Super Sasi wins in India

1/2/2014 – Krishan Sasikirian has ended victorious in the 14 player round robing that was the National Premier Championship. He was closely followed by a young and talented players, including Adhiban and Lalith. Sasikirian's play was simply too strong, however, and he clinched his spot in the Olympic team and in the 2015 World Cup. Extensive on-site coverage by Sagar Shah

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by Sagar Shah

India is one of the rapidly rising countries in the world when it comes to chess. It is obvious that the National Premier Championship, which was a 14 player round robin event, was very keenly followed by all the chess players in the nation. The tournament was extremely strong: a category ten event with an average rating of 2493. It was held in Jalgaon, Maharashtra from the 16th-30th December. The starting list of the tournament was extremely impressive. With two players Parimarjan Negi 2671 and Sasikiran Krishnan 2666, who are in the top 75 players in the world playing this tournament, it gave the event a powerful presence. Add to this list the two young and dangerous GMs of India, B Adhiban 2569 and Lalith Babu MR 2569, both who are just 20 years old and you get a very keenly contested event.

Krishnan Sasikirian ended victorious in Maharashtra

Krishnan Sasikiran became the National champion by scoring 10.5/13 and thus pocketed the winner's purse of 2,50,000 Rs (approx 4200$). In Hindi, Sasi= moon and Kiran= ray of light. Sasikiran's play in this tournament was as soothing as the moonlight! Sasikiran won the championship with 9 wins , 3 draws and 1 loss at the hands of the runner up B Adhiban.  He played with strong determination and had some deadly opening preparation. After all he was Anand's second for the World championship match with Carlsen. Fearing some deep novelties, most of the players stayed clear off the main line openings but those who were brave enough to play the main lines were in for some really tough time. Sasi would gain time on the clock with his excellent preparation and then finish off his opponent! Take for example his game against GM Debashis Das(2507):

In a well known position of the Catalan, Sasi unleashed the deep Novelty of Qd1-e2 in a position where 5 games by top players like Alekseev,Tomashevsky, Dzagnidze,Stohl and Yevseev had continued Nc3-d5. In fact Sasikiran had analysed the position in so much depth that his opponent Debashis Das had absolutely no chance. This example just about sums up how superior Sasikiran was amongst the field. The last time Sasikiran had become the National Champion was in 2003. So what happened in the in between ten years? Sasikiran didn't play the tournament! So even after a gap of 10 years, he proved that he is quite superior in India than the rest with his excellent performance. Here is a small video potraying what he had to say after his victory:

 

Born in 1992, this young lad from India had already stamped his authority as one of the best players from India when he played some amazing chess in the FIDE World Cup 2013 to reach the 4th round of the event beating players like Alekseev, Safarli etc on the way. Once again he proved that he is really one of the biggest hopes from India when he scored 10/13 and finished runner up in the National Championship. In fact Adhiban was the only player in the tournament to defeat Sasikiran. However he himself lost to IM Ashwin Jayaram (2487) which jeopardized his chances of becoming the champion. Adhiban is an extremely self confident player and backs himself to beat the best. In the above picture you can see him preparing himself for the game with listening to music just 5 minutes the start. He has his own ways; sometimes he wears caps, carries energy drinks like gatorade, eats huge bars of chocolates during the game. But what's important is that he performs and India is proud of this young talent! Here is a small extract from his game with the eventual winner.

[Event "Bhavarlal and Kantabai Jain 51st Nation"] [Site "Jalgoan"] [Date "2013.12.26"] [Round "9.2"] [White "Adhiban, B."] [Black "Sasikiran, Krishnan"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E15"] [WhiteElo "2569"] [BlackElo "2666"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "73"] [EventDate "2013.12.17"] [EventRounds "13"] [EventCountry "IND"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. Qb3 Nc6 6. Nbd2 Bb7 7. e4 d5 8. cxd5 exd5 9. e5 Ne4 10. Bg2 $5 {Notably, this is novelty. Adhiban believes in the power of the fianchettoed bishop despite the fact that most strong grandmasters like to place this piece on d3.} Be7 11. O-O O-O 12. Re1 {Even though White didn't apply direct pressure on e4 with the bishop, it becomes hard for Sasikirian to support his knight on that square. In the case of f5, as happened in the game, the bishop will be better placed on g2 than on b3 as it is hitting the vulnerable d5 pawn.} f5 13. exf6 Nxf6 14. Nb1 $1 {A beautiful regrouping. The knight will proceed to c3 and pressure d5. It is more harmonious to put it there than on e3 (via f1) since on that square it would block out the bishop on c1.} Ng4 15. Nc3 (15. Qd1 {was more accurate to prevent the following complications.}) 15... Rxf3 $1 {Sasikirian sees his chance to complicate matters and doesn't think twice about doing it.} 16. Bxf3 Nxd4 17. Qd1 Nxf3+ 18. Qxf3 Nf6 {Black has some compensation for the exchange. He has a pawn and White's light squares have been weakened. However it is obvious that only White can be better.} (18... Qd7 $1 {Was a much better move, keeping important threats alive such as Rf8. Sasikirian might have missed the following:} 19. Nxd5 $1 (19. Rxe7 $2 Qxe7 20. Qxg4 Qe1+ 21. Kg2 d4+ $19) 19... Bc5 $1 20. Nf6+ $1 gxf6 21. Qxb7 Rd8 {It seems as if Black is running out of steam, but the truth is that it is particularly hard to defend the f2 square.} 22. Be3 Bxe3 23. fxe3 Qd2 24. Qg2 Qxg2+ 25. Kxg2 Rd2+ 26. Kf3 Ne5+ 27. Ke4 Rxb2 $11 {should not be dangerous for Black.}) 19. Bg5 Qd7 20. Rad1 c6 (20... c5 { was an important move. Black prepares d4, the move played in the game is simply too passive.}) 21. Qe2 Bd8 22. b4 h6 23. Bxf6 Bxf6 24. Ne4 $1 {A good resource. Black will now lose the pair of bishops.} Bd8 25. Nd6 {The point of White's maneuvers.} Qxd6 26. Qe8+ Kh7 (26... Qf8 27. Qd7 {threatens both the bishop on b7 and Re8.}) 27. Re6 Bf6 {The only move not to lose instantly.} 28. Qxa8 Qxe6 29. Qxb7 {With the dusut settled it is hard for Black to maintain his pawns alive. His only hope is to create quick counterplay.} Qe2 $6 (29... d4 $1 30. Rc1 d3 31. Qxc6 Qe2 {would have left White's win far from being trivial.}) 30. Rf1 Qc4 31. Qxa7 Qxb4 32. Qd7 Qc3 33. Qf5+ g6 34. Qb1 Bd4 35. Re1 {Black's king is too weak for Black to create sufficient counterplay. The rest is a mop up.} Kg7 36. Re6 Bf6 37. Qxb6 {A very instructive game.} 1-0

Lalith is one of the brightest talents in India. He was born in 1993 and was on fire in this tournament. He was neck to neck with Sasikiran till round 11. He scored heavily with 9 wins. However 3 losses was too much which relegated him to the 3rd spot with 9.5/13. You can understand how ambitious he is when you know that he was disappointed with his performance even after gaining 16 elo points from the tournament. With such hunger in his belly and ready to work hard for unending hours, my dear readers please make a note of this name. His name is sure to crop up again and again at the highest level soon!

Parimarjan Negi who was the top seed of the event with an impressive elo of 2671, had the worst fortnight of his life as he scored just 5/13 and lost 38 elo in the tournament. Negi who was at one point the youngest grandmaster in the world just couldn't find his bearings in the tournament. After the event, when asked about his experience, he said: "It was one of the better organized tournaments I have seen in India. Unfortunately for me, I was completely out of shape. Except for one or two games I was making huge blunders. With such calculation it was simply impossible for me to compete. Everytime I had good positions, I would spoil it with a single move. I think its time for me to go back and have a long think about what went wrong and try to change it in future."

32 year old IM Thejkumar is a very special player. He has an excellent positional style and likes to squeeze the minutest of advantages. However he is special for one more reason. He made all his 3 GM norms even when he was not an IM. In the past few years he has slowed down a little but with this strong 4th place finish and a GM norm performance in this tournament, I am sure we can see a resurgent Thejkumar pretty soon! He was the only one who had a chance to finish in the top 3 of the tournament. However a last round defeat at the hands of Adhiban ended that chance. Yet his game against Sasikiran is a must watch for the beautiful endgame trap!

[Event "Bhavarlal and Kantabai Jain 51st Nation"] [Site "Jalgoan"] [Date "2013.12.28"] [Round "11.3"] [White "Thejkumar, M. S."] [Black "Sasikiran, Krishnan"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D23"] [WhiteElo "2452"] [BlackElo "2666"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6k1/1pQ4p/p4p2/5p2/4qP2/6KP/6P1/8 w - - 0 48"] [PlyCount "10"] [EventDate "2013.12.17"] [EventRounds "13"] [EventCountry "IND"] 48. Kh4 {Black is unconditionally winning. But Thejkumar's last move of Kg3-h4 was his last trap in the position offering the g2 pawn. The trap is so beautiful and subtle that even a strong player rated 2666 like Sasikiran fell for it!} Qxg2 $2 49. Qd8+ Kf7 50. Qd7+ Kg6 51. Qe8+ Kh6 52. Qg6+ $1 {What a stunning blow. As Sasikiran recalls after the game, he completely missed this move. All his attention was focussed on Qf8 Qg7 Qg8 but then he just starts pushing his queenside pawns.. So he had seen the idea of stalemate but not the move Qg6! The queen can be taken in 3 ways but unfortunately all of them end in a stalemate!} hxg6 1/2-1/2

The other players also played some exciting chess. The thing to note was that there were absolutely no grandmaster like draws except for a game or two. All the players fought tooth and nail and as Sasikiran rightly said after the tournament, playing uncompromising chess is the only way to improve. Here is one more gem of the event in which IM Akshat Khamparia made a Tal like sacrifice against Lalith Babu and won the game!

[Event "Bhavarlal and Kantabai Jain 51st Nation"] [Site "Jalgoan"] [Date "2013.12.25"] [Round "8.5"] [White "Akshat, Khamparia"] [Black "Lalith, Babu M.R"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A50"] [WhiteElo "2409"] [BlackElo "2569"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1q2r1k1/5ppp/b1Rp4/p1nP3N/1r2p2P/2Q3P1/P3PPB1/2R3K1 b - - 0 24"] [PlyCount "26"] [EventDate "2013.12.17"] [EventRounds "13"] [EventCountry "IND"] 24... Re5 25. Qxe5 $5 {A stunning queen sacrifice by Akshat who played in the style of Mikhail Tal} dxe5 26. R1xc5 Bb7 27. Rc7 Qd8 28. Bh3 g6 29. Rd7 Qb6 $2 (29... Qf8 {29...Qf8 would have won for black.}) 30. Rcc7 gxh5 31. Be6 {the two rooks and bishop are good enough to weave a mating net around the black king.} Rb1+ 32. Kg2 e3 33. Rd8+ Kg7 34. Rxf7+ Kh6 35. Rf6+ Kg7 36. Rf7+ Kh6 37. Bf5 {A brilliant game by Akshat which was not hundred percent acccurate but was good enough to get him the game of the day prize.} 1-0

Maybe for this day the spirit of Tal possessed IM Akshat Khamparia!

The average age of the tournament was 23.5 years, which is really young for such a strong competition. I think it was precisely because of this reason we could see some great fights on the board and some exemplary camaraderie off it. The players would meet after the games were over and play a game of cricket or football. In the breakfast or dinner room the players would all be having fun and crack some great jokes! In fact sometimes even chess would be discussed seriously! It was really a great lot of 14 players.

All the players. Bottom left to right: Adhiban, Lalith, Debashis.
Middle: Thejkumar, Akshat, Sasikirian, Deepan, Ashwin
Third row: Stany, Parimarjan
Last row: Ratnakaran, Akash, Shyam, Vishnu

The venue for the championship was the Jain hills in Jalgaon. The place is away from the noise and hustle bustle of the city. It was such a serene and beautiful place that the players really felt relaxed and at ease. There was no pollution. Only fresh air, more oxygen and more oxygen means better brain functioning and better brain functioning means great games on the board! All in all a great selection of venue by the organizers.

 

 

A huge thanks to Ashok Jain, Vice Chairman, Jain Irrigation: The company that owns the jain hills.

 

While I was at Jalgaon I decided to take a small video tour of the venue and to give you an idea as to what exactly were the conditions in which the players stayed, ate, analyzed and played.

If you have been to India, you will know that the people of this country, cherish the food that they eat! Hence good food is extremely important for the players in order to show some great chess.
The food provided by the organisers was excellent and in general a meal would consist of the following items:

A full fledged lunch! From topleft to right: Pickle and salt, Salad, Papad, 2nd row L-R Tomato soup, Rice, Rajma (beans), 3rd row L-R Cauliflower vegetable, Water gourd vegetable, Curd.

A Maharashtrian couple statue dressed in their traditional wear, welcome you at the entrance of the hall

The Chief Arbiter of the tournament, Prof Anantharaman who is not only the best International Arbiter in India but is an extremely well educated man who was the Head of Chemistry department in the college where he used to teach a few years ago.

Pravin Thakre: The chief co-ordinator of the event who was kind and receptive

Zero tolerance was part of the tournament, but it was never invoked thanks to the player's help

Young boys who used to come from the city of Jalgaon in order to help the Organisers.
In that process they too learnt a lot and became better players!

Sasikiran, the winner of the tournament will represent India in the FIDE World Cup 2015. Also the Olympiad team will be selected on the basis of this tournament. In order to increase the importance of National Challengers and National Premier, all the players who played these tournament will have 75 points added to their rating (for caculation basis only). Thus, the National champion + 4 other players based on this new rating (as calculated with addition of 75 pts) will be selected for the Olympiad. But Harikrishna Pentala who didn't play this tournament, I think need not worry as at 2706 he will still find a spot in the Indian team. Also the top 6 players from this tournament will get an exposure trip, the expenses of which will be paid by the Indian Government.

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Sagar Shah

Sagar Shah has an elo of 2304 and 2 IM norms to his credit. His main aim is to become a GM in chess as well as a professional chess journalist. He loves to cover chess tournaments as that helps him to understand the game of chess, that he loves so much, even better.


Sagar Shah's Blog: www.sagarteacheschess.blogspot.com


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