Commonwealth Chess Championship: Abhijeet Gupta pulls off hat-trick of titles, 10-year-old Sahithi Varshini amazes

The Commonwealth Chess Championship was held at the The Leela Ambience Convention Hotel in Delhi between 3-10 July. After nine rounds of play, Delhi-based Grand Master Abhijeet Gupta won the title prize for the third time in a row, and fourth time in five years.

Going into the final round, Gupta was tied for the first place with fellow Delhiite, Grand Master Vaibhav Suri, and the veteran Australian International Master Alexander Wohl with a score of 6.5/8. Within striking distance were five players who had scored 6.0/8 each. In the final round, Gupta was pitted against Wohl, while the third tournament leader, Suri was playing the Pune-based Grand Master Abhijit Kunte.

Commonwealth champions WGM Swati Ghate and GM Abhijeet Gupta with AICF secretary, Bharat Singh Chauhan.

Commonwealth chess champions WGM Swati Ghate (L) and GM Abhijeet Gupta with AICF secretary, Bharat Singh Chauhan.

Interestingly enough, both of the top two boards featured a Catalan Defence and both of the games were relatively short. Playing on the black side of the board, Suri went for a repetition of moves to draw against Kunte after 29 moves and sealed his second place. On board one, Gupta demolished Wohl in 23 moves after the Australian veteran blundered early in the game on move nine. Grand Master Tejas Bakre from Ahmedabad bagged the third place with his win against International Master MS Thejkumar.

The women's championship was part of the open event this year. The women had to play in the open section and the highest scorer was to be declared the Commonwealth women's champion.

Vaibhav Suri, Abhijeet Gupta and Tejas Bakre (L to R) at the podium.

Vaibhav Suri, Abhijeet Gupta and Tejas Bakre (L to R) at the podium.

The competition in the women's section for the medals was absolutely cut-throat. Three women - Swati Ghate, Mary Ann Gomes and Tania Sachdev - were tied for first in the final standings. Woman Grand Master Ghate had had a dream start in the event as she kicked off with a perfect score of 3.0/3. In the third round, she beat Grand Master Deepan Chakravarthy who is rated much higher than her. Although she suffered a couple of losses in the following rounds, she finished with a score of 6.0/9.

Gomes also had an almost similar outing with a score 2.5/3. The only game she lost in the tournament was to Grand Master Sahaj Grover. In the final round, she was pitted against Chakravarthy and was only able to draw.

Swati Ghate, Mary Ann Gomes and Tania Sachdev at the podium.

Swati Ghate, Mary Ann Gomes and Tania Sachdev at the podium.

Sachdev, who had come back from a lukewarm performance at the World Team Championship held Russia last month, continued her struggle with form drawing with and losing to quite a few lower-rated players early in the tournament. However, as the tournament progressed she was able to improve her play. In the final round, she was able to obtain a better position against Grand Master Swapnil Dhopade but fumbled in the endgame and conceded a draw.

Both the silver and bronze medal winners (Gomes and Sachdev) were ahead of the gold medalist Ghate before the final round. But with her win in the final round, Ghate was not only able to level scores with her closest rivals but also surpass them in tiebreaks.

After a slow start, GM Pravin Thipsay won five rounds in a row!

After a slow start, GM Pravin Thipsay won five rounds in a row!

The tournament attracted more than 550 participants from 15 countries who played in 15 different categories ranging from under-8 to under-20. The open section itself attracted around 120 participants, of whom, as many as 50 were titled players! With such a high number of accomplished attendees, the tournament was sure to be a spectacle.

And indeed it exceeded all expectations with some shocking results, some brilliant performances and some thrilling comebacks.

This was the first time that age category players competed in different events. Usually all the players play in one tournament and the top scorers are given prizes in their respective age categories. But this year we had 14 age groups from under-8 to under-20 in both open and girls section.

Team Maharashtra which performed pretty well in the tournament.

Team Maharashtra which performed pretty well in the tournament.

Woman Candidate Master Sahithi Varshini, a 10-year-old girl from Visakhapatnam, won in her age category with astonishing performance. She had an undefeated run and scored 6.0/7. For her phenomenal performance, she not only won the title prize but also gained 35 rating points.

Fourteen-year-old Shanya Mishra stunned Grand Master Pravin Thipsay in one of his pet openings, the King's Indian Defence, and won a fantastic game. Later in the tournament, she also drew against Woman Grand Master Kiran Manisha Mohanty. Having performed way above her current rating, she is going to gain a staggering 94 points from the event.

Thipsay, as mentioned above, had a heartbreaking start to the tournament but never gave up. In the first round he played a player rated around 400 points below him but was only able to draw. In the very next round, he was beaten by Mishra. But Thipsay stuck to his task. He fought fiercely in the rounds that followed and won five straight games in a row. By the end of the event, he had scored 5.5/9. Ahmedabad's wonderkind, Naitik Mehta gave it his all to win against Padmini Rout.

All in all, the tournament was a thoroughly enjoyable one with sharp twists and turns in all of the rounds. More importantly, India (which was a clear favourite) won medals in every category. Players from the state of Maharashtra alone won 13 medals (five golds, five silvers and five bronzes).

Aditya Pai is an editor of ChessBase India.

Updated Date: Jul 13, 2017 19:22 PM

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