3 18. dxe5 $18) 17. Qd2 Bf8 18. Rad1 cxb3 19. axb3 a5 20. Rc1 $5 {A new move that keeps the pressure on the position.} ({This is how Maxime Vachier reacted when he reached this position with the white pieces.} 20. dxe5 dxe5 21. Bxf8 Kxf8 22. Qd6+ Qxd6 23. Rxd6 $11 Nc8 24. Rdd1 Nb6 25. Rd6 Nc8 26. Rdd1 Nb6 27. Rd6 Nc8 {1/2-1/2 (27) Vachier Lagrave,M (2765) -Grandelius,N (2644) Reykjavik 2015}) 20... a4 (20... exd4 21. cxd4 Qd8 22. e5 $5 dxe5 23. Bxf8 exd4 24. Nxd4 Rxf8 {could be a direction where Black can look into.}) 21. bxa4 Nxa4 22. Bb4 $1 {The bishop stands well on b4 defending the c3 pawn.} Rac8 23. Bb1 ( 23. Bb3 Nxe4) 23... Nb6 24. Bd3 Qb7 $6 (24... Nc4 25. Nxc4 bxc4 26. Bc2 Ra8 { Should not be anything special for White.}) 25. dxe5 $1 {Alexander is alert and spots the tactical opportunity.} dxe5 26. Bxf8 Kxf8 (26... Rxf8 27. Nxe5 $16) 27. c4 $1 {[%cal Gc3c4] [#]This move is extremely strong although at first sight it might seem that it is nothing special. Isn't that the reason why a strong player like Grandelius missed it? The check on b4 is going to cause tremendous problems for Black.} Kg8 (27... bxc4 28. Qb4+ Kg8 29. Nxc4 Rb8 30. Nd6 $1 $18 (30. Rb1 {is equally good.})) 28. cxb5 {Although White hasn't won a pawn yet as the one on e4 is hanging, he is clearly better.} Nxe4 29. Bxe4 Qxe4 30. Nc4 $1 {Once again sharp tactical eye shown by Alexander. Nd6 is threatened and the knight must be taken.} Nxc4 31. Qxd7 Qa8 {The queen had to retreat in such a way that Rxc4 would not hang the rook on e8.} (31... Qf4 32. Nxe5 $1 Nb6 33. Rxc8 Rxc8 34. Qe7 $18) 32. Ng5 $1 {Suddenly the f7 point becomes weak.} Rf8 33. Qd3 {A double attack on h7 and c4.} (33. Ne6 $5 fxe6 34. Rxc4 Rxc4 35. Qxe6+ Kh8 36. Qxc4 $18) 33... e4 34. Nxe4 Rfd8 (34... Ne5 35. Qd4 $18) (34... Nb6 35. Ng5 g6 36. Qd6 $18) 35. Qg3 Qa5 {Nils tries to defend in the staunchest fashion he can, but the position is just lost.} 36. Qg5 $1 { Not an easy move to make the idea is to challenge the rook on the d-file with Red1.} h6 37. Nf6+ $1 Kf8 38. Nh7+ Kg8 39. Nf6+ Kf8 (39... Kh8 40. Qf5 g6 ( 40... gxf6 41. Qxf6+ Kg8 {transposes to the game.}) 41. Qf3 Qxb5 42. Ng4 $18 { With a nearly decisive attack.}) 40. Qf5 $1 {Qh7 is a threat that cannot be taken lightly.} gxf6 41. Qxf6 Kg8 42. Rc3 Rd3 43. Re7 $1 (43. Rxd3 $2 Qxe1+ 44. Kh2 Qe6 $15) 43... Qa1+ 44. Kh2 Rf8 45. Re4 $1 {Very accurate. Rg4 is a threat. } (45. Rxd3 $4 Qxf6 $19) 45... Ne5 (45... Qxc3 46. Rg4+ Kh7 47. Rg7+ Kh8 48. Qxh6#) 46. Rxd3 {What a perfect game by Areshchenko. It could be safe to say that almost all his moves were flawless.} 1-0

Second placed Daniel Naroditsky is all smiles at the end of the tournament

A short chat that I had with a youngster from Corsica went something like this: Sagar: “You are really strong. You should work harder on chess and try to become the first grandmaster from Corsica.” Youngster: “Yes, I will try. My aim is to become like Daniel Naroditsky. Have a rating of 2650 and study in one of the best universities in the world.”

Truly, what Daniel has achieved is just phenomenal. Not only has he maintained a very high Elo which currently stands at 2634, making him the ninth strongest player in United States, but he is also a student at the prestigious Stanford University. This is one of the reasons why he hasn’t been playing much recently, but in Porticcio he was in top notch form. You only need to see his game against Viktor Laznicka to get a feel of how resourceful Daniel is.

[Event "2016"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.06.27"] [Round "4.2"] [White "Naroditsky, Daniel"] [Black "Laznicka, Viktor"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D15"] [WhiteElo "2634"] [BlackElo "2668"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "119"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:01:38"] [BlackClock "0:02:50"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 a6 5. g3 {The Catalan treatment of the Slav leads to very interesting positions in which White usually has to sacrifice a pawn and plays against the c8 bishop.} e6 6. Bg2 dxc4 7. Ne5 b5 8. O-O (8. Nxc6 {doesn't fare so well because of} Qb6 9. Ne5 (9. Na5 Ra7 $17) 9... Bb7 $11) 8... Bb7 9. b3 {This line with the pawn sacrifice became quite popular after Kramnik played a beautiful positional game against Giri in Qatar 2014. Quite a few developments have occurred in this line since then which we can understand with the help of this game.} cxb3 (9... b4 {is not played by many black players. But it is a very worthy alternative as Black gets a protected passed pawn on c3.} 10. Ne4 $5 (10. Na4 {was considered the main move, but I guess things will move in the other direction since the third game between Ding Liren and Wesley So in their Shanghai Match which took place in May 2016.}) 10... Nxe4 {The only logical move at Black's disposal.} (10... c3 $2 11. Ng5 $18) 11. Bxe4 c3 12. a3 a5 (12... Nd7 {is also a possible avenue for black players in the future.}) 13. axb4 axb4 14. Bf4 $11 {1-0 (38) Ding,L (2778)-So,W (2775) Shanghai 2016. White has the freer development, Black has the extra pawn and a dangerous one on c3. I would say that this position is worthy of further investigation and a lot of new ideas can be found.}) 10. axb3 Be7 11. Ne4 {This was played by Naroditsky after five minutes of thought and hence it was most probably not his home preparaiton. It is a move that he came up with on the board.} (11. Bb2 {was played by Kramnik and this looks like the best move.} O-O 12. Ne4 $1 {is the best move and after} (12. Qc2 {After the game Kramnik said that he was very upset that he had made this minor inaccuracy. The point being that the queen is not so well placed on c2 as Rc8 will launch a direct attack against the queen.} Nbd7 $1 (12... Nfd7 $6 13. Nd3 $1 $14 {was Kramnik-Giri Qatar Masters Open 2014.}) 13. Nxc6 $2 Bxc6 14. Bxc6 Rc8 {And now the bishop cannot retreat due to b4. We see why the queen was misplaced on c2.}) 12... Nxe4 (12... Nbd7 13. Nxc6 $1 $16) 13. Bxe4 $44 { White has excellent compensation.} f6 14. Nd3 f5 15. Bg2 $14) 11... Nxe4 12. Bxe4 f6 $1 {Laznicka immediately spots the flaw in White's setup - the d4 pawn is unprotected and hence Nd3 is impossible. It is precisely for this reason that Black has equalised without any difficulty.} 13. Nf3 (13. Nd3 Qxd4 $19) 13... Nd7 (13... f5 14. Bc2 c5 {also looks pretty tempting for Black.}) 14. Bd2 f5 15. Ba5 Qb8 16. Bc2 c5 {Once Black gets this freeing break he shouldn't have any problems.} 17. dxc5 Nxc5 18. Qd4 O-O 19. Rad1 Qe8 20. Bc3 Rf7 (20... Bf6 $1 21. Qxc5 Rc8 22. Qa7 Rxc3 23. Qxb7 Rxc2 24. Qxa6 Rxe2 $15) 21. Ne5 Rd8 22. Qe3 Rf8 23. Rxd8 Qxd8 24. Rd1 Qc8 25. Bb4 Rd8 26. Rc1 (26. Rxd8+ Qxd8 27. Bxc5 Qd5 $17) 26... Rd5 {Black's moves have been all quite logical and he surely maintains an edge thanks to his extra pawn. Here Daniel decides to sharpen play by sacrificing his bishop.} 27. Bxf5 $5 {[#]A move that stirs up some very interesting complications. It must be mentioned that Daniel took only 7 mins and 32 seconds to navigate through the complexities of the line. Quite impressive.} exf5 {The most natural recapture.} (27... a5 $1 {The cold blooded move is the best one in the position. But how can it be found without computer assistance. The e6 pawn is under pressure and there can be myriad discoveries with the knight moving from e5. Yet the computer suggests this emtionless a5!? What to do! As always we have to agree!} 28. Bxc5 Rxc5 $1 ( 28... Bxc5 $6 29. Nd7 $1 Bxe3 30. Bxe6+ $1 (30. Rxc8+ $2 Kf7 $1 $17) 30... Kh8 31. Rxc8+ Bxc8 32. Bxd5 Bxf2+ 33. Kxf2 Bxd7 34. Ke3 $11) 29. Rxc5 Bxc5 30. Qxc5 $1 exf5 (30... Qxc5 31. Bxe6+ Kf8 (31... Kh8 32. Nf7+ $11) 32. Nd7+ $18) 31. Qe3 $15 {and the position is slightly better for White! Mind numbing complications!}) 28. Nd3 $1 {[%cal Rb4c5,Rd3c5,Re3c5,Rc1c5] The knight on c5 is attacked four times and cannot be defended further.} Qc6 (28... Rxd3 29. Qxe7 (29. exd3 Qc6 30. f3 Bg5 $1 31. Qxc5 Qxc5+ 32. Rxc5 Be3+ 33. Kg2 Bxc5 34. Bxc5 $11 {are variations which only the silicon monster can see!}) 29... Rd8 30. Qxc5 Qe6 $15) 29. Qxe7 Rxd3 {The mate on g2 has to be averted.} 30. f3 $1 { The important thing is that Daniel confidently calculated this calm move in which he is a piece down, fully aware that he will win back the material.} Qd7 31. Qxc5 Rd1+ $6 (31... Qd4+ $1 $11 {And most probably the game would have ended in a draw.}) 32. Kg2 h6 33. Qf8+ Kh7 34. Rxd1 Qxd1 35. Qxf5+ {White is now a pawn up and Black's defensive task is not easy.} Kh8 36. Qf8+ Kh7 37. Qf5+ Kh8 38. Qe5 (38. Qe6 $1 $16) 38... Qxb3 39. Bc3 Qf7 40. g4 {Like in so many opposite coloured bishop positions the side which is attacking usually has the edge. Here White's chances are preferable.} Bd5 41. Kg3 Qb7 42. Qd6 Kh7 43. h4 Bc4 44. h5 b4 (44... Bxe2 45. Qg6+ Kg8 46. Qe8+ $18) 45. Bb2 a5 46. Qg6+ Kg8 47. Qe8+ Kh7 48. Qg6+ Kg8 49. Qe8+ Kh7 50. f4 $5 {A brave decision by Naroditsky to continue playing and he is immediately rewarded as Laznicka blunders the whole piece.} Qb6 $4 (50... Qc7 $11) 51. Qe4+ Kh8 52. Qxc4 $18 { The rest is just mopping up.} Qe3+ 53. Kg2 a4 54. Bd4 Qe7 55. Qc8+ Kh7 56. Qf5+ Kh8 57. Qe5 Qb7+ 58. e4 a3 59. g5 b3 60. Qe8+ {A very interesting fight that had almost everthing - an interesting opening, wild tactics, time pressure, and blunder!} 1-0

Usually, in any decent tournament organized in any place on the globe you can find an Indian playing! And thanks to the chess boom in the country, the players tend to perform quite well. The Porticcio Open was no exception as GM Deep Sengupta played one of the best tournaments of his career.

Deep Sengupta of India finished third at the event

Deep Sengupta, who is employed by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), was very close to being clear first when he had a completely winning position against Nils Grandelius in the penultimate round. Being the birthday boy, it seemed like a perfect present for Deep. But things didn’t go so well and the game ended in a draw.

[Event "2016"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.06.30"] [Round "8.2"] [White "Grandelius, Nils"] [Black "Sengupta, Deep"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A11"] [WhiteElo "2649"] [BlackElo "2543"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/1p3k2/1Pnnp2p/2Np1pp1/K2P4/4PPP1/4B2P/8 b - - 0 48"] [PlyCount "72"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:04:10"] [BlackClock "0:04:06"] {It is a complicated endgame and on the surface white seems to be better. But Deep came up with a powerful move that shifted the balance in Black's favour.} 48... f4 $1 {Undermining the support of the d4 pawn.} 49. Kb3 fxe3 50. Kc3 Nd8 51. Na4 Ke7 52. Kd3 Nc4 53. Kc3 Nd6 54. Kd3 Nc4 55. Kc3 Nc6 56. Nc5 (56. Bxc4 dxc4 $19) 56... N6a5 57. f4 (57. Bxc4 dxc4 $19) 57... gxf4 58. gxf4 Nxb6 $19 { Black is two pawns up and completely winning.} 59. Bg4 Nbc4 $1 60. Kd3 (60. Nxe6 e2 61. Bxe2 Kxe6 $19) (60. Bxe6 e2 $19) 60... Nc6 $6 (60... b6 $1 61. Nxe6 h5 $1 62. Bh3 Nb3 {With the deadly threat of Nc1+} 63. Ng5 Nc1+ 64. Kc2 Ne2 $1 65. Nf3 Nxf4 $19 {And it is all over. It is true that this sequence of moves was not so easy to find.}) 61. Nxb7 Nb4+ 62. Kc3 Na6 63. Be2 Kf6 64. Bxc4 dxc4 65. Nd6 Nc7 66. Nxc4 Nd5+ 67. Kd3 Kf5 68. Nxe3+ Kxf4 69. Nc4 {Now it is just a draw.} h5 70. Ne5 Nf6 71. h4 Nd5 72. Nd7 Kg4 73. Nc5 Nc7 74. Ke4 Kxh4 75. Ke5 Kg4 76. Nxe6 Nxe6 77. Kxe6 h4 78. d5 h3 79. d6 h2 80. d7 h1=Q 81. d8=Q Qe4+ 82. Kd7 Qd5+ 83. Kc7 Qxd8+ 84. Kxd8 1/2-1/2

A last round draw against Daniel Naroditsky was sufficient for Deep to be the joint winner.
A seaside interview with Deep Sengupta!

Part II of the report will follow shortly with more details about places fourth to tenth,
some important endgame info, and interesting pictures.

Pictures by Amruta Mokal



You can use ChessBase or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs to replay the games in PGN. You can also download our free Playchess client, which will in addition give you immediate access to the chess server

Topics Corsica

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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