Jalgaon Battlers win Maharashtra Chess League

by Venkatachalam Saravanan
6/23/2014 – It is a very interesting format, well worth considering: six teams put together by sponsors bidding for the strongest players. Top Indian GMs participate, and the atmosphere is electrifying: team captains, coaches and even the "owners" have to decide strategically who plays on which board. The result is exciting action from beginning to end, as V. Saravanan shows us in this big pictorial report.

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The Maharashtra Chess League 2014

By IM Venkatachalam Saravanan

A fun filled second edition of Johnson Tiles Maharashtra Chess League was held from June 11–15 at PYC Hindu Gymkhana, Pune. The event ended in a triumph for the pre-tournament favourite Jalgaon Battlers with the young 2600+ GMs Adhiban and Vidit Gujrathi in their ranks. It was a six board per team rapid event, with 25 minutes + five seconds per move time control.

The glamorous event, which attracted a wide audience and was keenly followed by Indian chess lovers, did one better in terms of organisation compared to the previous year. All the games were webcast live on the Monroi server, and the Facebook page of the event was a buzz of activity throughout the event.

You couldn’t miss the event even from the roads – banners covering the periphery of the venue

The lobby of PYC, featuring one of the most googled faces of India...

Actress-model Katrina Kaif is HR Johnson’s brand ambassador!

View from the spectator area: a classily designed hall with segregated playing enclosures,
individual team dug-outs on both the sides, and huge monitors showing important games

Thane Combatants’ dug-out

As explained in my previous article, the six teams started out the tournament with a fixed number of GMs, WGMs, IMs and untitled players in their teams. Altering the format of the event from last year, there was an ‘eliminator’ and two `qualifiers’ in the knockout phase, thus making the event more interesting and bringing more merit to the first two finishers of the round robin event:

  1. Stage one: a round robin event between all the six teams, with the top four based on game points proceeding to the knockout stage.
  2. ‘Qualifier one’: teams which finished first and second in the round robin play against each other, and the winner proceeds to the finals, while the loser goes to ‘qualifier two’.
  3. ‘Eliminator’: third and fourth finishers from the round robin clash, with the winner proceeding to ‘qualifier two’.
  4. ‘Qualifier two’: loser of ‘qualifier one’ versus winner of ‘eliminator.’
  5. Finals: winner of `qualifier one’ versus winner of ‘qualifier two’.
  6. For places three – four: To complete the cycle and make people work more (!), loser of ‘qualifier two’ versus loser of ‘eliminator’.

There being almost no big differences in strength of the teams, the round robin phase was a typical rapid chess slugfest with inevitable fluctuating fortunes, especially as there were no fixed general board orders and the teams were able to field their players in any board with any desired colours. However, the team coaches played a crucial part in strategies, especially in deciding which of their players should be awarded the crucial white pieces, while guessing which of the opponents’ teams would arrive with the white colours, and which of their own players would thus have to combat them with the black pieces, and… let’s stop here.

Ahmednagar Checkers’ captain GM Tejas Bakre, coach IWM Mrunalini Kunte,
and one of the owners, Daval Shah

IM D.V.Prasad, coach of the Pune Attackers. Though the defending champions were a favourite
this year too, they got eliminated after a dramatic last round in the round robin stage)

A tense team meeting, with the Jalgaon Battlers deciding whom to field for a crucial Armageddon game

Owner of the Thane Combatants franchise, Sachin Awasthee with the Coach IM Chandrasekhar Gokhale

The round robin stage was a close affair, with the third and fourth places being decided only in the very last games of the fifth round. But Jalgaon battlers made it comfortably to the top, mainly due to Baskaran Adhiban's 5.0/5 and Vidit Gujrathi’s 4.0/5. Thane combatants had their strong scorers in former world junior champion Abhijeet Gupta’s 4.5/5 and IM Vikramaditya Kulkarni’s 4.0/5.

Rk. Team
1 Jalgaon Battlers
2 Thane Combatants
3 Mumbai Movers
  Ahmednagar Checkers
5 Pune Attackers
6 Pune TruMasters

Even though the competitive part of the tournament was quite tense, the atmosphere of the tournament and the pan-Indian colour of the teams made it a fun event, with everyone enjoying the carnival atmosphere. The rounds had light-hearted and short pre-game chats with players right from the playing arena, and detailed post-game chats with the players, coaches, owners and others connected with the tournament. Most of the owners of the teams were hands on involved, which made them intensely competitive too. The mixed strength level of the teams also meant lot of interaction between the top grandmasters with the very young ones, one of the main ideas and aims of the MCL. The facebook page of the event attracted widespread attention for the duration of the event.

Yours truly also acted as master of ceremonies for the tournament, apart from being the photographer.
Above a jolly pre-game chat with one of the main architects of the event, GM Abhijit Kunte

The selfie of the tournament! Ahmednagar checkers with Vignesh (top), Abhijit Kunte, Siddharth Mayur and Daval Shah (owners), Tejas Bakre, Akanksha Hagawane, Shardul Gagare, Padmini Rout, Mrunalini Kunte and Abhishek Kelkar

One of the great Indian talents: GM Vidit Gujrathi

Eesha Karavade of Mumbai Movers keenly followed by team
owner Rishi Gupta and Coach Prathamesh Mokal

Pune TruMasters, the new entrants in 2014: Sethuraman, Pawan Dodeja, Vishnu Prasanna, Anuprita Patil (coach), Ashwin Trimal (owner), Mary Ann Gomes, Sameer Kathmale, Swati Ghate and Aditya Udeshi

Ananya Gupta, a young budding chess player and daughter of the Mumbai team owners,
gets lessons from Rakesh Kulkarni, Parimarjan Negi and Prathmesh Mokal

Qualifier 1, Jalgaon vs Thane ended in a 3:3 tie, after which Abhijeet Gupta (right) defeated
Adhiban in a high pressure Armageddon game, thus taking Thane directly into the finals

In the ‘Eliminator’, Ahmednagar defeated Mumbai 4–2, to face Jalgaon in ‘Qualifier 1’. Above
Abhijit Kunte faces Parimarjan Negi in a key game, followed by a colourful spectator and his son…

... as well as Kunte’s daughter Maithili and Negi’s father JBS Negi!

Thus, for the remaining spot in the finals, Jalgaon defeated Ahmednagar 3.5–2.5 in one of the most exciting matches of the event, to get into the finals.

When players became spectators: Vishnu Prasanna, Abhijeet Gupta, Mary Ann Gomes,
Prasanna Rao and Aditya Udeshi follow the action on the boards

The tournament hall during a tense moment of the Qualifier 2

The finals itself was an easy looking 4–2 victory for Jalgaon, but it quite didn’t seem that way during half-way stage of the event…

The heavyweight clash of the finals: Abijiit Gupta vs Vidit Gujrathi (draw in 82 moves)

Another key game from the finals: Rucha Pujari vs Parnali Dharia (1-0 in 46 moves)

Jalgaon victorious: Kiran Manisha Mohanty, Pratik Patil, Vidit Gujrathi, Baskaran Adhiban,
Shashikant Kutwal, Srinath Narayanan and Rucha Pujari

The Thane Combatants receiving their trophy

There was a `Game of the day’ award each day, jointly decided by a panel of GM Arun Prasad, Amruta Mokal and yours truly, alongwith online voters. The winners were:

IM Thej Kumar (above, two awards), Abhijeet Gupta and...

... SL Narayanan and

... Srinath Narayanan receiving their awards

Pratik Patil and Akanksha Hagawane were awarded as the most promising young players of the event

Another report on the Maharashtra Chess League will follow
with analysis of games and more photographs of the event.


You can use ChessBase 12 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 Playchess.com.

Saravanan is an IM from Chennai, the southern-most state of Tamil Nadu, India. He has been an active chess player in the Indian circuit, turning complete chess professional in 2012, actively playing and being a second to strong Indian players. He has been consistently writing on chess since late 1980s and is a correspondent to national newspapers and news channels.


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