Grandmasters (GMs) K Sasikiran and SP Sethuraman won while Vidit Santosh Gujrathi and G Adhiban drew their games as India defeated Vietnam 3-1 in the final round to win the Asian Nations Cup in Abu Dhabi, capping a superb first quarter for Indian chess in 2016.
The win over Vietnam in the Open section helped India reach 17 points in the standings on Tuesday night, finishing two points ahead of Olympiad champion China to be crowned the continent’s best team.
Top seeds China finished second with 15 points while Kazakhstan and Iran took the third and fourth places. India drew with Mongolia and beat eight other teams, including China, in the 22-team, nine-round Swiss League competition which was held on four boards with one reserve player in each squad.
In the women’s section, the team of Harika Dronavalli, Tania Sachdev, Padmini Rout, Soumya Swaminathan and Bhakti Kulkarni finished fourth, narrowly missing out on the third place after being held to a draw by Iran in the final round.
This was India’s third title in the Asian Nations Cup, having won the event at Esfahan, Iran, in 2005 and Kolkata in 2009. China did not participate on both occasions and this victory is a memorable one for Indian fans.
This is also the third title involving the country this year.
Three titles, two second places, a third-place finish, GM and International Master (IM) norms and gain in ranking points made the first three months of the year unbelievably successful and memorable for Indian chess.
While fans have been riveted to Viswanathan Anand’s return to form at the World Chess Candidates Tournament, as he finished third behind Sergey Karjakin and Fabiano Caruana in Moscow last month, other players too made their presence felt in the international circuit, proving there is a lot to look forward to for India when it comes to the sport of 64 squares.
The first month of the year ended with former national champion Baskaran Adhiban edging out Russia’s Alexey Dreev and Eltaj Safarli of Azerbaijan on tiebreak to win the Challengers Section of the prestigious Tata Steel Chess Championships in Wijk Aan Zee in Netherlands. He qualified to play in the Masters section in 2017 in which Magnus Carlsen will probably defend the title he won this year.
Abhijeet Gupta, just like his idol from Chennai, claimed the top prize in the Reykjavik Open in Iceland from March 8-16, while GM Surya Sekhar Ganguly finished second in the Doeberl Cup, Australia’s premier Grand Prix chess tournament held near Canberra, from 24-28 March.
International Master Tania Sachdev made the most of her chances by making her second GM norm as she finished first among women players.
Tania now needs one more norm and a ranking of 2500 to become the third woman from the country to earn the men’s GM title, while Kolkata’s Diptayan Ghosh became India’s 43rd Grandmaster by finishing seventh at the HD Bank International Chess Open in Vietnam from March 8-13.
Young R Praggnanandhaa of Tamil Nadu made two IM norms in successive tournaments at the International des Deuz de Cannes in France and Aeroflot Open in Moscow in Feb-March.
P Harikrishna, who moved ahead of Anand as India’s top-ranked player, albeit for a day, finished third in the 2016 IMSA Mind Games Blitz in China in February. He is ranked 13th in the world, seven Elo points behind Anand.
First quarter report
Performance of Indian players in the first four months of the year:
Gold medals /titles
Asian Nations Cup – the team comprising K Sasikiran, B Adhiban, Vidit Gujrathi, SP Sethuraman and Deep Sengupta finished first ahead of China
Abhijeet Gupta bagged the Reykjavik Open in Iceland in March
B Adhiban won the Tata Steel Open Challengers in January
Viswanathan Anand finished second behind Hikaru Nakamura in Zurich Chess Challenge in February
SS Ganguly finished second in Australia with 7 points out of nine behind local IM James Morris (7.5)
Sameer Kathmale finished second in Aeroflot Open Group C in Moscow in March
P Harikrishna finished third in the 2016 IMSA Mind Games Blitz in China in February
V Anand finished third in the World Chess Candidates Tournament in Moscow in March
Norms and titles
GM title: Diptayan Ghosh became India’s 43rd GM by completing his third and final norm in Vietnam in March
GN norm: Tania Sachdev made her second norm at the Reykjavik Open in March
R Praggnanandhaa made two IM norms in Feb-March