Karthikeyan and Sachdev are Commonwealth Champions

by Sagar Shah
7/5/2018 – It was an exciting final day at the Commonwealth Championships 2018. At the end of penultimate round we had four leaders with a score of 6½ / 8. P. Karthikeyan was the only one who won his game. With 7½ / 9, he became the Commonwealth Champion. Tania Sachdev scored 6.0 / 9 and took the women's title. Report by SAGAR SHAH, for ChessBase India. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

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Silver & bronze to Vaibhav Suri & Debashis Das

P. Karthikeyan won the Commonwealth Championships hosted by the Delhi Chess Association in New Delhi from June 26th to July 3rd. The championship tournament was held as an open tournament, with over 160 players participating. Before the final round, Akash G, Debashis Das, Lalith Babu and Karthikeyan P. were equal with 6½ points. Lalith and Debashis drew in the final round, while Karthikeyan defeated Akash G. in the second major game, earning the title of Commonwealth Champion. 

the top three

The top three: P. Karthikeyan - gold, Vaibhav Suri - silver (left), Debashis Das - bronze (right) | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Tania Sachdev took 23rd place with 6 points and was awarded the title of Commonwealth Champion as the best woman in the field.

The vast majority of the participants came from the host country, which provided 134 players. South Africa was the second largest contingent with 8 players. One participant who played under the English flag: Manoj Arora.

Karthikeyan's last round win came in a fine game from the black side of the Sicilian Najdorf:

Akash 0-1 Karthikeyan (annotated by IM Sagar Shah)
 

The complex Najdorf

When choosing an opening repertoire, it is common to consider two types of variations. One is usually a solid opening, like 1...e5 against 1.e4, with plenty of strategical ideas and quiet paths of play. However, there are of course days when you want to play for a win with Black, when you want to bear down on your opponent’s position with a potentially crushing attack. The Najdorf is perfect for just such occasions – and it’s no coincidence that Garry Kasparov played it the most out of all the variations in the Sicilian – the opening served him well throughout his brilliant career. I myself have played it with both colours, but even I discover more to its endless depths every day! Strategy, combinations, attack and defence, sacrifices and marvellous manoeuvres – exciting chess is all about the Najdorf!

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It can be said that Karthikeyan was a tad lucky with the pairing. With a score of 4½ / 6 he was one point behind the leaders at that point. However, he zoomed ahead in the last three rounds beating three IMs — Watu Kobese, S. Nitin and G. Akash. I would say that last two — Nitin and Akash were in great form in the tournament and had beaten many GMs. To outplay them with ease, showed that Karthikeyan was the deserving champion. After the event, we spoke to Karthikeyan about how he felt.

"What I understood recently is that these GM norms, rating, titles will spoil your game. It is for commercial purposes only. If you improve your game, everything will follow...I practised calmness before the tournament and that is the reason why I am still in the zone, it seems. If you would have interviewed me tomorrow, perhaps I would be more excited!", says Karthikeyan, who could be seen with his eyes closed trying to focus and meditate before each game.

Karthikeyan

Karthikeyan's usual pose at the start of the round, and sometimes even in between the rounds! | Photo: Sagar Shah

It comes as no surprise that which such a calm and clear head, Karthikeyan is able to calculate much better. Here's a position from his game against South African IM Watu Kobese.

 

Watu Kobese has just moved his king to h8. White to play. What did Karthikeyan do here? Check the answer in the video below:

Interview with the Commonwealth Champion 2018 - P. Karthikeyan

The women's prize was keenly contested as well. It was not a separate event — the top three finishers in the open section would win the gold, silver and bronze medals. Tania Sachdev won the gold, M. Mahalakshmi the silver (the only one to win two medals — Open and under-20) and Kiran Manisha Mohanty went back home with the bronze!

Top women

(Women L to R) M. Mahalakshmi, Tania Sachdev and Kiran Manisha Mohanty | Photo: Amruta Mokal

After her first-round loss to V.S. Negi Tania recovered admirably and finished with 6.0/9 to take home the gold. For Sachdev, this was the second consecutive Commonwealth title. Adding to her growing list of achievements, Tania was extremely pleased with the trophy.

"You never get tired of winning", says Tania showing off her trophy, adding that it is about the size of her nephew.

On the Indian team for the Olympiad:

"I've been part of the national team since 2008 and it's always very special to play for India at the Olympiad, but this year is even more special...Jacob's our trainer [Jabob Aagaard -Ed.]. We've got the best team ever: Humpy, Harika, we've got a great trainer and I think that just having this great support system has really motivated all of us to give our best. Of course, what happens there — there's no guarantee, but I know that each one of us is very inspired to play for India in Batumi."

Tania with family

What better way to celebrate your success! Tania's family: Her husband Viraj Kataria (right), brother in law and mother in law | Photo: Amruta Mokal

For many more photos and results from all the age categories visit ChessBase India!

Final standings (top 30)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Karthikeyan P. 7,5 0,0
2 Vaibhav Suri 7,0 0,0
3 Debashis Das 7,0 0,0
4 Lalith Babu M R 7,0 0,0
5 Sengupta Deep 7,0 0,0
6 Deepan Chakkravarthy J. 7,0 0,0
7 Akash G 6,5 0,0
8 Nitin S. 6,5 0,0
9 Laxman R.R. 6,5 0,0
10 Jubin Jimmy 6,5 0,0
11 Sundararajan Kidambi 6,5 0,0
12 Rathnakaran K. 6,5 0,0
13 Swapnil S. Dhopade 6,5 0,0
14 Kunte Abhijit 6,5 0,0
15 Bakre Tejas 6,5 0,0
16 Thipsay Praveen M 6,0 0,0
17 Mohammad Nubairshah Shaikh 6,0 0,0
18 Visakh N R 6,0 0,0
19 Vishnu Prasanna. V 6,0 0,0
20 Karthik Venkataraman 6,0 0,0
21 Navalgund Niranjan 6,0 0,0
22 Siva Mahadevan 6,0 0,0
23 Tania Sachdev 6,0 0,0
24 Kushagra Mohan 6,0 0,0
25 Sharma Dinesh K. 6,0 0,0
26 Mahalakshmi M 6,0 0,0
27 Kiran Manisha Mohanty 6,0 0,0
28 Alahakoon Isuru 6,0 0,0
29 Klaasen Calvin John 6,0 0,0
30 Vantika Agrawal 6,0 0,0

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Andre Schulz contributed reporting to this story

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Sagar 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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psamant psamant 7/6/2018 07:28
What did Karthikeyan do here? Check the answer in the video below. Please don't do this! Not everyone gets the videos and real time analysis by professionals is usually too fast for commoners to follow. But I did watch the video and this Karthikeyan looks like a remarkable and humble chap! Wishing him even more success in the future.
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