Rising stars add excitement to chess scene

INDIA, together with China, the Philippines and Vietnam, are considered among the great chess-playing countries in Asia, if not the world. I say this because these countries continue to produce some of the most exciting names in world chess.

For example, isn’t India’s Viswanathan Anand the world chess champion today? Wasn’t China’s Xie Jun the first Asian to become the women’s world champion? And isn’t Le Quang Liem the first Vietnamese player to break into that elite group of players with a rarified 2700+ chess rating?

In fact, there are so many other talents that have emerged from these four countries.

Wesley So from the Philippines is currently that country’s top ranked player and he is only 17; Hou Yifan from China is currently the women’s world chess champion and she is also 17; Parimarjan Negi, 18, is considered to be a chess prodigy from India. I should also add that Le Quang Liem is 20.

All very talented junior players. When we consider the likes of Norway’s Magnus Carlsen who is approaching his 21st birthday, Italian-American Fabiano Caruana who is 19 and currently the top junior player in the world, and 17-year-old Nepalese-Russian (but now Dutch) Anish Giri, we find that the world is practically littered with junior players who continue to shake up the older chess masters in today’s chess world.

Young champ: Fabiano Caruana, 19, is the current top junior chess player in the world.

Recently, the Delhi Chess Association and the Airport Authority of India joined hands to organise the AAI international grandmasters chess tournament in New Delhi, India, and they invited four of these young chess talents to participate.

Joining Caruana, So, Negi and Hou in this double round-robin tournament were two other players. One was the Czech Republic’s Viktor Laznicka, who at 23 wasn’t that much older than the four, and India’s second-best player Krishnan Sasikiran, who at 30 found himself the oldest player in the tourmanent.

The event was a romp for Caruana who justified his top seeding. He led after the third round and never allowed any of his rivals to get near enough to him. By the end of the eighth round, he was the only unbeaten player and he enjoyed a 1½-point advantage over his closest rival, Sasikiran.

But disaster struck for Caruana in the ninth round. According to him, he had blundered in a position which would have led to a draw. As a result, Sasikiran crept to narrow the gap on him to only a single point. However, Caruana’s first place in this tournament was never in any real danger as a draw in the 10th round was enough to seal his top prize.

Sasikiran came second in the tournament, followed by Laznicka in third place. And what of the other three teenagers in this event? Well, by their own admission, they could have played better but actually, they finished according to expectations. So and Negi were expected to finish in fourth and fifth positions respectively, which they did.

Hou was the weakest player in the field and finished last. In fact, if not for a much steadier performance in the second half of the tournament, she would have ended up with even fewer points. The first half of the tournament was a disaster as she lost her first four games.

On the basis of her play in this tournament, I think she is going to have her hands full later this year when she defends her women’s world championship title against the official challenger, Koneru Humpy. It will be back to the training board for her as her coaches try to build up her game before the big match.

This week, I’m featuring a critical game between the tournament winner and the current chess champion of India. I’m referring, of course, to Negi who had won the Indian national championship in December last year. In this marathon game which went to 98 moves, Caruana sacrificed his queen and in return, got back three pieces as compensation. At first, Caruana’s advantage was slight but his pieces coordinated better and he gradually built up to a winning position. However, he still had to tread carefully to prevent Negi’s queen from continually checking him as he pushed his pawn towards queening. Eventually, though, both players managed to convert their pawns into new queens but where Caruana was concerned, his position was already winning.

Fabiano Caruana – Parimarjan Negi, Round 6

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e6 7. f3 b5 8. Qd2 Nbd7 9. g4 h6 10. O-O-O Ne5 11. Qf2 b4 12. Nce2 Nc4 13. Ng3 Qc7 14. Bxc4 Qxc4 15. Kb1 g6 16. h4 e5 17. Nb3 Be6 18. h5 g5 19. Nf5 Bxf5 20. gxf5 Rc8 21. Rd3 Be7 22. a3 d5 23. exd5 Nxd5 24. Rhd1 Nf6 25. axb4 Qxb4 26. Bd2 Qb8 27. Bc3 O-O 28. Qe3 Rfe8 29. Bxe5 b5 30. f4 Qc4 31. Qd2 Ne4 32. Qg2 Qc6 33. Rd5 Nf6 34. fxg5 hxg5 35. Qxg5+ Kh7 36. Bxf6 Qxc2+ 37. Ka2 Rg8 38. Qxg8+ Rxg8 39. Bxe7 Rg3 40. Na5 Rg2 41. Ba3 Rf2 42. Nb3 Rf3 43. Nc5 Qc4+ 44. Kb1 Rf1 45. Rd4 Qe2 46. Rxf1 Qxf1+ 47. Ka2 Qxf5 48. Rd6 Qf1 49. Nxa6 f5 50. Nb4 Qc4+ 51. b3 Qe2+ 52. Bb2 Qxh5 53. Nd5 Qf3 54. Rd7+ Kg6 55. Ne7+ Kh6 56. Rd6+ Kh7 57. Rd8 Kh6 58. Rd6+ Kh7 59. Rd4 Kh6 60. Nd5 Qe2 61. b4 Kg5 62. Kb3 Qf1 63. Nf4 Qa6 64. Bc1 Kf6 65. Bd2 Qf1 66. Rd5 Qb1+ 67. Kc4 Qa2+ 68. Kb5 Qa8 69. Bc3+ Kg5 70. Be5 Qa7 71. Ne6+ Kg4 72. Rd4+ Kf3 73. Nc5 Ke3 74. Kc6 Qf7 75. Rd3+ Ke2 76. Rd5 Qe8+ 77. Kb6 Qf7 78. Rd6 Kf3 79. b5 Qe8 80. Re6 Qc8 81. Bc7 Qa8 82. Rd6 Ke2 83. Ne6 Qe4 84. Nd4+ Kf2 85. Nc6 Qc2 86. Kb7 Qb3 87. b6 f4 88. Kc8 Qh3+ 89. Rd7 f3 90. b7 Kg2 91. b8=Q f2 92. Qb2 Kh1 93. Ne5 f1=Q 94. Kb8 Qh8+ 95. Rd8 Qhf6 96. Qb7+ Kg1 97. Rg8+ Kh2 98. Ng4+ 1-0

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