Chess in Turmeric Town Sangli

by ChessBase
1/8/2009 – If you wonder how India keeps churning out those child prodigies, head to Sangli. A spacious town (a rarity in India), nestled 400 km to the south east of Mumbai, Sangli stakes a claim for being the largest trading hub for Turmeric in Asia. The town derives its name from Saha Galli, which means Six Lanes in Marathi, the local language. Here from M. Jagadish a pictorial report of chess at the grassroots.

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Chess at the Grassroots – Sangli

By M. Jagadish

Location of Sangli. Look carefully and you'll notice another important tourist location, Goa to the South west of Sangli.
The region is also known as the Sugar belt of India, and is famous for the high quality grapes that it produces.

The famous Bollywood actress Bhagyashree is from Sangli

The famous Nagpanchami festival of nearby Battis Shirala is known world wide for the hundreds of cobras that are paraded in the festival.

When it comes to Chess, very few big cities can compete with the dedication and ferocity with which tournaments are churned out of Sangli. The Chess culture prevalent here is attributed to the iconic Shri Bhausaheb Padsalgikar. Bhausaheb, as he is popularly called, took part in the Commonwealth Chess Championship at the age of 90! He has not spared any effort to take Chess to the masses over the last few decades. He has received numerous awards for his contribution to Chess and his enthusiasm for Chess is to be seen to be believed. His driver says that it is difficult to stop Bhausaheb from reaching the tournament venue regularly even though he has had an important operation recently. His breath-taking knowledge of chess is awe-inspiring even to seasoned professionals boasting high FIDE ratings. He is regularly seen kibitzing and giving valuable tips to youngsters.

I had the good fortune to spot photographs of Anand's homecoming after his World Championship match against Kramnik, in the autorickshaw that Bhausaheb uses to travel to the local tournaments. Bhausaheb and his driver had gone to Anand's hometown, Chennai to give him a hero's welcome!

Ninety-year-old Bhausaheb Padsalgikar (right), a former national player and veteran organiser,
made it all the way from Maharashtra to meet Anand at his 2007 homecoming in Chennai.

If you are wondering what an autorickshaw is, here's one. It is one of India's most popular forms of transport.

Such is the cultural significance of Sangli Chess, that even Anand has played here early in his career. Anand sends encouraging messages to the organizers even now.

WGM Swathi Ghate, a member of the Indian women's team, is a former student of Bhausaheb. Chess in Sangli now deeply entrenched in the minds of a majority of the citizens.

WGM Swathi Ghate originally from Sangli now resides in Pune

Sangli recently hosted the Suraj International FIDE Rating Chess Tournament 2008 December 25-31 2008. The tournament was held in the Industrial area of Kupwad, Sangli. The tournament was a ten round affair with time controls of 90 minutes + 30 seconds increment for every move right from the first move. Most of the days had two rounds on each day.

The shining trophies to be awarded to the winners of this year's FIDE Rating Tournament

Sangli is famous for its turmeric and turmeric powder

A lot of factories in and around Sangli produce turmeric. There is a factory right opposite the venue of the Chess tournament. You could smell the fragrance of turmeric all around the place. More than 90% of the turmeric trade in India takes place in Sangli.

The top seed was one of India's top talent, IM S P Sethuraman, 15, rated 2441

Rahul Sangma

The second seed was Rahul Sangma, who recently beat none other than Elite GM Nigel Short at the Commonwealth Chess Tournament. He did it with the black pieces. Short went on to win the Championship. Short did not participate at Sangli.

Coming to the point – a huge percentage of participants were toddlers who have just recently shed their nappies. There were quite a few others just back from the Indian U-13 championships. And then there were hordes out to get a FIDE rating for the first time.

Veterans vs prodigies? Anirudh Bhat already rated 1771 on FIDE's list and he's just nine!

Riya Sawant (in green) is already rated on the FIDE list at 1404. She played way beyond her age and rating in this tournament. Note that she was born in the new millenium – yes, 2000 AD.

Another girl-vs-experienced-opponent encounter

In the main tournament, the top position constantly changed hands, but no one could take a commanding lead. Fancied Sethuraman was held to four draws by lower rated players. Even the other IM, Sudhakar Babu, could not make headway, even though he was playing solidly. One surprise was the man from Pondicherry, Linda Rangarajan, who remained on the top boards throughout, even though his rating did not suggest overwhelming strength.

Shailesh Nerlikar is severly physically challenged and cannot use his limbs. His relatives carry him to the venue and kids help him to write his moves. But he is rated 1712 on the FIDE list. He won a prize after scoring 6/10!

The fierce fight for the title ended in a five-way tie for the first place. Matta Vinay Kumar finished ahead of his fancied rivals on tie-break with eight points. He was rewarded with Rs. 50,000 (approx $1,030) for his efforts. International Masters N Sudhakar Babu and S P Sethuraman finished second and fourth respectively.

Anurag Mhamal (2143) from Goa finished first in the blitz tournament that was held on the free day. He finished ahead of his fancied rivals, including International Masters, with eight points, a full point ahead of Akshat Khamparia of Madhya Pradesh.

Final Ranking

1 Matta Vinay Kumar 2243 8
2 IM Babu N Sudhakar 2325 8
3 Linda Rangarajan 2111 8
4 IM Sethuraman S P 2441 8
5 Praveen Prasad P 2289 8
6 Sangma Rahul 2365
7 Saurabh Kherdekar 2224
8 Phadke Sohan 2268 7
9 Mandhare Hemant Kumar 2181 7
10 Shreyans K. Shah 2099 7

Other categories

Benadikar Shashank D 1863 6
2 Tamhankar Viraj 1828
3 Patharkar Akshay 1645
U-14 16926
1 Naik Rishubh Naresh 1701
2 Padhya Saumil  
3 Karanjkar Rishikesh    
1 Pranav Zantye 1789
2 Sai Akshay Y   5
3 Poras Sanjay Kolgane 1586 5
1 Varma Shabdhik 1690
Best Lady
1 Parnali S Dharia 1630
Best Unrated
1 Shiva Ravi Pillai   6
Best Veteran
1 Subramanian T V 1877

The playing venue; the Krishna Valley School, Kupwad

Kids doing what they love. Playing and kibitzing before, after, and during the rounds.
Also, before and after the opening and closing ceremonies!

No pictures please! Shy kid blitzing

References and links

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


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