Abhijit Kunte the new British Champion

8/4/2003 – He's not British but he is the winner of the 2003 Smith & Williamson British Championship and that's what matters. The 26-year-old Indian played solid chess and punished his opponents' errors in an efficient display. He survived a close call in the final round against Gallagher. This is the second consecutive Indian takeaway at the British, but eligibility changes mean it will likely be the last. More..

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Kunte's turn to surprise at the British

Edinburgh, Scotland – Last year the unheralded RB Ramesh won first prize at the Smith & Williamson British Championship. His 15-minutes of fame are over and now Abhijit Kunte's clock is ticking. The 26-year-old former Indian champion (2000) took clear first prize and the ten thousand pound purse with his 8.5/11 score. He held on with a last-round draw against former champion Gallagher to lock up the top spot.

1. Kunte, IND 2515 8.5
2. Harikrishna, IND 2558 8
3. Kotronias, CYP 2602 8
4. Motwani, SCO 2525 8
5. Arakhamia-Grant, GEO 2408 7.5
6. Gallagher, G SUI 2520 7.5
7. Pert, ENG 2483 7.5
8. Rowson, SCO 2536 7.5
9. Summerscale, ENG 2492 7.5

The women's title went to Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant with an impressive 7.5 points. Scotland came within a half point of claiming its first British title in 57 years. Paul Motwani won his last two games to reach eight points and tie for 2-4 with top seeds Kotronias and Harikrishna.

Things could have turned out quite differently as late as the final round. Gallagher had pressure and two connected passed pawns on the queenside against Kunte. (Diagram after 39..Qd7)

On the oft-fatal final move of the time control Gallagher retreated with 40.Be2 and then hung his e-pawn and offered a draw after 40..Qd2 41.Qf3? Kunte accepted the draw and the title of British Champion!

It would have been very hard for Black to resist after 40.c4, protecting the bishop and getting the pawns rolling. A win by Gallagher would have caused a five-way tie for first.

Most of Kunte's wins were technical games where he cooly took what was offered and played steady defense. This is Kunte's first international win. He finished 3-4 in the last Indian championship behind Sasikiran and Harikrishna. Here is an interview with him from when he gained the GM title in 2000.

Another website provides this charming story of the new champion's entry into the sport: "At the age of eight Abhijit Kunte was a cricket fanatic. One Saturday, when he was all set to play a match for his team, his parents told him that he must accompany his elder sister Mrunalini to her chess class. That was a like a bombshell for the eight-year-old. Remonstrating and crying, he was hauled off to Phadke's Chess Club where Pune's famed chess trainer gave lessons."


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