35th Indian National Team Championships

by Sagar Shah
3/5/2015 – This event, held in Goa, India's richest state, has a meagre prize fund (200,000 rupees or $3,500). In spite of this it attracts a very high calibre of players – our report explains why. This year it was won by the top seed team of PSPB, which clinched all nine matches, scoring a perfect 18.0/18. None of their players lost a single game, three won board prizes. Part one of our big illustrated report.

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PSPB reigns supreme

Report from Goa by Sagar Shah

The game of chess is an excellent training tool for young kids. Mainly because it teaches you take responsibility for every decision you make. If you win the game you get all the compliments and laurels and when you lose, it is only you who is responsible for the failure.

Chess players sometimes crave for the feeling that one gets by playing a team sport; the unity, the team spirit, motivating each other, covering each other’s back and celebrating the victory together. All these things are unheard of in individual chess tournaments and these are the main reasons why team events are such a big hit for chess players of all levels.

The 35th Indian National Team Championships and the 13th National Women Team Championships were held from the 20th to 26th of February in Panaji, Goa.

Goa, located on the western coast, is the smallest state of India.
However, in terms of GDP per capita it is the richest state in the country.

The lifeline of Goa, Mandovi, is one of the cleanest rivers I have seen in the country

Goa was ruled by the Portuguese from mid-16th century until 1961, and they built a number of beautiful structures. Above is Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church, one of the biggest and oldest in Goa.

A huge attraction for chess players who come to Goa is the casino! In India gambling is prohibited. Casinos can only be operated in five star hotel premises or floating waters. The Deltin Royale on the ship is one of the biggest casinos in India.

The tournament was held at the Caritas Complex. A look at the building from the outside
did not infuse me with confidence about the organization….

… but the playing hall was pretty good albeit a little cramped due to the huge number of participants

The total prize fund of the tournament was a meagre 200,000 rupees ($3500) and the first prize in open section was just Rs.25,000 ($400). And that sum too would be divided between all the members of the team! Yet there was strong participation with the top team Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) flaunting a massive Elo average of 2616!

Team PSPB consisted of (from top left, clockwise) B Adhiban (2630), Surya Shekhar Ganguly (2595),
Abhijeet Gupta (2622), Vidit Gujrathi (2617) and Murali Karthikeyan (2505)

Indian Railways is one of the biggest recruiters of chess players in India. Railways sent two teams to the tournament. The A team consisted of (from top left to right) P. Karthikeyan (2442), GM Deepan Chakravarthy (2487), Arghyadip Das (2476), (middle row left to right) M.S. Thejkumar (2438) and Himanshu Sharma (2425). Team B was equally strong and had GM R.R. Laxman (2377), GM Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury (2426), Swapnil Dhopade (2438), Akshat Khamparia (2415) and Somak Palit (2405).

The natural question that would come to the mind of the readers is, “Why are such strong players playing for a paltry sum of prize money?”

The Petroleum Sports Promotion Board consists of many oil and petroleum related companies in India like Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum, Hindustan Petroleum and many others. These companies and the Indian Railways recruit the top GMs and IMs in India based on their achievements. For nil or minimal working hours these players are provided financial safety thanks to decent salaries. In return they have to compulsorily represent their companies at a few tournaments, one of them being the National Team Championships. Good performances at these events are linked with promotions and increase in income. That explains the participation of such strong players in such a tournament in spite of the poor prize fund.

There were a few more strong teams like the Airport Authority of India which was the chief sponsor of the event, Air India and Life Insurance Corporation (LIC). In all there were 43 teams in the open the section and twelve in the women. Many teams were sponsored by their respective states. But there were a few teams who came to the event on their own expenses just to enjoy the team tournament atmosphere and lock horns with the big guys.

One such team was Chess Is Life represented by (left to right) Amruta Mokal, yours truly,
Shashikant Kutwal, Atul Dahale and Vinod Bhagwat

It was certain that PSPB with their monster team was the favourite to win the title, but the way they achieved the victory was simply amazing. They won all the nine matches, scoring a perfect 18.0/18 in nine rounds. None of their players lost a single game. They scored 32.0/36 points with three of their players, Adhiban, Ganguly and Karthikeyan achieving the board prizes. Their strategy was usually simple. Play it safe with the black pieces and score with the white ones. This worked to perfection against second and third seeds Railways A and B as PSPB won both these matches with a score of 3:1.

Coach D.V. Prasad, Ganguly, Adhiban and Murali receiving the winner’s trophy. The other two team members
Vidit and Abhijeet had already left to catch a flight to participate in the Capelle La Grande tournament.

The Railways A team won second place

Staying true to their seeding, Railways B finished third

The young team of Airport Authority of India (AAI) consisting of G.A. Stany, Mishra Swayams, V.A.V. Rajesh, N.R. Visakh and S. Nitin finished fourth. All these players are not employed with AAI, they receive scholarships.

The Tamil Nadu State team did exceedingly well to finish fifth. The team members were
P. Maheswaran, Niranjan Navalgund, Sa Kannan and Dusthageer Ibrahim.

Final ranking list after nine rounds

Rk. SNo Team
  + 
  = 
 –
 TB1 
 TB2   TB3 
1 1 Petroleum Sports Promotion Board
9
0
0
18
32.0 691.3
2 2 Railways - A
6
2
1
14
25.0 514.5
3 3 Railways - B
5
3
1
13
25.0 534.5
4 4 Airport Authority of India
5
3
1
13
24.0 494.3
5 10 Tamil Nadu State
5
2
2
12
24.5 441.8
6 5 Air India
5
2
2
12
22.0 460.0
7 8 Chess Is Life, Maharashtra
5
2
2
12
21.5 437.0
8 12 Tamil Nadu State - B
5
2
2
12
21.0 375.3
9 9 MCA Senior, Maharashtra
6
0
3
12
20.0 380.5
10 25 Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited
4
3
2
11
21.5 400.8
11 6 Life Insurance Corporation
5
1
3
11
21.0 411.8
12 16 Gujarath State
5
1
3
11
21.0 334.5
13 15 Bihar State - A
4
2
3
10
20.5 375.8
14 24 Fischer Fans Maharashtra
4
2
3
10
20.5 310.8
15 14 Haryana State
5
0
4
10
19.5 313.0
16 11 All India Chess Federation
4
2
3
10
19.0 335.0
17 17 Kerala State B
5
0
4
10
18.5 320.5
18 13 Kerala State A
4
1
4
9
22.5 366.5
19 19 Goa State - A
4
1
4
9
19.0 326.0
20 7 The Empty Reloaded A.P.
4
1
4
9
18.5 362.8
21 18 Maharashtra Attackers
3
3
3
9
18.5 318.3
22 20 Punjab State
4
1
4
9
18.0 318.5
23 26 Chess Winners
3
3
3
9
17.5 245.5
24 32 Haryana State - B
4
1
4
9
15.5 249.8
25 22 Services Sports Control Board
4
0
5
8
19.5 288.5
26 29 Kerala State D
3
2
4
8
16.5 232.0
27 35 Indian Chess School, Maharashtra
3
2
4
8
15.5 256.0
28 34 Telangana State
3
2
4
8
15.5 208.8
29 23 Kerala State C
4
0
5
8
14.0 225.8
30 30 Bihar State - B
4
0
5
8
13.5 200.0
31 28 Uttar Pradesh
3
1
5
7
16.0 242.0
32 38 H.P. State
3
1
5
7
14.5 176.5
33 31 Reserve Bank Of India
3
1
5
7
14.0 224.0
34 27 M.P. State
2
3
4
7
13.5 194.5
35 39 Telangana State B
3
1
5
7
13.0 155.8
36 41 Little Stars,Goa
2
2
5
6
15.5 154.5
37 40 Unique Chess Academy,Goa
2
2
5
6
15.0 197.0
38 36 Rajastan State
2
2
5
6
14.5 147.5
39 21 Goa State - B
2
2
5
6
14.5 135.5
40 37 Andhra Pradesh State
1
4
4
6
12.5 133.8
41 33 H.P. State B
1
3
5
5
13.5 155.8
42 43 Little Champs -Goa
1
2
6
4
11.0 99.5
43 42 Jammu & Kashmir State Team
0
1
8
1
6.0 53.5

Tie Break1: Matchpoints (2 for wins, 1 for draws, 0 for losses)
Tie Break2: points (game-points)
Tie Break3: FIDE Sonneborn-Berger Tie Break

Women’s section

In the women’s section the fight for the top spot was much closer.

Team PSPB had one WGM, Soumya Swaminathan, and one IM, Nisha Mohota, and a rating average of 2170

Two times Indian National champion IM Mary Ann Gomes and, fresh from a GM norm at Gibraltar,
Padmini Rout, gave Airport Authority of India a healthy Elo average of 2262.

But without doubt it was the team of two IMs, S. Vijayalakshmi (top right) and Tania Sachdev (bottom right) and three WGMs, S. Meenakshi (top left), Aarthie Ramaswamy (bottom left) and Bhakti Kulkarni (bottom centre) that made the team of Air India the strongest, at least on paper, with an average Elo of 2304.

Air India and PSPB both defeated AAI with a margin of 2.5: 1.5. AAI was thus relegated to the third spot. The key encounter between Air India and PSPB in round five was drawn with a score of 2:2. While PSPB crushed every other opposing team, Air India’s draw against Tamil Nadu state team in round two proved costly. Thus, the third seeded team PSPB emerged as the National Women Team Champion!

Deserving winners: PSPB team of G.K. Monnisha, Soumya Swaminathan,
Mahalakshmi (who scored 6.5/7!) and Nisha Mohota

Favourites Air India had to be content with the second spot

Final rankings after seven rounds

Rk. SNo Team
  + 
  = 
  –
 TB1 
 TB2   TB3 
1 3 Petroleum Sports Promotion Board
6
1
0
13
22.5 325.5
2 1 Air-India
5
2
0
12
22.0 339.0
3 2 Airport Authority of India
5
0
2
10
21.0 276.3
4 4 Tamil Nadu State
4
1
2
9
19.0 236.3
5 7 Goa State
3
1
3
7
16.0 140.0
6 6 Life Insurance of Corporation
3
1
3
7
13.0 145.8
7 8 Gujrat State
3
0
4
6
13.5 97.0
8 9 Goa State -B
3
0
4
6
10.5 97.3
9 5 Bihar A
3
0
4
6
10.0 88.8
10 12 Telangana State
1
2
4
4
10.0 51.5
11 10 Bihar B
0
2
4
2
4.5 34.8
12 11 Jammu & Kashmir
0
1
6
1
4.0 32.0

Tie Break1: Matchpoints (2 for wins, 1 for draws, 0 for losses)
Tie Break2: points (game-points)
Tie Break3: FIDE Sonneborn-Berger Tie Break

PSPB: Champions in both the categories!

The Petroleum Sports Promotion Board is a boon for Indian chess players. Almost all of the top Indian GMs are recruited by it. Thanks to being employed in these companies strong players like Harikrishna, Sasikiran, Ganguly, Adhiban, Abhijeet Gupta, Vidit Gujrathi, Sethuraman, Lalith Babu and many more get some financial security which helps them to focus on chess better. It’s been years since PSPB has been winning the National Team Championship title. Many other teams have tried to wrest the honours from them but it seems like an impossible task. After all, almost every top Indian player is associated with it. Maybe the only hope now is for Vishy Anand to form a team with some other strong non PSPB players like Sandipan Chanda, Magesh Chandran etc. in order to challenge them. But then do you think anyone would take so many hassles for the first prize of $400?!! I don’t think so!

– Analysis and lots of pictures in part two –

In part II of this article there is going to be something unique. We will provide you with four positions to think over and then the answers will be given by the players themselves in video format. In picture above, I am recording the analysis of Surya Shekhar Ganguly who shows his meticulous approach of going into the depths of a position. Stay tuned for that.

Pictures by Amruta Mokal


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Topics India

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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johan1234 johan1234 3/8/2015 06:34
Good stuff Sagar Shah.
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