World No 28 Grand Master Nigel Short has a rating of 2677 while his strongest rival in the Commonwealth Chess Championship starting here on Monday, Surya Shekhar Ganguly of India, has an ElO rating that is a good 104 points lesser than him. But Short on Saturday insisted his winning the title would not be a foregone conclusion. “Yes, I start as the favourite because of my rating but there are some good players in the field and it would be tough,” said Short who will be defending the title he won in Mumbai in 2004.
But Short also said that he would not be taxing too much in his endeavour despite donning two different hats here. Besides being the top seed, Short is also the president of the Commonwealth Chess Association (CCA). “I will be playing here with my fingers and not mind. I have played in a lot of tournaments and losing here won't be a big setback. But I am sufficiently relaxed for the tournament,” said Short of the event sponsored by public sector undertakings LIC, MGL and ONGC and being held at the Eskay Resorts in Borivali.
The British GM would still have been the favourite even in the presence of three of India’s best players — K Sasikiran, Pentala Harikrishna and Koneru Humpy, who are missing the event as they are preparing for the forthcoming Asian Games in Doha at a camp currently on in Chennai. However, he could not have taken things as lightly as on Saturday because the rating margin would have been a little less.
However, Short would a bit weary as the current field includes one player who had got the better of him, though a good six years back. Neelotpal Das had beaten Short in the 4th United Insurance International in Dhaka in 1999 and would hope to do that again in order to keep the Englishman from retaining the title. One thing that will also keep the Indians interested is that Short is not playing so many tournament nowadays and is mainly concentrating on coaching and his role as CCA president, trying to put the organisation back on the rails.
Apart from Ganguly, thrice Indian National champion, and Das others who will try to prevent the event from being ‘Short-charged’ will be Grandmasters Niaz Murshed and Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh, Wu Shaobin of Singapore, veteran Indian Pravin Thipsay, Sandipan Chanda, Abhijit Kunte, Deepan Chakravarty and Tejas Bakre. GM Murshed (2544) had finished second behind Short in 2004 that too by winning the last four rounds in spectacular fashion and will be hoping for a similar performance this time too.
The field also includes a number of young players from India who can cause few surprises. This lot includes players who had put India on the top recently in the World Youth Championship in Batumi, Georgia.
In the absence of defending champion Koneru Humpy, S Vijayalakshmi would start as favourite for the women’s title. The race is expected to be an all-Indian affair with Swati Ghate, Nisha Mohata, Aarthie Ramaswamy and Dronavalli Harika hoping to put spokes in her plans.