Dhopade wins India’s 2015 National Challengers

by Priyadarshan Banjan
9/13/2015 – The tournament has always been a meeting point for the most talented of the Indian players, with spots for the National Premier Championship up for grabs. IM Swapnil Dhopade won the 53rd edition of India’s National Challengers Championship with 10.0/13, half a point ahead of the remaining field. We bring you a richly illustrated report and a choice of tactics for you to solve.

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Swapnil Dhopade wins 53rd National Challengers 2015

India’s National Challengers Championship, 2015 took place from 17th August, 2015 to 27th August, 2015 at the Naivedhyam Celebration Centre, Nagpur in the state of Maharashtra in India. The time control was 90 minute per player for 40 moves plus 30 minutes per player for remaining moves, with 30 seconds increment per move from the start of the game.

Into its 53rd edition, this prestigious tournament has stood witness to the cream of India’s top players’ rise up the ranks over the years. Even former World Champion Vishy Anand burst into national prominence with a win at the National-B, as it was known back then, in 1983. The top twelve players from this tournament qualified to the National Premier Championship of India, 2015 to be held in November in the state of Tamil Nadu.

IM Swapnil Dhopade (above, rated 2458) won the Challengers Championship with 10.0/13, half a point clear of the remaining field. He began the tournament on a shaky note with a loss in the second round. However, displaying mental sturdiness, he slowly clawed back into contention, defeating the third seed GM Murali Karthikeyan (2510) at the top board in the tenth round. When it mattered, in an all-important final round game against IM M.S. Thejkumar (2479), Swapnil rejected a safe draw offer to pressure his opponent into cracking.

FM K. Praneeth Surya (2347) was the surprise package of the tournament. The 1997 born youngster started as the 31st seed, played six IMs and four GMs, didn’t lose a single game, and increased 66 Elo points to finish second on tie-break with 9.5/13.

Ten players were tied with a score of 9.5/13.

Indian talent GM Murali Karthikeyan (2510), born in 1999, started the tournament as the third seed and finished third on tie-break on 9.5/13. He lost only one game, to the eventual winner. He had earlier finished third in the Indian National Junior Championship, 2015.

GM Neelotpal Das (2448) scored 9.5/13 to finish fourth

GM M.R. Venkatesh (2484) finished fifth, also with 9.5/13

GM M. Shyam Sundar was sixth

Resourceful Rathnakaran! IM K. Rathnakaran (2417), with his entertaining
brand of chess, finished seventh on tiebreak.

IM P. Karthikeyan (2426) was eighth on tiebreak

GM Abhijit Kunte (2493) finished ninth

IM P. Shyamnikhil (2420) finished tenth

IM Arghyadip Das (2485), despite a shock loss in the first round, played catch up to finish eleventh

Top seed GM Deep Sengupta (2594) finished twelfth with 9.0/13.

Top final ranking (after 13 rounds)

Rk. SNo Ti. Name FED Rtg Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3   TB4  rtg+/-
1 10 IM Swapnil S. Dhopade IND 2458 10.0 99.5 92.5 80.75 90.0 6.8
2 31 FM K. Praneeth Surya IND 2347 9.5 104.0 97.0 78.50 94.5 65.8
3 3 GM Karthikeyan Murali IND 2510 9.5 104.0 96.5 78.75 94.0 9.2
4 11 GM Neelotpal Das IND 2448 9.5 103.5 96.5 78.00 93.5 16.5
5 8 GM Venkatesh M.R. IND 2484 9.5 103.5 96.0 78.25 94.0 3.7
6 5 GM Shyam Sundar M. IND 2499 9.5 99.5 92.0 77.50 90.0 2.2
7 19 IM Rathnakaran K. IND 2417 9.5 99.0 92.0 73.50 89.5 14.5
8 15 IM Karthikeyan P. IND 2426 9.5 98.0 91.5 75.00 88.5 5.1
9 6 GM Kunte Abhijit IND 2493 9.5 97.5 90.5 75.50 88.0 5.2
10 17 IM Shyaamnikhil P IND 2420 9.5 95.5 89.5 73.00 85.5 6.7
11 7 IM Das Arghyadip IND 2485 9.5 90.5 84.0 68.25 82.0 -12.4
12 1 GM Sengupta Deep IND 2594 9.0 105.0 97.5 75.00 95.5 -9.4
13 9 IM Thejkumar M.S. IND 2479 9.0 102.0 95.5 71.50 92.0 -4.0
14 30   Harsha Bharathakoti IND 2360 9.0 98.5 91.5 68.00 89.0 33.4
15 33 IM Konguvel Ponnuswamy IND 2340 9.0 94.0 87.0 68.50 84.5 4.1
16 43   Gusain Himal IND 2302 9.0 92.5 86.0 65.50 82.5 33.2
17 42   Shailesh Dravid IND 2305 9.0 82.0 76.0 61.25 74.0 -22.0

IM M.S. Thejkumar (2479) crashed to defeat in the last round against the eventual winner IM Dhopade to finish thirteenth, missing the qualification to the 2015 Indian National Premier, by ever so small a margin.

GM M.R. Lalith Babu (2570) with a score of 8.5/13 had a sub-par tournament
in the run up to his World Cup campaign

WGM Mary Ann Gomes scored 8.0/13 and was the best among female players

IM Anurag Mhamal (2393) was having a memorable tournament with a spectacular win in the
eighth round to be among the leaders, only to lose the next round at the top board in curious fashion:

…Ng4 is a thematic idea in analogous positions. Should Black go ahead with it?

[Event "GLOCAL SQUARE 53rd National Challengers"] [Site "Naivedhyam Celebration Centre"] [Date "2015.08.23"] [Round "9.1"] [White "Karthikeyan, Murali"] [Black "Anurag, Mhamal"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B38"] [WhiteElo "2510"] [BlackElo "2393"] [PlyCount "27"] [EventDate "2015.08.17"] [EventRounds "13"] [EventCountry "IND"] 1. e4 {Black had in the previous round destroyed a grandmaster in spectacular style. To lose a game like this on the top-board must have been a heavy blow psychologically.} c5 2. Nf3 g6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Bg7 5. c4 Nc6 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Nc3 O-O 8. Be2 d6 9. O-O {[%cal Gf6g4]} Ng4 $4 {Black walks into a very old and well-known trap.} 10. Bxg4 Bxg4 11. Nxc6 {Of course! White is just a piece up.} Bxd1 12. Nxd8 Bc2 13. Nxb7 Rfb8 14. Rac1 1-0

Aradhya Garg (2129) found a beautiful way to convert his advantage
against IM G. Stany (2392). White to play.

[Event "GLOCAL SQUARE 53rd National Challengers"] [Site "Naivedhyam Celebration Centre"] [Date "2015.08.18"] [Round "2.22"] [White "Aradhya, Garg"] [Black "Stany, G.A."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D03"] [WhiteElo "2129"] [BlackElo "2392"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1r1q3r/2Rbbpk1/p3p3/Pp1pP3/1P1N2B1/4P1P1/6P1/1QR3K1 w - - 0 30"] [PlyCount "19"] [EventDate "2015.08.17"] [EventRounds "13"] [EventCountry "IND"] 30. Rxd7 $3 Qxd7 31. Bxe6 {Point!} Qa7 (31... fxe6 32. Rc7 Qe8 33. Nxe6+ {is a massacre.} Kg8 34. Rxe7 Rh1+ (34... Qxe7 35. Qg6+ Qg7 36. Qxg7#) 35. Kxh1 Qxe7 36. Qg6+ Kh8 37. Ng5 $1 Qg7 38. Nf7+ Kg8 39. Nh6+ Kh8 (39... Kf8 40. Qd6+ { [%cal Gd6b8,Gd6f8]}) 40. Qh5 $1 $18 {[%cal Gh5h8]}) 32. Bxf7 {natural and winning.} Kxf7 33. Qf5+ Kg7 34. Rc7 (34. Ne6+ {is quicker.}) 34... Qxc7 35. Ne6+ Kh6 36. Qh3+ Kg6 37. Qg4+ Kh6 38. Qg7+ Kh5 39. Nf4# 1-0

Despite the accident in the next round, IM A. Mhamal (2393)
would be happy about this gem. White to play.

[Event "GLOCAL SQUARE 53rd National Challengers"] [Site "Naivedhyam Celebration Centre"] [Date "2015.08.22"] [Round "8.3"] [White "Anurag, Mhamal"] [Black "Shyam, Sundar M"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A06"] [WhiteElo "2393"] [BlackElo "2499"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r2q2k1/2pn1ppp/1p3n2/8/2P1Pb2/p1Q1p3/P3B2P/B2R1KR1 w - - 0 22"] [PlyCount "15"] [EventDate "2015.08.17"] [EventRounds "13"] [EventCountry "IND"] 22. Rxd7 $3 {You could reverse the order as well.} Qxd7 23. Rxg7+ Kxg7 24. Qxf6+ Kf8 25. Qh8+ Ke7 26. Bf6+ (26. Qxa8 $4 {A howler.} Qh3+ 27. Ke1 Qxh2 28. Qxa3+ Ke8 29. Qa8+ $11) 26... Ke6 27. Bg4+ Kd6 28. Qxa8 e2+ 29. Ke1 1-0

GM Neelotpal Das (2448) found a neat way to go a pawn up. Black to play.

[Event "GLOCAL SQUARE 53rd National Challengers"] [Site "Naivedhyam Celebration Centre"] [Date "2015.08.20"] [Round "5.7"] [White "Palit, Somak"] [Black "Neelotpal, Das"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A12"] [WhiteElo "2345"] [BlackElo "2448"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3q1rk1/1p2bppb/2p1p2p/3n4/1PN5/1QBPP3/4BPPP/R5K1 b - - 0 19"] [PlyCount "9"] [EventDate "2015.08.17"] [EventRounds "13"] [EventCountry "IND"] {When you spot the weakest point in the White camp...} 19... Bxd3 20. Bxd3 Nxc3 21. Qxc3 ({In the game, White played} 21. Bf1 Nb5 {and Black is just a pawn up. } 22. Rd1 Qc7 23. Na3 Na7 24. Nc4 Rd8 25. Rxd8+ Qxd8 26. Na3 Qb6 27. g3 Nb5 28. Nc2 g6 29. Qa4 Qd8 30. Na3 Nc3 31. Qb3 Qd2 32. Nc4 Qe1 33. Ne5 Ne4 34. Nd3 Qxf1+) 21... Bf6 22. Ne5 Bxe5 23. Qxe5 Qxd3 0-1

Local lad Shailesh Dravid (2305) found an aesthetically
pleasing way to win with white in the final round.

[Event "GLOCAL SQUARE 53rd National Challengers"] [Site "Naivedhyam Celebration Centre"] [Date "2015.08.27"] [Round "13.13"] [White "Shailesh, Dravid"] [Black "Sangma, Rahul"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C95"] [WhiteElo "2305"] [BlackElo "2285"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r1b5/2q2pk1/2p3np/p1Pr1B2/Pp1N2Q1/7P/1P4P1/2R1R1K1 w - - 0 36"] [PlyCount "25"] [EventDate "2015.08.17"] [EventRounds "13"] [EventCountry "IND"] {White is obviously better with many moves at his disposal. Nevertheless, his move stamps this fact with authority.} 36. Re6 $1 {A move as beautiful as its simplicity.} Rxf5 (36... fxe6 37. Qxg6+) (36... Bxe6 37. Nxe6+ fxe6 38. Qxg6+ Kf8 39. Bxe6 {[%csl Rf8][%cal Gc1f1]}) 37. Nxf5+ Kh7 38. Qh5 Qf4 39. Rf1 Qxf5 40. Qxf5 Bxe6 41. Qd3 $18 Ra7 42. h4 Kg7 43. h5 Ne7 44. Qd4+ Kg8 45. Rf3 Nf5 46. Qe5 Rd7 47. Rxf5 Bxf5 48. Qxf5 1-0

Mr. Re6! – Shailesh Dravid

Fourth seed GM Deepan Chakravarthy (2500) had a lackluster event scoring 8.0/13 …

… as did IM Swayams Mishra (2446), also finishing on 8.0/13.

Ten-year old FM R. Praggnanandhaa (2104), younger brother of R. Vaishali
of whom we have reported before, is a bright Indian talent to look forward to…

… as is 11-years old CM Nihal Sarin (2259), who in the recent few youth events has lost
a hatful of rating points. That shouldn’t bother this young kid, as he just loves to play chess!

Love for the game is all that matters. Shailesh Nerlikar (1538)
is a 34-year old who has managed to checkmate a chronic bone disease.

All photos by Akshay Halgannavar and Priyadarshan Banjan


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Topics India

Priyadarshan Banjan is a 23-year-old club player from India. He works as an editor for ChessBase News and ChessBase India. He is a chess fanatic and an avid fan of Vishy Anand. He also maintains a blog on a variety of topics.
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