India will have a new national chess champion when the National Premier Championship comes to an end in Mumbai on December 14. Grandmaster Surya Shekhar Ganguly, the five-time champion, will not be defending his title when the tournament starts at the Goregaon Sports Club in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Ganguly, who has crossed the 2650 mark in the ELO ratings, has been given exemption for the most prestigious tournament of the domestic calendar, the top six finishers of which will comprise the Indian team that will take part in various international tournaments in the coming year.
The event, held for 47 years as the National 'A' championships earlier, was re-christened National Premier National Chess Championship last year. “Ganguly is not in the field because he has a direct seeding in the Indian team, having crossed the 2650-mark in ratings,” said All India Chess Federation vice-president and organising committee secretary Ravindra Dongre. Ganguly is currently rated 2654 and along with P Harikrishna and K Sasikiran is exempt from this tournament.
Another reason why Ganguly is giving the tournament a miss is that the 26-year-old from Kolkata is expected to be part of World Champion Viswanathan Anand’s team for the World Championship match against Veselin Topalov at Sofia, Bulgaria, in April next year. Ganguly, who was one of Anand’s seconds for the match against Vladimir Kramnik last year, will be preparing for the call-up from Anand and has no incentive to play in an event he has already won five times in a row from 2003 to 2008.
Also absent will be GM Parimarjan Negi of Delhi and Sandipan Chanda, both of whom along with Ganguly recently returned from Moscow after taking part in the World Cup.
In their absence, Grandmaster GN Gopal, with a rating of 2593, is the top seed and favourite on paper to win the title. He will be facing some stiff competition in the fight for the top prize of Rs one lakh from second seed and former World Junior Champion Abhijeet Gupta (2578), S Arun Prasad (2570), Abhijit Kunte (2522) and Deepan Chakkravarthy (2518).