Saturday, December 22, 2007

Great Year for Chess in India

Press Trust of India Thursday, December 20, 2007 (New Delhi) The year 2007 witnessed a golden period for Indian chess with Viswanathan Anand reaching the top of the world ranking list while also becoming World Champion. Anand, who has been consistent in maintaining his top-three position for almost last 15 years, climbed to the top of FIDE's world ranking list for the first time in his over two-decade career and went on to clinch the World Championship title as well as the ELO rating of 2800 to make it a memorable year not only for himself but for the country as well. Besides Anand's unparallelled achievements, Koneru Humpy continued where she had left off last year, achieving the rare feat of an ELO rating of 2600 to become only the second woman in the world after Hungarian Judit Polgar to do so. Humpy was also awarded the Padmashree for claiming gold medals in the sport on its debut in the 2006 Asian Games in Doha. Humpy repeated her dazzling performance at the Asian Indoor Games in Macau by winning two gold medals - one each in rapid and blitz - along with a silver in the classic version. She also proved her mettle by bagging back-to-back open tournaments at Hilversum in The Netherlands and Luxembourg. Tania Sachdev, the glamour girl of the sport, won the Asian women's title and then pocketed the National women's 'A' crown for the second successive year. Krishnan Sasikiran also reached new heights in his career by crossing the 2700 ELO rating mark, albeit for a brief period as he slipped after his none-too-impressive performance at the Aerosvit tournament. He was the only Indian to reach the fourth round of the World Cup at the Khanty-Mansiysk in Russia while citymate R B Ramesh lifted the Commonwealth Chess Trophy to end the year on a bright note for the country after Anand had set the ball rolling with his win in the Amber Rapid and Blindfold tournament. Anand comfortably won in the rapid format and finished overall second to Russian Vladimir Kramnik in the elite field with only Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria giving it a miss. Anand also won the 14-round prestigious category-20 Morelia-Linares Super GM tournament ahead of Topalov, Peter Svidler, Vassily Ivanchuk, Peter Leko and Levon Aronian to be at the top of the FIDE rankings.Anand won the Mainz rapid title for 10th time by defeating Aronian in the final. The Indian ace, however, finished runner-up to the Armenian in his debut in 'Chess960' rapid world championship at the same venue. The 38-year-old Chennai-born finished second to Ivanchuk in the World Blitz Championship. His happy hunting ground at Wijk Aan Zee was not so lucky for him this time as Anand finished fifth after losing to Kramnik and Topalov at the Corus Super Grandmasters tournament. Meanwhile, Delhi prodigy Parimarjan Negi tied for the top position but finished third after the tie-break in the World Youth Star competition while G N Gopal and teenager Abhijeet Gupta became the 16th and 17th Grandmasters of the country apart from many others earning various title norms. Prominent among the norm-makers included IM G Rohit, MS Thejkumar who earned GM norms, while 12-year-old Sahaj Grover claimed his first IM norm along with P Karthikeyan, Sasikant Kutwal and Nisha Mohta, Amruta Mokal, N Kirthika and R Preeti earned their respective WIM norms. If the seniors were at their best, the junior brigade was also exemplary with the national team winning the World Youth (Under-16) Chess Olympiad gold medal. The team members -- R Ashwath, B Adhiban, P Shyam Nikhil, Swayam Mishra and S Nitin -- also won individual medals. Adhiban bagged the bronze on first board, Nikhil pocketed the silver medal on fourth board and Mishra received bronze on the reserve board. In the age-group division, Ivana Furtado hogged the limelight for bringing the gold medal for the second time in world girls' Under-8 category at the Youth championships.Prince Bajaj was the boys' Under-10 bronze winner while Shalmali Gagare came third in girls' Under-14. However, none of the Indians could be successful at the Junior World championships as bright young stars - GM Parimarjan Negi, GN Gopal, Abhijeet Gupta, Ashwin Kamparia, Deepan Chakravarty, D Harika, Eesha Karvade -- failed to win a medal. It was particularly disappointing that top seed Harika lost the last three games in a row after leading in the initial rounds of the girl's event.Similar was the story for the seniors as all Indians, except Sasikiran, lost in the first round in World Cup chess. Grandmasters Abhijeet Kunte, Harikrishna, Surya Sekhar Ganguly and GN Gopal fell at the first hurdle. Sasikiran finally lost in the fourth round of the premier event.

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